Literature in digital environments (INF533) has challenged participants to incorporate digital environments into their schemata for both the literature genre and literacy pedagogy. Throughout the modules in this course, we were challenged to consider questions such as:
- What impact has the digital revolution had on books, reading and literature?
- What challenges and opportunities might digital literature bring to the classroom?
- What are the policy and practice considerations for including digital literature in school library collections?
These questions have been considered in the reflection on learning in INF533 that follows.
Once upon a time storytelling was an oral tradition. Due to Gutenberg’s press, it evolved to include print. The Third Industrial Revolution has expanded the mediums of storytelling yet again and the narratives and dialogues of human experience are now also shared via interactive, transmedia, digital spaces. In the twenty-first century, when someone tells us they are reading a book, it can no longer be assumed that they are turning paper pages from the beginning to the end of a story. While this may be the case, they might also be plugged in, clicking, swiping, pinching, listening, viewing or interacting (Sadokierski, 2012). Lamb suggests that a book can now be defined as a published collection of related pages or screens (2011, p.13). As discussed in a blog post on this topic, titled Digital storytelling – distinguishing features, these new forms of storytelling not only change our definition of the physical book but also require new conceptions of author, editor, publisher and reader. Associated with this shift is a new breed of reader who, with the availability of connective technologies, is vocal, social, creative and collaborative resulting in reciprocal relationships between authors and readers (James Kennedy, as cited in Valenza & Stephens, 2012, p.78). Further to this, new technologies are changing our view of literature. An author goes beyond the classical definition of literature when they integrate digital and literary features in authentic ways and a synergy is formed between textual, artistic, multimodal and functional elements (Walsh, 2013, p.187). Consequently, the very nature of narrative and story are changing because of digital environments (Unsworth, 2008, p.63). These new definitions of book, reader and literature hold important implications for those involved in school libraries where literacy is the goal and the focus of our life work is to educate young people for successful futures.
The emergence of digital literature means that new reading environments are now connected and participatory and this has implications for our understanding of what it means to be literate. Digital literacy broaches the idea that participation in contemporary society requires a set of skills beyond those of traditional literacy that included reading, writing, listening and speaking. Rowan states that “this is not just a question about working on screens rather than on paper, it is about moving between different forms and different genres with a degree of confidence. It is about editing and production” (2012, p.112). It follows then that literacy pedagogy also needs to be examined and Walsh’s research confirms that literacy needs to be redefined within current curriculum contexts (2010, p.211). As discussed in the blog post titled The place for digital storytelling in the classroom, incorporating digital texts and storytelling into classroom programs has the potential to provide students with opportunities for comprehending narrative elements, engagement in collaborative and explorative production practices and building digital competencies. Exposing students to multimodal literature and an opportunity to experiment with producing such stories is one method of digital literacy pedagogy explored in INF533 via the Digital storytelling project.
The digital story experiment
Through the Digital storytelling project, I was required to create a digital text, experiment with digital tools and platforms, experience social-networked literature and incorporate digital media texts into reading and literacy experiences in the school context. Pushing beyond my comfort zone, I chose to create a fan fiction response to John Green’s The fault in our stars on Instagram. Among the students for whom this project was designed, Instagram is the social media tool of choice and was therefore selected for this project. As a platform for digital storytelling, Instagram presented a number of challenges. These included copyright considerations, embedding multimedia elements and offering the reader an opportunity to interact with the story. These challenges and the creative problem solving used to overcome them are discussed in the blog post: Fan fiction on Instagram – the digital story experiment.
Changing professional practice
The reality that the digital revolution is changing books, storytelling and reading is a fact teacher librarians need to embrace because it has implications for our pedagogy and library management. These implications are discussed in three blog posts written for INF533:
- The changing landscape of reading and its impact on the role of the teacher librarian;
- The place for digital storytelling in the classroom; and
- Considering copyright in digital environments.
In essence, the world is now characterised by ubiquitous connectivity and change resulting in the need for school library practitioners to redefine reading, remodel collections and rethink pedagogy in order to support students’ literacy development and promote lifelong reading practices.
Fora.TV. (2009, September 23). Once Upon These Times: New Stories for New Audiences [Video file]. Retrieved from http://fora.tv/2009/09/23/Once_Upon_These_Times_New_Stories_for_New_Audiences
Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live
Rowan, L. (2012). Imagining futures (Ch. 13). In L. Rowan, & C. Bigum (Ed.),Transformative approaches to new technologies and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms: Future proofing education (pp. 217-225). Dordrecht: Springer Science +Business Media B.V.
Sadokierski, Z. (2013, November 12). What is a book in the digital age? [Web log post]. Retrieved October 02, 2015, from http://theconversation.com/what-is-a-book-in-the-digital-age-19071
Unsworth, L. (2006). E-literature for children: Enhancing digital literacy learning. Oxford, UK: Routledge.
Valenza, J. K., & Stephens, W. (2012). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 75-78. Retrieved fromhttp://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=73183267&site=ehost-live
Walsh, M. (2010). Multimodal literacy: What does it mean for classroom practice? Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, (October), 211-239. Retrieved September 27, 2015, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=dde702e8-c9f2-48d8-add4-a9b0e0ccf596%40sessionmgr4004&vid=1&hid=4101