September 29

INF533 Assessment 4 Part C: Critical Reflection

At the start of this subject I was coming from a place where my work as an educational professional was somewhat at war with the digital environment, or at least with the engagement with it through the technology available in my last classroom-teaching experience. I discussed this with Helen in the forums (Styan, Simon, & Croft, 2018). I knew that integration of information and communication technology (ICT) was a requirement of the New South Wales (NSW) Syllabus (NSW Education Standards Authority, n.d.) and was seen as a key part of the role of teacher librarians (TLs) (Combes, 2016, paras. 42-45), but from hard experience, I had lost my enthusiasm for putting it into action.

My exploration of digital literature in the first half of the session was frustrating at times (Simon, 2018d), but I ultimately found some inspiration as mentioned on my blog (Simon, 2018e). Learning about the historical development of digital literature (Rettberg, 2012) was fascinating and readings from practitioners such as Annette Lamb (2011) and Maureen Walsh (2013) gave me practical ideas for how to evaluate and select pieces of digital literature and use them in classroom programs. I still wrestle with the idea that just because literature is digital it requires new literacies to comprehend it, as I discussed on my blog (Simon, 2018c) and in the forum (Simon, 2018a). Nonetheless, David Leu and his colleagues make a strong case for the importance of acknowledging and explicitly supporting specific skills required when reading digital texts (Leu, et al., 2011; Leu, Forzani, Timbrell, & Maykel, 2015). This new understanding underpins my conviction that it is essential for educational professionals to include digital reading experiences in their lessons and to explicitly instruct students in digital literacy across all levels of instruction.

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September 2

INF533 Assessment 3: Digital Storytelling Proposal

Proposal topic

The digital storytelling project will tell stories from the Quarantine Station at North Head in Sydney, NSW. It will combine historical materials and short pieces of historical fiction in a multi-modal work based on the article Inside the Quarantine Station (Simon, 2017) and related research.

Proposed digital tools and/or spaces to be used

I am still deciding on the best base platform to use, but am leaning towards Google’s Tour Creator or Thinglink. I would be using mostly Adobe tools, such as Photoshop Creative Cloud for image manipulation and Spark for video creation (if applicable), to create my multi-media/multi-modal content.

Rationale for topic focus for the digital storytelling project

In my current role as a casual teacher and in my hoped-for future role as a Teacher Librarian in NSW primary schools I need to be prepared to teach students across various disciplines at levels from Kindergarten through Year Six (K-6). The topic of this project has the flexibility and curricular relevance to be used across various curriculum areas from K-6 in my local area schools.

The Quarantine Station site is an important historical landmark local to the majority of schools at which I teach or am likely to accept future employment. Further, it is a site that has had historical and geographical relevance on personal, local, regional, national and international/global scales. The planned digital storytelling artefact would incorporate both fact and historical fiction; images, audio, and text; and primary and secondary source material.

In addition to having relevance to History and Geography Knowledge Area content across the K-6 spectrum, it particularly targets Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) Inquiry and Skills outcomes from the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), n.d.) relating to:

    • data collection through observation and sources (primary and secondary) provided or located (ACHASSI001, ACHASSI018, ACHASSI034, ACHASSI053, ACHASSI074, ACHASSI095, ACHASSI123)
    • exploring points of view and distinguishing between fact and opinion (ACHASSI005, ACHASSI022, ACHASSI038, ACHASSI056, ACHASSI077, ACHASSI099, ACHASSI127)

The artefact would be used both to engage students in learning information and to provide a model for their own creation of digital narratives. This would fulfil outcomes from both HASS Inquiry and Skills (ACHASSI010, ACHASSI027, ACHASSI043, ACHASSI061, ACHASSI082, ACHASSI105, ACHASSI133) and English (ACELY1654, ACELY1664, ACELY1674, ACELY1685, ACELY1697, ACELY1707, ACELY1717) Learning Areas (ACARA, n.d.).



Adobe. (2018a). Adobe Spark. Retrieved from

Adobe. (2018b). Reimagine reality. Retrieved from!3085!3!155856311942!b!!g!!photoshop%20creative%20cloud&ef_id=WrIQXQAAA0AvufWy:20180901234920:s

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (n.d.). F-10 Curriculum. Retrieved Spetember 2, 2018 from

Google. (n.d.). Tour Creator. Retrieved from

Simon, M. (2017). Inside the Quarantine Station. HistoriCool, 29, 20-24.

