A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín
Technological advances and social media have changed the way people live today. People’s public and private life has been affected by technology and its progress. For instance, communication is not the same that some time ago. Nowadays people count on new technologies to have contact with other ones. Therefore, although telephones or letters are still a way to communicate to each other, they are being left behind and instant messaging through computers, laptops and smartphones have been taken their place for some time now.
Furthermore, technology and social media has also modified the way how people learn and teach currently. Both teachers and students have access to new tools to make the most of them during its educational practices. Books, notebooks and pencils have been complemented with cellphones, tablets, computers or smart boards which are being included in education institutions not just to enter this technological era but to enhance our teaching and learning processes.
As a consequence, the next paper aims at proposing some frameworks, considerations, and potential pitfalls when incorporating new technologies and social media in the English classes at university level. Nevertheless, there is a concept which needs to be clarified before dealing with the three main topics of this document; this one is new literacies.
What are new literacies?
It was previously mentioned that our learning and teaching processes have been changed by technological advances and social media. Therefore, the inclusion of new technologies are remodeling the way how people read and write (Kist, 2007). Nowadays both teachers and students have access to new tools to incorporate to and use in their classes. Hence, literacy has changed and learning to read and write is not the same that it was some time ago. Nonetheless, is there any way to refer to this new way of considering literacy? Kist (2007) in his paper Basement New Literacies: Dialogue with a first-Year Teacher states that
These new ways of thinking about literacy have been given various names: multiliteracies (New London Group); new literacy (Willinsky); intermediality (Semali and Pailliotet); or described under the heading of media literacy (Buckingham) or arts-based education or arts-based knowing (Greene; Leland and Harste). NCTE has been using the phrase multimodal literacies to describe these new ways of reading and writing. However we refer to new ways of reading and writing, it is clear that our views of literacy education will never be the same. (p. 43, 44)
As for new literacies meaning, Kist (2012) in his paper Middle School and New literacies: Looking Back and Moving Forward also defines it as follows ““new literacies” and “new media” to mean digitally based media that are screen-based, that is to say, forms of communication that are not generated or distributed on a page.” (p. 17)
Thus, last Kist’s definition on new literacies will be the one to be considered about this one’s meaning in this paper. In short, from now on, when we refer to new literacies, we refer to those ways of communication that are distributed through screen-based devices such as tablets, cellphones, laptops, computers, etc. Now, the question is “how can we prepare and encourage new teachers to take on the challenge of changing traditional views of literacy education? (Kist, 2007, p. 43)
In order to answer last question, some frameworks, considerations, and potential pitfalls when incorporating new literacies in the English classes at university level in Medellin will be addressed next.
Frameworks when incorporating New Literacies in the English classes at university level
According to the Cambridge Dictionary a framework “is a system of rules, ideas, or beliefs that is used to plan or decide something”. So, what are those rules, ideas, or beliefs that we have to consider when incorporating New Literacies in the English classes at university level? Aiming at responding this question it is worth mentioning a little of context of public universities in Medellin. Public universities of Medellin are mainly composed by teenagers and adults learners. Although, all of them already know how to read and write, most of them are used to doing it using paper-based ways of communication such as paper, copies, magazines, newspapers, books, pencils, pens, markers, notebooks, etc. So, what about the New Literacies? If teachers and students can have access to cellphones, laptops, computers, tablets, smart boards, etc. why are we still stick to traditional ways of literacy? Or, maybe, teachers find no reasons to use them. Therefore, the cornerstone to start creating a solid framework to use new literacies in classes is a rationale. Nevertheless, is there any rationale to use new Literacies?
