Month: October 2015

Things That Matter – Part C: Critical Reflection

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As discussed in Learning 2030 (2013), digital technology allows the blending of interdisciplinary content, providing opportunities for connection, both conceptual and social, to make learning more meaningful. Good use of technology affords students opportunities to be creators and not just consumers (Morra, 2013), which aligns with the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, where creativity is of peak importance in learning for the future (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001) and the SAMR model developed by Puentedura which defines tasks that employ the creative use of technology for previously inconceivable tasks (Redefinition) as of greatest educational benefit (Puentedura, 2014). Education needs to prepare students for work in a creative, digital world so development of skills to create in a digital context is an imperative (Hall, 2012).

The digital world allows unprecedented scope for content creation by those of us who are not already esteemed authors (Dobler, 2013; Morra, 2013). Web 2.0 provides the capacity to not just consume, but to produce and distribute information and creative content with relative ease (Hall, 2012; Malita and Martin, 2010). It is possible to sustainably create a digital story with no financial outlay (Doiron, 2013), and as I have done with Things That Matter, publish it online and reach a broad ranging audience very quickly. A ‘broadcast technology’ has become an ‘everyday technology’ (The new literacies, 2013) thanks to the array of available tools for creating.

The everyday technology of digital literature requires readers to discern quality (Dobler, 2013). Walsh outlines the characteristics of good literature including, an authentic setting, relatability and empathy, the invocation of imagination, consideration of issues and suitability for the desired audience (2013). These are important qualifications and I was mindful in the creation of my story that these elements were necessary to create a worthwhile digital text and that ‘bells and whistles’ may derail the interpretation of the story (Guernsey, 2011).

Despite discernment issues for the reader, the relative ease with which digital content can be created certainly has significant benefits. The digital environment simplifies the process and problems inherent in content creation. For example, in the process of creating my story, I was able to make use of the everyday nature of online technology to search for solutions to problems I experienced, saving considerable time resolving issues. Internet resources also enabled the inclusion of audio from a free, creative commons audio site (freesound.org) to download sound files, saving me from creating all audio components myself.  It is also easier than ever to share content and make it accessible to a broad audience through the internet and social media. Within 24 hours of posting my story to Facebook, the video file had been viewed 78 times, I had arranged to discuss project possibilities with a new connection and arranged the use of the resource in my own school. It was also shared beyond my immediate circle, extending my audience further.

 Youtube view count after 24 hours

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As educators, digital environments have both enabled exciting options and created complexity through their rapid and constant evolution. The potential to create real world opportunities has broadened for students, where they may publish their work online; an experience that may encourage quality production and potentially provides a wide audience (Roblyer and Doering, 2014). In my own study, the resource sharing provided by interaction on the discussion board, Goodreads, Thinkspace blogs and Twitter is invaluable (Sargeant, 2013). However, literacy is now deictic – ever evolving its form with technology’s progression (Leu, 20011). This factor, alongside the array of technological skills to develop, means that teachers need to be open to new possibilities and the capacity to learn and explore options (Roblyer and Doering, 2014). Despite the world of online resources at our fingertips, the diversity of other demands impacting today’s educators compromise the transition to new pedagogies (see my final INF530 blopost). This brings me to why I chose to study this degree; as discussed in my first INF530 blog post, without it, time demands would make it unlikely that I would engage on learning of this scale or value.

Prior to studying INF533, I had not considered the potential for digital storytelling to bridge curriculum areas, making it possible to engage more learners (Hall, 2012). My investigation of three different digital texts for the Digital Literature Reviews (here, here and here) broadened my awareness of digital content that may greatly enhance learning through multi-sensory engagement, interactivity and/or transmedia affordances. My learning over the course of this session has led me to understand how the use of what Hall describes as the “transformative human power of narrative” (Conclusion, 2012) combined with the opportunity to extend skills and creatively engage with ICT (2012) is a new and rigourous combination for learning. This combination of accessible skills and concepts opens opportunities for me to build on my previous learning to encourage new possibilities for my students. Once again my study has provided the opportunity to engage with content that was previously outside of my awareness and extend my repertoire of skills and ideas for using digital technology in the classroom.