Thinglink. (n.d.). Ignite student creativity. Retrieved from

August 20

INF533 Assignment 2 Critical Reflective Practice

Digital texts – the actual, the good, and the purpose

In an early blog and forum post for this subject (Simon, 2018a), my top-of-the-head definition of digital literature mostly encompassed re-contextualisations of print literature (Walsh, 2013) available on various digital platforms. I personally used these mostly as a matter of convenience, according to access or price considerations. Since writing that my horizons have been greatly expanded.

I have learned that there is no agreed-upon, standard definition for digital literature (Groth, 2018). Instead definitions seem to run the continuum from any text that you can experience on an electronic device (which I would personally define as digital texts rather than as digital literature) to only works that incorporate both textual or narrative qualities of literary merit plus an inextricable link to the digital medium on which they were created to be experienced (Groth, 2018). My preference is for a definition somewhere between these extremes.  At this point, my working definition would be: a work with a substantial contribution of written text with literary characteristics that is published and intended to be experienced via a digital device. This allows for a fairly wide range of examples and levels of quality.

So, what makes a work of digital literature or a digital text a “good” one? I agree with Walsh (2013) that there should ideally be a synergy between the literary textual elements and the digital features (or affordances). An effective digital text goes beyond the written words and static illustrations and, while it may be able to be printed out and experienced in that format, a printed experience would be a diminished one. I consciously used the word text, because a particularly strong example of a digital text that I came across in my explorations was a digital information text sold through iBooks by Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre (Carson, 2017). The text incorporated multimedia and interactive features in and engaging way that extended the information provided in a way that was congruent with the narrative and disciplinary content (Kao, Tsai, Liu, and Yang, 2016). It was also appropriate to the age level (K-2) in terms of interest and the variety of reading levels in that range. Unfortunately, I got stuck on the term “literature” in the assessment task description. I do not consider information texts as “literature”, no matter how high the quality of their writing.

I think digital texts serve the purpose of informing and communicating and telling stories, just as texts in other mediums have throughout time. While I think that there are shifts in the balance of the skills we harness when reading in digital environments, I think the essential core of communication skills remains relatively constant. This is somewhat contrary to the views put forward by some relatively alarmist voices in the field (Leu, et al., 2011; Wolf, 2010), as I mentioned in my response to this forum post (Simon, 2018b). Continue reading

August 20

INF533 Assessment 2 Review 3: Dr Seuss Treasury – The Lorax

Oceanhouse Media is the official e-book app developer for the works of Dr Suess (Dredge, 2012). Among their many offerings is the Dr. Seuss Treasury – School (Oceanhouse Media, 2016a), containing fifty-five Dr. Seuss titles, including a version of The Lorax (Seuss, 1971). That particular title was investigated for this review, which will look at the digital features of this enhanced e-book (James & De Kock, 2013) and their efficacy in educational settings (Yokota & Telae, 2014).

The  app would fall under Maureen Walsh’s (2013) broad category of traditional literature re-presented in digital form, Unsworth’s (2006 as cited in Walsh, 2013, p. 182) electronically augmented literary texts, and Lamb’s (2011) interactive storybooks. This places it in what could be termed a “comfort zone” of digital literature – not particularly innovative, like transmedia or extended reality texts (Breeze, 2018), but situated in a safe, popular, and comparatively commercially competitive (Dredge, 2012) niche.

Dr. Seuss is a well-known author of children’s literature whose books meet the threshold of demonstrating quality literary elements (Walsh, 2013; Yokota & Teale, 2014). One key area to evaluate in the digital versions are what Walsh (2013) describes as the “synergy” between the literary elements and the digital features. Research findings suggest that while multimedia features can have a positive effect on story comprehension and expressive vocabulary development, interactivity, broadly speaking, does not (Takacs, Swart, & Bus, 2015). However, specific types of interactivity, when congruent with the storyline and aligned with effective reading pedagogy, can increase story comprehension and engagement (Kao, Tsai, Liu, & Yang, 2016). Continue reading

August 14

INF533 Assessment Task 2 Review 2: Wuwu & Co.