As we all know, technological advances and social media give us the chance not just to be part of a globalized world where people can communicate with each other but also give us the opportunity to learn through new ways, new technologies. Thus, globalization and the onslaught of new communication tools make adults and young people need new literacy (cited by Buckingham, 1993; Buckingham & Sefton-Green, 1994; Eisner, 1994, 1997; Kress, 1997; Luke & Elkins, 1998; New London Group, 1996 in Kist 2000). Hence, it is the responsibility of teachers to adopt and adapt the new literacies in their classes so that students can face the needs of a globalized world. Furthermore, according to Kist (2000) “The International Reading Association/National Council of Teachers of English Standards for the English Language Arts (1996) also speak to the need for students to achieve literacy in both print and nonprint texts” (p. 711).
Another detail to build a solid framework is the new literacy studies.
This is an important topic since it deals with the connection between literacy practices, people’s lives and identities (Compton-Lilly, 2009). Knowing new literacy studies helps teachers to think further traditional literacy practices, it “helps educators to move beyond skills-based approaches to literacy learning, enabling them to recognize that a vast range of experiences contribute to literacy learning.” (Compton-Lilly, 2009, p. 88). In conclusion, the two main ideas to start building a solid framework when incorporating new literacies in the English class at university level in Medellin are a rationale to do it and the new literacy studies. However, after having a solid framework on the inclusion of new literacies, it is the time to cope with some considerations when incorporating new literacies in the English classes at university level in Medellin.
Considerations when incorporating New Literacies in the English classes at university level in Medellin
Technology and education go hand in hand in Medellin city. Therefore, education institutions, teachers and learners, at any level (elementary, high school and university), can count on technological advances such as computers, laptops, cellphones, etc, to be included and used during their learning and teaching practices. Likewise, Internet has permeated educational life of teachers and learners and is a useful tool to accompany the aforementioned technological advances in students’ practices. Nonetheless, are teachers making the most of such advances? As for the university level in Medellin’s education, teachers and learners have access to these advices, however some of them are opposed to use them or, maybe, they just do not know how to use them. Or…they just do not want to do it? This lead us to the first consideration to be kept in mind, the openness to new technologies, the openness to new literacies.
According to Leu et all (2011)
With the Internet, literacy has become deictic (Leu, 2000); the meaning of literacy rapidly and continuously changes as new technologies for information and communication continuously appear online and new social practices of literacy quickly emerge. Historically, literacy has always changed (Manguel, 1996), but over substantial periods of time. Today, however, the emergence of the Internet has brought about a period of rapid, continuous technological change and, as a result, rapid, continuous change in the nature of literacy. (p. 6)
Thereby, the acceptance of technology is a key consideration when incorporating new literacies in the English classes. Teachers and students who are aware that technology is not only part of their lives but it is also part of their education can give them the chance to take a step forward in terms of their knowledge and do not fight against something that is here, is real and can help them in many ways. Bearing in mind the undeniable impact of technology in our lives, whether private, public or educational, give teachers and students the required openness to include and use new literacies in their practices. If teachers have this openness to new technologies they may have an extra tool to work through new literacies with his/her students at university level. Thus, those students who may think that they are nobody and nobody cares about what they are saying (Wosley & Grisham, 2007), new literacies can give them the opportunity to realize they have a voice. Wosley & Grisham says that
As computers and access to the Internet are increasingly becoming a part of the educational experience of middle grade students, these new literacies open electronic doors for students who may have felt as
McCourt’s student did, who may have believed that no one would be interested in what middle schoolers would write, who didn’t have anyone who could or would pay attention to their written work besides a teacher. (p. 29)
The previous statement is given in a high school context; however, it is completely suitable for the university level in Medellin since many students who start their university education are teenagers.
Other consideration to have in mind when incorporating New Literacies in the English
classes at university level in Medellin is the inclusion of LGBTQ population.
Nowadays it can be seen a diversity in world’s inhabitants in terms of sexuality. Male and female are no longer the only genders to be dealt with when it comes to refer to a person. Currently, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals and queers (LGBTQ) are also part of any community in the world. As for education, this population has also access to higher education and public universities in Medellin are not exempt from having this people. Therefore, when they are part of an English class, at university level, they have also access to the new technologies and have the same right to express themselves just like any male or female does it through the new literacies. But, what about the topics worked in class? Are these topics related, at some extent, to this population? Do they feel identified with the topics worked in class? What can new literacies do to include this population?
