Here’s my Pecha Kucha for the final project. It was difficult to narrow down all of my new understandings into 6:40! Want to know more? Look for the final paper on May 7th!
“When K-12 educators focus exclusively on the idea of “doing your own work,” it actually undercuts the development of important skills that are necessary for collaboration and teamwork in contemporary society” (Hobbs, 2011, p. 44).
Let that sink in. A little longer.
I spent the last week surrounded by literature on copyright law and fair use. Within this topic I did not expect to find a pedagogical epiphany, but that’s what happened. As I read about copyright and fair use, I was lost in thoughts about how I had used materials in the classroom, how I had asked children to incorporate media in their projects, and whether I was ever guilty of closing my door and not sharing the products of my or my students’ thinking out of fear of copyright infringement (Hobbs, 2011). Secret: I had. Many times. I was guilty of becoming overwhelmed and under informed about copyright law and fair use. I taught my students to cite sources, but also to only rely on open source media. I was also guilty of believing that citing and avoiding copyright infringement were nearly the same – they’re not (Hobbs, 2011; Aufderheide, 2012). But I still had yet to consider how the educational practices prevalent in many of the classrooms I’ve been in actually work against the protection of fair use.
When we, as educators, ask (or tell!) children to do their own work, we are implying that solo-authored creation is of highest value. This ties directly into the misconceptions which harm our ability to practice fair use of media. If the idea that a single author creates a new and novel piece of work, and that the author did not pull from previous works of literature, art, music, or other mediums, then we are denying the truth of the creative process while also discounting the power of collaboration, remixing, and collective intelligence. Just as language and meaning is shaped over use and time, media representations take on new meaning with new interpretation and use (Aufderheide, 2012). Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens (2015) is an excellent example of how remix and new interpretation creates new meaning. I, for one, enjoyed The Force Awakens because of its familiarity and nostalgia. It allowed me to make intertextual connections while being entertained with new characters and settings. This wasn’t one mind creating this interpretation, it was the work of many.
To revisit copyright and fair use, yes – these need to be intentionally and systematically taught to educators so they can work to protect the rights of both authors and users. But our instructional practices also need to be examined to see how else we may be inadvertently perpetuating misinterpretation and misuse of the rights afforded to authors and users by copyright law and fair use.
Aufderheide, P. (2012). Creativity copyright and authorship. In D. Gerstner & C. Chirs (Eds.), Media Authorship. New York: Routledge.
Ferguson, K. (2015). Everything is a remix: The force awakens [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKvsc6a03Es&feature=youtu.be
Hobbs, R. (2011) Copyright clarity: How fair use supports digital learning. Thousand Oaks: Corwin/Sage.
I fell in love with the process of creating podcasts/audio recordings during my experience with LEAP 3 (EDC 534), so I used that medium for my reflection.
What should digital authors consider when engaging in media production? This infographic outlines the implications of student media production as it relates to critical literacy and ethical responsibilities as discussed by Jessica Parker (2013).
Assignment: Listen to a podcast.
Me: Um, ok…I do that every day.
Assignment Details: Critically analyze the podcast.
Podcasts are part of my regular routine. I commuted long distance for several years and that time happened to occur during the recent boom of popularity for podcasting. My Apple Podcasts app (don’t knock it, it’s the app that works for me, though I’m always open to recommendations) is filled with the usuals: NPR Politics, TED Radio Hour, Politically Re-active, The Sporkful, Reply All, and Strangers. This context is to say, I thought I knew about podcasts. Then I read this assignment for my Digital Authorship class with Dr. Renee Hobbs: Provide a critical analysis of a specific episode of Burst Your Bubble, a podcast by Morgan Jaffe.
The episode I listened to was “Cheers and Queers” (Jaffe, 2017). In this episode, Jaffe problematizes an episode of Cheers, “The Boys in the Bar”. This installment of the classic, decade-running television show introduced us to Tom, a friend of the main character Sam. Tom reveals he’s gay, Sam is unsure of how to respond, things go awry in the bar, stereotypes fly like confetti, and a voice of reason emerges from a white cis female character who Jaffe describes as “a voice from an ally”. Jaffe is quick to call out this “whitewashing” effect and the tokenism of Tom’s character, but I’ll save that for the analysis.
