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
My first introduction to Gee was through my involvement with the University of South Florida’s Cambridge Schools Experience. There I sat, nodding in half-comprehension of the conversation around me, when I heard a name fly over my head to the person across the room, “Gee!” …. Who?…. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was experiencing apprenticeship into what Gee refers to as a Discourse (big “D”) community (Gee, 2013). This was a Discourse of academia, and I was still (am still!) approximating the language.
Discourse and discourse
Gee tells us that we are part of many different Discourses (big “D”) over the course of our lives. These are like “identity kits”. They include ways of talking, listening, writing, reading, acting, interacting, believing, valuing, and feeling (Gee, 2013, p. 143). However, we also use discourse (little “d”). Gee defines discourse (little “d”) as “language in use” (Gee, 2013, p. 143). So right now, I’m using discourse to communicate with my Discourse community of language, literacy, and new literacies readers!
Ok, so I belong to a Discourse community. What does this have to do with teaching? This is where context comes into play. To understand Gee’s position on situated language, we first have to explore primary and secondary discourses (Gee, 2008). Your primary discourse is typically developed at home, around family; it is being a part of something and your foundation to identity. Secondary discourses, of which we may have many over our lives, are developed through institutions such as school, work, religion, etc. These are often influenced by our primary discourse. For example, a child who developed a primary discourse as part of a low socioeconomic-status family may have difficulty developing a secondary discourse in school because these two Discourses do not align well with each other. Confused? Here’s a fun video to explain, as long as you don’t mind the 1980’s video game background music (I think Gee would approve of the use of gaming music however. You’ll see why shortly!):
But back to situated language. Gee proposes that language is never neutral. All language has specific meaning when situated within context. Our many Discourses, both primary and secondary, affect these contexts. Here’s an example from Gee (2013):
“The coffee spilled, go get the mop.”
“The coffee spilled, go get the broom.”
What did you see? Depending on the context, we’re either going to be frustrated with the wrong tool (broom for wet coffee?) or understanding of the language (maybe it was coffee beans!). How does this relate to literacy development? Well, if language is always situated within context, then there must be more to reading than repetitive, behavioral processes that only rely on letters and words. The meaning of language, according to Gee (2013) depends on sociocultural factors of Discourse communities.
Gee brings his work with situated language and how we, ourselves, come to be part of Discourses that both shape and reflect our identity, into the conversation of new literacies. To list the expansive collection of publications Gee has on this subject would be impossible in a single blog post, so I’ll steer you towards his website which houses a plethora of resources should you find yourself with an inquisitive mind and an empty “to-do” list: jamespaulgee.com
Literacy is always situated in context according to Gee (2003). He ties in sociocultural theories of reading development with his focus on multiple literacies to argue that the type of literacy we use depends on the media we’re interacting with in addition to our perspective, which is derived from our identity and Discourse communities.
Gee also focuses on how gaming culture can be applied to learning situations (2003). He argues that a good video game provides the framework for developing student motivation, perseverance, and success. I’m not going to do his work with video games justice, so I encourage you to watch this 5-minute video and hear it from the scholar himself (you’ve made it this far, don’t give up on me now!):
- While familiar with his linguistic work, I had no idea Gee was so influential in new literacies!
- I will never challenge him in a video game.
- He wrote a book of poetry. Seriously. Check it out here: Blowing Out the Candles He also keeps an active poetry blog: jamespaulgee.wordpress.com
- Not feeling the academic language of Gee? Then bookmark THIS page and keep up with his regular blogging.
- He is an academic inspiration to me. Seriously. As a grad student who’s ultimate fear is being pigeonholed into a field or area of study, Gee inspires me to continue diversifying my interests. Yes, he is trained in linguistics, but his research has spanned numerous fields, intertwining the literature, and I think, making education all the better for it.
- I could never cover the vast number of topics on which Gee has researched and published in a single blog post.
- I bet he’s a great person to grab a drink with.
[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEB4rAZanpM
STRATEGIC AND ENGAGED READERS
Strategic readers employ multiple effective comprehension strategies such as using schema, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance, synthesizing, and using fix-up strategies (Buehl, 2014). These strategies are implemented with little to no support, allowing strategic and proficient readers to monitor and clarify their thinking before, during, and after reading and apply the strategies as needed at appropriate times. Less strategic readers may not have learned how to apply these strategies, or may still have their primary attention on decoding the print they’re reading. In these cases, rereading of difficult passages or providing easier text would help these readers develop and master effective reading strategies (Samuels, 2013).
An engaged reader is “learning for the sake of learning” (Swan, 2003). Engaged readers ask questions, set goals, talk about their reading, and use the process of reading to find answers and share information (Swan, 2003). To be engaged is to be motivated. According to Swan (2003), people need three things to become intrinsically motivated: competence, autonomy support, and belonging. Students need to experience success with reading to develop competence. They also need to have choice as a reader and control over their experiences. Finally, they need to feel they are important and belong to a community. Swan (2003) continues to explain that when readers are motivated, they use their skills to seek conceptual knowledge and become increasingly social within their cultures and communities. Engaged readers achieve comprehension when they actively create meaning from text (Buehl, 2014).