First of all, it is worth mentioning that some teachers are taking the risk to include LGBTQ-themed literature in their classes and that effort should be appreciated (Blackburn & Smith, 2010), but it is still a difficult topic to deal with. That is why, new literacies could play an important role with this population since through these ones, they can feel empowered to speak their minds and feel part of any community. In conclusion, two important considerations when incorporating new literacies in the English classes at university level in Medellin are the openness to new technologies and the inclusion of LGBTQ population. After reviewing some frameworks and considerations when incorporating new literacies in the English classes at university level in Medellin, it is time to cope with the pitfalls we could face when trying to do so. This topic will be addressed next.
Potential Pitfalls When Trying to Incorporate New Literacies Paradigms at a Public University’s Teaching Practices.
When we initiated the work with literacy/literacies the first question that came up to my mind (Isabel Zuleta) was: What exactly is literacy? Professor Mora answered my question by telling me there is not an exact answer to the question you will find out a definition while reading and working with the assignments. And, he was right! After working with the concept of literacies and its many expressions we could came up with a definition that suit our expectations. Then, it appeared the term new literacies for us to understand and work with in one of the assignments. It is fair to say that, such assignment was quite hard and demanded a lot of effort from us. But, it is also legitimated to say that we could see the great advantages of understanding the concepts and using them in our classes incorporating multimodal texts to change the way we teach and students learn a second language.
Having said that, it is time to describe some of the potential pitfalls we encountered when trying to incorporate new literacies at a public university’s teaching practices. First, the refusal of some teachers of English to use new literacies in their classes using arguments related to extra amount of work and the use of digital technologies. Second, the class time since students only have a two hours a week class of English. Finally, the technological resources teachers count on at the university.
Working with multimodal texts offer a variety of opportunities to develop students’ competences since it is possible to design print and non-print texts by using video, sounds, pictures or even creating digital stories to express their feelings, emotions and thoughts in the target language. Our students need to be engaged with different instructional practices, it means, teachers need to move away from their comfort zone and start considering new literacies to refresh their practices. Some of the reasons they argued not to include new literacies in their classes are as follows: “I have always been indifferent to using technology in my class planning due to my lack of expertise in the field”, another teacher answered:” I never saw a real use for new literacies in my classes, it won’t work for my planning” and a third one told us, “I cannot see how and when use new literacies in my classes”. It is imperative to teach teachers how to implement new literacies by working with multimodal texts if we want students to shift into a new experience of learning using the tools that are connected to their current life style.
Working with new literacies required teachers to have confidence in the implementation of new apps and tools that allow students to create their own videos and avatars to demonstrate their progress and understandings of the target language. Teachers must also understand that, transforming their traditional reading and writing methodology with print literacy into a more technological one, will help students to make meaning by using digital technology and at the same time they will develop their proficiency in the use of the language. “A pedagogy of Multiliteracies,” Kalantzis, Cope, and Cloonan (2010) contend, “requires that the role of agency in the meaning-making process be recognized, and in that recognition it seeks to create a more productive, relevant, innovative, creative, and even, perhaps, emancipatory pedagogy” (p. 72). Probably, it will take some time from teachers while they learn how to use new technology in their classes and propose more interactive tasks but, once they get used to the apps and the mechanisms available for them to make students produce, it will be all worthwhile and students will be able to develop new understandings in a more familiar medium for them.