While I fully enjoyed the podcast, especially since it’s around a topic I’m passionate about and try my best to advocate for, I’m here to provide critical analysis of the podcasting genre, not a detailed review of the content, so I’ll leave the previous summary as is and move into three areas of podcasting at which I felt Jaffe excelled.
Theater of the Mind
Hobbs (2017) uses the term Theater of the Mind to describe how personal stories create universal appeal (p. 124). Jaffe does this by using spoken word, audio, historical facts, and commentary to create context. Her voice, which can be described as warm but calculated, remains objective, letting the details of the story emerge with their own textures and emotions. Audio from Cheers makes you feel as if you can see the faded colors of the 80’s/90’s series on a small screen, surrounded by VHS tapes and a Nintendo game console in your living room. Jaffe also weaves in audio and commentary from real events regarding violence towards the LGBTQ community. Reporters are heard recounting gruesome and heartbreaking details of attacks on individuals and groups. One clip is the newscast from the recent Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people lost their lives. Jaffe further pulls at your emotions by then listing, in a measured tone, several names of individuals who have lost their lives because of who they love. The balance of inundation from the newscast and quiet spoken word when listing the names creates a space for the listener to move from one emotional plane to the next. (For more information on these events, I encourage you to explore this list. It is not exhaustive, but it is a starting point: Significant acts of violence against LGBT people)
Story for Social Change
“The Boys in the Bar” is rife with stereotypes, and Jaffe does not hesitate to notice and name these as they occur both explicitly and implicitly from being gay making someone just as likely to advocate for the metric system, to ferns being the decoration of choice, and even the topic of ‘gay-dar’. Jaffe doesn’t hold back in problematizing these comments and misconceptions held by the show’s characters. In doing this, she has used this media in a transformative nature for social change (Hobbs, 2017). At one point, Jaffe calls out an egregious line in the show, which seems to have innocuous meaning to the writers, but immense cultural implications. The line is, “string em’ up”. I don’t need to explicitly outline the historical rhetoric of this phrase, but suffice it to say, Jaffe uses it to make a clear statement about the sociopolitical climate of the era and how it would be interpreted in modern day. In addition to these actions towards external issues, Jaffe opens a small window into her own identity through a repeated use of possessive pronouns when talking about the LGBTQ community. Also, when she critically analyzes Diane’s role in the episode as the “voice of an ally”, Jaffe’s voice changes ever so slightly. Was this purposeful? Did she break her measured tone to reveal just a slight glimpse of herself to the listener? If so, how does her identity as the creator of this podcast affect its construction, content, and message? Does her identity, intertwined with the topic, shift the sociopolitical implications from this media creation ever so slightly in one direction?
“Human creativity is combinatorial: we take old ideas and mash them together to create new ideas” (Hobbs, 2017, p. 75).
Morgan Jaffe has transformed a sitcom into a conversation. She has taken media and used it to problematize a sociopolitical issue that is just as relevant today as it was when Cheers originally aired. Pangrazio (2016) poses an issue of binaries in critical digital literacy and digital design literacy. I argue that Jaffe overcomes this separation and provides an excellent mentor text onto which Pangrazio’s critical digital design framework can be mapped.
To pull and paraphrase a very small piece from William Strunk, (as cited in Hobbs, 2017), every word must tell. Jaffe has used so few words in this podcast, but every one is measured, balanced, and with purpose. She has created a story from a story, and from which more stories may emerge.
Hobbs, R. (2017). Create to learn: Introduction to digital literacy. New York: Wiley
Jaffe, M. R. (2017, July 26). Cheers and queers [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/burst-your-bubble
Pangrazio, L. (2016). Reconceptualising critical digital literacy. Discourse, 37(2), 163–174.
Digital literacy and media literacy are prevalent terms bouncing around educational discourse in schools, curriculum development offices, and education research, but the implementation and understood definitions are just as varied as the contexts in which they are discussed. I’ve personally witnessed every interpretation and representation on the spectrum from teachers implementing excellent examples of digital literacy instruction in the classroom to certification programs labelling their ICT programs as ‘complete digital literacy curriculums’. I’ve had conversations with journalists on the importance of understanding the implied meaning of media messages, and then met instructors who are only focused on the production values of media literacy. Buckingham (2008) addressed this range of interpretations in his description of the common practice of media literacy instruction being focused on production and composition. As Buckingham points out, media literacy instruction is often lacking focus on the sociocultural practices, influences, and implications in digital spaces and media production/consumption.