Teachers, librarians, and any other influential adults in a child’s life can encourage these contexts in which a reader can become engaged in the reading process. If we look back at the RAND heuristic for reading comprehension, we consider the reader, text, and activity within a larger sociocultural context (Snow, 2002). Duke and Pearson (2002) outline ways in which educators and literacy influencers can create these contexts for readers. An engaged and supportive classroom includes a lot of time spent reading accessible texts where students can apply strategies and skills, opportunities for authentic reading, exposure to a variety of materials and genres, a vocabulary rich environment, support and practice in decoding words, ample time spent writing for authentic audiences, and rich dialogue about text (pp. 207-208). This environment is evident in the CORI videos (University of Maryland, n.d.). In these videos, students exercise autonomy as they seek specialized knowledge on sub-topics of interest within an overarching unit of study. They’re motivated through social dialogue, choice in their text selection, and curiosity about conceptual knowledge.
Current research surround reading comprehension instruction is beginning to reflect the goal-directed era of learning (Alexander & Fox, 2013). The reader has entered the stage in the theater of comprehension, and with this new player comes personal-social identity and cultural and social capital (Ellis & Smith, 2017). The reader is considered within a larger sociocultural context (Snow, 2002). Motivation, choice, and authenticity are key components to quality reading comprehension instruction (Duke & Pearson, 2002). Developmentally appropriate practices are part of the dialogue of assessment creation (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2015). Overall, the definition of reading comprehension and resulting instructional practices are moving forward. I personally don’t feel they’re keeping pace with the dynamic nature of literacy in our modern technological age, but that’s a separate discussion for a separate set of literature.
As a district technology teacher on special assignment (TOSA), I am considered a technology integration coach. My role is to work with PreK-12 teachers and administrators as they integrate technology into instruction. While I hold a larger than average amount of IT knowledge, my job is not to hook up computers, but rather to utilize my pedagogical and content area knowledge to develop purposeful technology use in classrooms, with the ultimate goal to increase student engagement and performance. However, in this reflection on the literature, I step back from this identity and consider print reading comprehension. I struggle with this not only because of my job title, but also because digital literacy is an area of interest for me, and I’m still undecided as to whether print and digital literacy can be identified separately in terms of the reading process. Yes, they both employ some different skills and strategies, but many of the core reading processes of a proficient reader are evident in both. More so, a disposition of autonomy, meaning seeking, and social action are needed to navigate within our knowledge rich culture, regardless of the location and/or form of that knowledge. I need to spend more time with the current research on new literacies to formulate a full perspective on this, and I acknowledge this personal and academic shortcoming, but I digress.
If I were to honestly reflect on my context, it is evident that many of the effective comprehension practices presented by Duke and Pearson (2002) are not occurring regularly in classrooms. I have the honor of spending most of my days in a variety of contexts, working with children and young adults, observing teaching practices, and experiencing different classroom cultures. There are some classrooms where the atmosphere is rich with talk about literature, students are excited to learn, and the teacher provides a balance between support and autonomy in the comprehension development process. But for each of those classrooms, I also experience what Swan (2003) describes as fragmented instruction. Instruction that is so tied to the daily schedule, partitioned blocks of time for content areas, and focused on the cognitive process of reading comprehension, that the reader is lost within the well-meaning push towards improved test scores and school rankings. These are the classrooms that move me towards research and professional development in literacy. These are the students I want to take aside, hand them that perfect book, and say, “Here’s a mirror to identify with. Here’s a window into a world you’ve never know. Here’s a door to step through into experiences you have yet to encounter” (Bishop, 1990). Because without identity we lose motivation, without motivation we lose engagement, and without engagement, potential experiences remain just letters on pages.
My most pressing question right now is how do we keep sight of the person within the data? How do we remember that schools are social constructs onto which we, as a society, have projected cultural norms and expectations according to the dominant groups of that society (Alexander and Fox, 2013)? And within these two questions, how do we respect the sociocultural views and values of children and families when assessing and reporting academic achievement (Ellis & Smith, 2017)? If we aren’t respecting the identities of readers, how can we expect to motivate them and position them within a context that respects their choices and opinions? This applies to all forms of literacy, especially as we move into digital literacy, but also with content area literacy and especially media literacy. If we are not taking a stance of critical literacy in all things, beginning with print, we are failing our children as they enter a future riddled with bias and questionable credibility.
Alexander, P. A., & Fox, E. (2013). A historical perspective on reading research and practice, redux. In Alvermann, D. E., Unrau, N. J., & Ruddell, R. B. (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading, (6th ed., pp. 3-46). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Bishop, R. S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives, 6(3), ix–xi.