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Things That Matter – Part A: Context

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Inspired by the refugee immersion camp that my Year 9 students will undertake, my digital story relates to refugees and may inspire multidisciplinary curriculum opportunities.

In an Australian city environment; where privilege, freedom and safety are assumed, ‘first world problems‘ tend to be the main problems my students experience. The immersion will be a confronting experience, designed to impact students at an age where they often focus primarily on self. It aims to generate empathy and opportunities for personal growth. Students will focus on refugee content through their English, Religious Education and Humanities curriculum this term. We will use Things That Matter on return from our immersion, giving students choice to respond creatively.

Although fictional and structured as a childrens’ story, Things That Matter is designed to inspire and inform. The concepts are grave and prior knowledge to interpret the context may be helpful; for these reasons it may be best suited to upper primary to middle-school students, rather than a younger audience. Although a younger child is represented, students could interpret the storyline as it unfolds and empathetically consider the parallel situation of children in war-torn environments.

For a digital story to have value that supersedes a printed counterpart, it should offer additional elements, dynamism or interactivity (Mod, 2015). It must take advantage of the capabilities provided by technology (Rettberg 2012) and should evolve into something beyond the experience of reading printed text (Jabr, 2013). My story’s visual transitions, blending two settings may provide a more visually immersive experience. The audio adds another sensory dimension to add emphasis and personification. I did not initially intend to produce a linear story and ideally would have added further interactive elements (as recommended by Barack, 2012); however my skills and time constraints limited my exploration of non-linear, interactive components. Alternately, I set the linear story into a website to include supporting pages. Inspiration provides acknowledgement and background, and further resource recommendations. Process outlines the video production, providing a scaffold to inspire users for creating their own content. Curriculum Links includes reference to Australian Curriculum content descriptions and invites comments from users regarding ideas for use of the resource, which may encourage interactivity between educators to consider ideas.

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My previous study for INF530 led me to examine optimal settings for creative learning (see my digital essay here); I learnt that the overlap of content areas can be the spark for creativity. This has been the case for me in my own story development, where the intersection of needs and ideas combined to elicit a creative response.  Considering this perspective, my recommendations for the use of my digital story could involve hybrid curriculum experiences or at least, simultaneous curriculum content across disciplines to provide holistic, meaningful connections between factors related to the global refugee crisis.

In a breakdown of curriculum areas, as outlined in Curriculum Links, the content relates to the Arts, English, Humanities and in some contexts, Religious Education. There is scope to explore text types, literacy and conventions (Darnton, 2009), as well as create a response in English; study the social, political, psychological and cultural contexts and complexities through Humanities and Social Sciences; analyse artistic value and create content inspired by the resource through the Arts and investigate the teachings of religion and relevant Church leaders in schools that study Religion. Many schools also include service learning programs (volunteering etc.) and the resource could be used as stimulation for a program in support of refugees.

Things That Matter, particularly if used in combination with other recommended content, could allow opportunities for the development of a range of literacy skills, encompassed as multimodal literacy (Walsh, 2010). It combines image, text and audio to interact with multiple senses (Lamb, 2011), allowing critical thought about both process and content (Malita and Martin, 2010). The resource could be used to demonstrate the “iPed model” described by Mills (2011), where the “link, challenge, cocreate, share” (2011) sequence could be investigated prior to students creating their own content using the same scaffold. This transition from critical analysis to production may encourage the development of a range of skills in a rigourous learning process (Dockter, Haug & Lewis, 2010). Considering “phase space” (Unsworth, 2006, p.29) creative activities is a viable option; asking ‘what if …’ questions regarding the intervals between the sequences, or before and after possibilities could provide scope for phase space work.

A range of digital tools were used in the production of the resource. Whilst some of the software would require training, the process may provide ideas for students’ own digital content creation, focusing not on the tools, but on the skills of meaningful narrative communication (Rosenthal Tolisano, 2015). Perhaps an ideal use of Things That Matter could be as inspiration for a collaborative project where elements of a digital resource are created and collated across curriculum boundaries.

This array of possibilities allows scope for choice, based on school determined needs or focus areas as well as the opportunity to structure options that will suit different learning styles and strengths (Kingsley, 2007).

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