But there’s something missing from Buckingham’s (2008) article: How do we create a change in classrooms? Buckingham explicitly identifies an issue with a focus on ICT and how to use tools to produce, but he does not bridge the gap between this identification and the actions needed to address this. How do we implement the broader definitions of digital literacy or media literacy to include the sociocultural aspects? What creates the bridge between theory and practice?
In Create To Learn, Hobbs (2017) defines literacy as “the sharing of meaning through symbols” (p. 5). If we consider this definition, along with Buckingham’s (2008) call for inclusion of social practices in digital and media literacy education and practice, we see how multimodal practices of communicating, to include digital platforms and media production, can be identified as literacy. Where I’m stuck now is how to position these practices as literacies of value in a text-focused educational culture. I’m hoping my experiences in my current course with Renee Hobbs, Digital Authorship/EDC 534, will allow me to promote the practice and value of digital and media literacy through my own modeling, reflections, and sharing.
Buckingham, D. (2008). Defining digital literacy: What do young people need to know about digital media? In C. Lankshear and M. Knobel (Eds), Digital literacies: Concepts, policies and practices (pp. 73 – 90). New York: Peter Lang.
Hobbs, R. (2017). Create to learn: Introduction to digital literacy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.
LABELING AND DEFINING LITERACY IN 2017
The terms in which we use to discuss the evolving literacy skills required for students to fully participate in today’s global society are varied and, in my opinion, serve just as varied purposes, but are all threads of the same fabric. I interpret their meanings to reflect the time and purpose of the context in which they are applied. In my interpretation, digital literacy, singular, and digital literacies, plural, reflect a shift from the internet viewed as a closed space for consumption to the movement towards participatory culture. In consumer culture, we could become digitally literate through consumption practices. Gilster (1997, as cited in Lankshear & Knobel, 2008) defines four key concepts of digital literacy (singular) as “knowledge assembly, evaluating information content, searching the internet, and navigating hypertext” (p. 22). However, in a participatory and content creation culture, we need to possess multiple digital literacy practices to fully interact and engage with digital spaces. This is only my view and opinion, and so as a disclaimer, is open to evolution and transformation with further understanding and research. To note, I find myself switching back and forth between these terms depending on the message I’m trying to convey or the relation of the term to something else I’m writing or discussing.
Literacy is, without doubt, changing in its representation as a verb. To practice literacy within modern context requires new skills. What stands out to me in this area is the concept of reading and literacy as it relates to and reflects student identity. Hammerberg (2004) discusses the “expanding notion of what it means to read” (p. 649). The act of reading and interacting with text or media is changing in response to the fluidity of available technology. In turn, student identity development, especially literate identity, is becoming fluid within this space (Hammerberg, 2004). I recently happened upon an article by Alvermann (2011) discussing the intersection of popular culture and literacy. Alvermann presents several examples of children and young adults using digital spaces to cultivate and develop literacy identities that are not otherwise recognized within the more formal learning contexts of school. Students use these identities formed in their informal digital practices to acquire cultural and social capital (Bourdieu, 1991/1982, as cited in Alvermann, 2011). It is here that I identify “new” characteristics of literacy. Mackey (2003, as cited in Alvermann, 2011) refers to these as “mutating literacies”; literacies that are constantly changing as what we identify as new becomes the norm and a new “new” emerges.
I often have the opportunity to discuss these changing concepts of literacy with in-service teachers as part of my job/context. In these conversations, I find it helpful to have a “touchstone” for teachers to relate back to as we begin exploring the concept of digital literacies and spaces. Online reading comprehension is a term I often use now to create a parallel foundation in our mutual language. From there, I diverge into conversations on Internet Reciprocal Teaching (Castek, Coiro, Henry, Leu, & Hartman, 2015) and digital inquiry as process which support online reading comprehension and digital literacies development. I believe using these terms helps teachers assimilate new thinking into their current practices and provides scaffolding for practical applications in the classroom. When working with teachers, I often say, “I’m not trying to move mountains in one day, but if I can move a pebble, we’ve made progress.” These terms are the pebbles that ignite a spark of interest in digital literacy with teachers.