Buehl, D. (2014). Classroom strategies for interactive learning. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Duke, N.K. & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In Farstrup, A. E., & Samuels, S. J. (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (3rd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Ellis, S., & Smith, V. (2017). Assessment, teacher education and the emergence of professional expertise. Literacy, 51(2), 84-93. doi:10.1111/lit.12115
National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2015). 2015 Abridged reading framework. Retrieved from https://www.nagb.org/content/nagb/assets/documents/publications/frameworks/reading/2015-reading-framework-abridged.pdf
Samuels, S. J. (2013). Towards a theory of automatic information processing in reading, revisited. In Alvermann, D. E., Unrau, N. J., & Ruddell, R. B. (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading, (6th ed., pp. 698-718). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. (Reprinted from Ruddell, R. B., Ruddell, M. R., & Singer, H. (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading, (4th ed., pp. 816-837), Newark, DE: International Reading Association.)
Snow, C. E. (2002). Reading for understanding: Toward an R & D program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.
Swan, E. A. (2003). Concept-oriented reading instruction: Engaging classrooms, lifelong learners. New York: Guilford Press.
University of Maryland (n.d.). CORI: Classroom Videos [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.cori.umd.edu/what-is-cori/classroom-videos.php
Gelfuso (2016) likened the phases of reflective discourse to a theater performance. First, you set the stage, focusing the conversation. Then, the play begins where the conversation moves through the preservice teacher’s ZPD. Next, the curtain closes as the preservice teacher makes a ‘warranted assertability’ about the teaching process. Finally, you take a bow and bring the reflective process to the attention of the preservice teacher. This metaphor helped me understand the reflective process and coaching discourse, but it also serves as a framework for my experiences as I learn how to coach.
First, the stage was set as I began my time with the Cambridge Schools Experience. Readings and discussions helped focus my attention towards important aspects of coaching. My path was open for me to shape, but guidance was provided to assist me as I defined my needs and goals. What did I need out of this experience? What did I bring to the experience? What was important to me? What were my misconceptions and previously held notions of what a coach is or does?
Then the play began as I practiced my skills in the schools, worked with a preservice teacher in her classroom, and began to explore my identity as a coach. The very first time I stepped into the classroom as a coach I struggled to maintain my focus on what the preservice teacher was doing. As a classroom teacher I have always been focused on what the students are doing. Over the course of my visits I began to shift my focus to not only the preservice teacher, but also to the connections between what she was doing and how the students were responding. This led to increased insight into her practice and how she could increase student engagement and outcomes. In turn, our coaching and planning conversations became more detailed and focused on her needs in that moment. My first conversation with the preservice teacher remained broad as we discussed our combined observations, questions, and goals. Over time I was able to hone my ability to observe her lessons, which in turn created more specific feedback and guidance. I began to notice growth within the preservice teacher as a reflection of my personal growth as a coach. In addition, I began to establish my identity and style as a coach. In the beginning, I felt I was mimicking more than creating. As time and experience went on, I became more comfortable in my discussions and actions. I felt my personality begin to emerge and take shape in this new role, which led to a decreased focus on myself and an increased focus on the preservice teacher. Overall, my growth was directly reflected in the preservice teacher’s growth. Much like we think about our first classroom of kids, “Please forgive me for all of my mishaps! It was my first year!” I feel the same towards the preservice teacher with which I worked. Did she grow because of me, or in spite of me? Thankfully, she was a strong individual who will be an amazing educator on her own abilities.
The curtain closes with these blog posts as I reflect back on what happened, find purpose within those events, and create meaning from my experiences in the field. Reflection cannot occur without dissonance (Gelfuso, 2016), and I am thankful I was provided many opportunities to move through this in my Cambridge Schools Experience. Through thoughtful questions and discussion I have been able to identify areas of growth and to develop personal beliefs about coaching. While I still feel I am at the surface of coaching, I am thankful to have experienced this practice of reflection at the level I have. My hope is that it will continue as I move forward in my journey.
I take a bow as I move forward into my professional role as a technology TOSA/coach. Through these experiences and stages of development I have begun the transition from practice into action. I am nowhere near proficient, but I am more aware of the intricacies of my practice that add up to be the bigger picture. I am more reflective of my practice, thanks mainly to the guidance and coaching given to me in this experience. I am more confident in my ability to say, “I don’t know, but we’ll find out together,” where in the beginning I thought I needed to have all of the answers. I am mindful of the smaller moments in coaching that can become so much more. Overall, I have a new definition of what it means to coach. I have transitioned my mindset from ‘coach’ as a noun, to ‘coach’ as a verb. It is in this space that I find my direction and growth.
Gelfuso, A. (2016). A framework for facilitating video-mediated reflection: Supporting preservice teachers as they create ‘warranted assertabilities’ about literacy teaching and learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 58, 68-79.