As far as we are concerned about our teaching methodology, we must think about the kind of instruction we deliver, the kind of material we choose to take to class, the exercises, activities or tasks we use in our classes and also the way we evaluate our students’ progress. Working with the 5E’s as a class model and having TBL as the main methodology has helped us L2 teachers, to organize our planning and consider the students competences more than the skills per se. It has also provided us with the opportunity to think on different modes to present the information we want our students comprehend, and use to communicate in a different language. Nevertheless, the time for class is so short and too little that sometimes we find ourselves full of interesting things to do but no time to do them besides, the fact that we must cover all the contents of each level.
Working with multimodal texts means working with some of the modes of meaning making (visual, audio, linguistic, spatial, and gestural) or with all of them in a more complete class planning and also adding the use of new technologies to make it more appealing to the students. This necessarily means, combining the linguistic competence development with the technological competence. One of the potential pitfalls we encounter when planning to work with this kind of projects is the time we have to accomplish what we want our students learn. For us to work with a project, it usually involves several classes first, the input class where teachers provide students with the necessary tools they need to complete the exercises, activities and the communicative task proposed for the project. Second, the activation of knowledge where students explore the contents, use the tools they have to create their own products. Next, the socializing class where students share their products and receive the feedback from classmates and teacher and finally, the evaluation class where students are to “defend” their product and explain the results by using the target language and their understandings on the topic.
Multimodal texts require an investment of time from the teacher and from students, they are all involved in the creation of a product which has more than one mode of meaning making. With a two hours a week class and a well elaborated pacing guide to cover in each level, there is no much a teacher can do. It demands teachers to create communicative tasks which can be worked out in about two sessions and a not very elaborated product for them to work at home since it is not possible to give much of assessment during the creation of it.
The last of the potential difficulties we could encounter when trying to implement new literacies in our classrooms is the reality of the university’s network capacity and students’ access to new technologies. Teachers have to deal with the lack of technological devices and powerful software to support some of the apps and websites they want to implement. They must also be careful with not ending up being technology teachers rather than English teachers using new technologies. Once English teachers understand that there are different ways of making meaning farther on print texts, new ways that can be reached by using digital technology there is no limit to plan and prepare appealing classes and material for students to become effectively multiliterate. Having also a consideration for those students who cannot have a computer at home or have not access to internet. This factor makes it a bit harder since the asked product should not be very demanding of time.
To conclude, teachers need to allow themselves to use new literacies along with technologies in their classrooms to best meet the needs of their students and engage them in the learning process within a more familiar environment. They also need to figure it out the way to provide the essential input for students to produce meaningful material without creating frustration to students. And as a final thought, teachers must see the great advantages of understanding and using new literacies along with new technologies in their classes, and by incorporating multimodal texts to change the way they teach and the way students learn a second language.
Interviews to English Language Teachers at a Public University in Medellin.
The following are the interviews we conducted with two language teachers at a public University in Medellin who are used to implement multimodal texts and new literacies in their classes. They shared with us their concepts and experiences when using them in their regular practice.
Interview 1 (To hear the interview click on:
Professor: Katherin Pérez
Isabel: good morning today we are with professor Katherin Pérez who is a magister in Natural language processing and she is also a Support Teacher at a Public university.
Good morning katherin, how are you today?
Katherin: Fine thank you, and you?
Isabel: Fine thank you
Isabel: today we are here to talk about multimodal texts.
I have had the opportunity to observe your classes, to see the way you teach using multimodal texts in your classes.
Could you please tell us about your impressions on using multimodal texts in your classes, their benefits and if it is really good and working for your students?
Katherin: well, first of all multimodal texts is pretty much the only type of methodology I use with my students because I grow up receiving multimodal texts when I was learning English. To me is very important that my students have different inputs for all the different skills. I have a course of twenty five students and a lot of them learn in many different ways some of them tend to be more visual, some of them tend to be a little more auditive some of them have a sense of grammar, it becomes easier for them to understand when they see it would also depend on readying but having an extra input so I am trying to cover all of this by giving them the right input they need so everyone can learn at the same time and I do not have to make different classes for each one of them. So, it is very important because I’ve notice that at least for the vocabulary it is very important to have a text that I create and pictures that help my students to consolidate the knowledge in their brains and not forget what the words means once they already saw the pictures that comes together. Maybe through songs I learn that some of them can recall better certain structures when they start singing them again. So, they can recall certain structures when they are writing and yeah those are basically the type of multimodal texts that I try to use in my classes.