As for my own foundational understanding and clarity on the subject of digital literacy, I find the concept of New Literacies and new literacies (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2013) provides not only clarity as I accumulate new research understandings on the topic, but also a framework for positioning and discussing new literacies as a set of concepts that are interdependent upon each other in their application and development. New literacies do not stand alone, just as digital literacy does not stand independent from traditional literacy. As I interpret it, New Literacies allows for the cohesion of new literacies, which can only aid in the ever evolving research base of these areas.
Personally, I find myself using the term ‘new literacies’ more often that digital literacies as I talk with colleagues and educational practitioners. To someone not as well read in the research, I believe ‘new literacies’ removes the fear of digital tools from the equation and frames the skills and strategies needed to navigate, participate, and engage in these spaces as new in relation to traditional literacy and offline reading comprehension.
IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING
Teaching practices must reflect and be relevant to the lives of students. Alvermann (2011) describes constructs not as containers but as sieves. Formal and informal constructs are permeable to influences from sociocultural contexts, and this leaves me to question implications for teaching and learning under the perspective of new literacies (or New Literacies). Why are we trying to make classrooms relevant to life, but not life relevant to classrooms? As clearly demonstrated by most of my writing and discussion, I strongly lean towards a sociocultural theory of literacy development as it applies to both traditional literacy and digital literacy. It is because of this view I believe the skills, strategies, practices, and mindsets outlined by new literacy scholars are just as important as offline reading comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency skills. I even go as far to say that in some contexts, these new literacy skills are more important. Students are entering classrooms as the most technologically experienced generation in history (Blanchard & Farstrup, 2011). As mentioned above, they use digital spaces to develop identities as readers and writers that aren’t otherwise developed in formal school settings. If we want children and young adults to become critical consumers of media and text, we must embrace the digital communities and identities to which they belong and support them in developing the skills and strategies to navigate these spaces.
While I constantly grapple with my thinking about digital literacy, offline vs online reading comprehension, new literacies, sociocultural perspectives, and critical literacy, I continue to work with teachers every day on these concepts. It is because of this constant position of influence that I am trying to become more purposeful and precise in my language and approach with the instructional practices of digital literacy and/or online reading comprehension. As I develop professional learning and coaching materials for teachers, I go back to the three knowledge domains as presented by Ellis and Smith (2017): Content knowledge and skills, Cultural and social capital, and Personal-social identity. These domains exist whether in an offline or online space. I try to draw these parallels as I work with teachers to model how we’re still working towards the same goal: supporting students in the development of skills and strategies that allow them to fully participate in cultural communities and develop literate identities. The ways in which we approach these spaces must be different because the media and print are different; there is no denying this fact. I find my role at this moment is not so much convincing teachers of the distinction between these literacy practices, but more in calming their fears, anxieties, and predispositions about opening their classrooms to the worlds of their students and breaking down the constraints of formal educational practices.
Alvermann, D. E. (2011). Popular culture and literacy practices. In M. L. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. B. Moje, & P. P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of reading research, Volume IV (541-560). New York: Routledge.
Blanchard, J. S. & Farstrup, A. E. (2011). Technologies, digital media, and reading instruction. In S. J. Samuels & A. E. Farstrup (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction, (4th ed., pp. 51-93). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Castek, J., Coiro, J., Henry, L. A., Leu, D. J., & Hartman, D. K. (2015). Research on instruction and assessment in the new literacies of online research and comprehension. In S. R. Parris & K. Headley (Eds.), Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices, (3rd ed., pp. 324-344). New York: The Guilford Press.
Ellis, S., & Smith, V. (2017). Assessment, Teacher Education and the Emergence of Professional Expertise. Literacy, 51(2), 84-93
Hammerberg, D. (2004). Comprehension instruction for sociocultural diverse classrooms: A review of what we know. The Reading Teacher, 57(7), 648-656.
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2008). From ‘reading’ to ‘new literacy studies. In C. Lankshear & M. Knobel, New literacies: Everyday practices and classroom learning. Berkshire, England: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education.
Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J., & Cammack, D. (2013). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other ICTR. In Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.) Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed.) Newark, DE: International Reading Association