Isabel: do you consider that by using them it is really beneficial for students, I mean, they learn even better or more? Would you say that?
Katherin: I would say that younger generation of students they do learn better with this but, because younger generations are, let’s say they are, they have more input of the same type of text on their cellphones in the computers so they are used this part. With adults, it depends if the person is maybe a little bit more in touch with technology with the multimodal texts that they can find for example in Wikipedia or this type of .. or even Facebook itself for example then it will be easier but, if it is a very traditional person that only reads and only need a book and the book maybe with only just one picture so yeah a multimodal text will be more distracting than helpful for them. In my case, in my experience it has been depending on the generation and depending on the amount of time they have been exposed to a multimodal text on their daily lives.
Isabel: ok thank you very much for been with us and have a food day
Katherin: thank you very much.
Interview 2 (To hear the interview click on:
Professor: Felipe Bedoya
Isabel: good afternoon we are today with professor Felipe Bedoya an English teacher at a public university. He likes to use multimodal texts in his classes.
Good afternoon Felipe, how are you?
Felipe: I am ok thank you
Isabel: thanks for answering some questions and helping us.
The first question is: do you use multimodal texts in your classes? and
How do you use them?
Felipe: yes, I do multimodal texts. I like to use multimodal texts in my classes because they represent a very varied way to present or give input to students. I like for example using comics to introduce topics students really like, and enjoy. I also use power point presentations for example to introduce vocabulary or language that students are going to use in the main task of the class so many times I also use videos to expose students to the target language. It is a very good way to do so. What else? I also like my students create multimodal texts like brochures, picture books, posters, newspapers and things like that.
Isabel: ok then, do you think they help students? are they more effective? and how are they more effective?
Felipe: oh yeah I really think they help students a lot. Very much they are really effective. In fact, they help students to have a greater vision of the class topics and objectives because they provide models and input to students in an infinite manner and this modeling is the one that gives students the material or concepts that they are going to take hold of by the moment they produce through the main task of the class. Besides, multimodal texts constitute a very motivating tool for students as they like to receive information through different creative sources and this is what they can get through this type of text.
Isabel: ok thank you very much
Felipe: thank you very much for having me here.
Blackburn, M. & Smith, J. (2010). Moving Beyond the Inclusion of LGBT- Themed Literature in English Language Arts Classrooms: Interrogating Heteronormativity and Exploring Intersectionality. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53(8). 625–634
Compton-Lilly, C. (2009). What Can New Literacy Studies Offer to the Teaching of Struggling Readers? The Reading Teacher, 63(1), p. 88–90
Kalantzis, M., Cope, B., & Cloonan, A. (2010). A multiliteracies perspective on the new literacies. In E. A. Baker (Ed.), The new literacies: Multiple perspectives on research and practice (pp. 61-97). New York, NY: Guilford.
Kist, W. (2000). Beginning to Create the New Literacy Classroom: What does the New Literacy Look Like? Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 710-718
Kist, W. (2007). Basement New Literacies: Dialogue with a First-Year Teacher. English Journal. Vol. 97. No. 1.
Leu, D., McVerry, J., O’byrne, W,. Kiili, C,. Zawilinsky, L., Everett-Cacopardo, H,. Keneddy, C. & Forzani, E. (2011). The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension: Expanding the Literacy and Learning Curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 55(1). 5–14
Wolsey, T. & Grisham, D. (2007). Adolescents and the New Literacies: Writing Engagement. Action in Teacher Education. Vol. 29, No. 2
Number of words: 4414
By: Isabel Cristina Zuleta Vásquez
Johny Restrepo Foronda