Wuwu & Co. (Step In Books, 2014-2018) tells the story of five creatures who come to seek help from the resident of a little red house in the woods during “the coldest winter in two thousand years” (p. 1). The story is told through a combination of written text and interactive scenarios that make use of a variety of the technological capabilities of iOS devices, as will be explored later in this review.

Though the information page on the app carries the Apple age rating of 4+, on the catalogue description page the developers have added “Made for Ages 6-8” (Step In Books, n.d.). The level and type of interactivity required in the app, the interest level of the material and the complexity of the language support the older age range indicated. The English language text difficulty is calculated in the range appropriate to Years 2 and 3 by the Free Lexile Analyser (MetaMetrics, Inc., 2018; Biblionasium, 2018). It is available from the Australian iOS App Store for AU$9.99.

Step In Books (2016) via YouTube

Wuwu & Co. is a digital narrative (Walsh, 2013) created specifically for the iOS platform and cannot be effectively experienced without the use of an appropriate device. It blurs the boundaries somewhat when viewed through the lens of Annette Lamb’s (2011) five reading environments. While it can be classified as an interactive storybook app, it has qualities of non-linearity congruent with the hypertext or interactive fiction category that she describes. One of the notable elements of interactivity is the device-based virtual reality (VR) segments. VR is one of the modes of extended reality (XR) that some see as the currently expanding frontier of digital literature (Breeze, 2018).
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August 8

INF533 Assessment Task 2 Review 1: My Place

My Place (Wheatley & Rawlins, 1987) is an enduring work of Australian historical fiction. The book relates the personal stories of children living in one local area in Sydney for every decade from 1788 through 1988. Each child relates a short account of their family and community, giving insights into the historical period and the development of the geographical area as well as showing evidence of their connection to country. Character ages range between seven and twelve, which makes the text relatable to primary school students. The first-person narratives have the cadence of recounts told by children where details such as a new colour for the house, an older brother bringing home a girlfriend and also heading to war are related with similar weight given to them using somewhat naive, straightforward language. Historical developments presented from the perspective of the children are enhanced by Donna Rawlins’ warm illustrations created with materials common to most contemporary primary school classrooms. This is a quality piece of literature that can be used across the curriculum in a variety of key learning areas including English, History, and Geography (McMeekin, 2010; Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) & Education Services Australia (ESA), n.d.).

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) produced a television series based on the book (Chapman Pictures Pty Ltd & Matchbox Pictures, 2009-2011). Episodes have been added that widen the timeline to include “before time” and continue through to 2008 (ACTF & ESA, n.d.). The twenty to twenty-five minute episodes also present more detail than the brief illustrated recounts in the book. The high production values, historical detail, and quality cast of this production make it an excellent resource for extending engagement with this story. Full episodes are available on kanopy and sometimes on ABC iView, but selected clips are always available on the My Place for teachers website.

Australian Children’s Television Foundation (2011) via YouTube Continue reading

July 20

Entering the world of digital literature – the good, the bad and the ugly

As I related in the first discussion forum task (Simon, 2018), my main experience with digital literature prior to this class was personal consumption of straight print-to-digital eBooks. My main classroom use, to date, has been scanned or otherwise digitised copies of traditional picture books displayed on the Smartboard for shared reading. The readings in the first module have worked together to inspire and frustrate me. I am inspired by the breadth and variety of digital literature described in the various readings, but frustrated by how little exposure I have had to these in my classroom teaching settings as well as by my attempts to actually find the digital literature that I am reading about. My explorations have yielded the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First I’ll share the good news. The possibilities for digital literature are simply incredible. As Walsh (2013) demonstrates in her analyses of the born-digital, solely-digital narratives Inanimate Alice (The BradField Company, 2012-2018 in Walsh, 2013) and The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Creek (O’Rogers, 2011 in Walsh 2013) there is the possibility for innovative works that take great advantage of digital capabilities and present them in synergy with quality literary elements. I have seen works with rich literary language and structure that use digital affordances to enhance, inform, and serve the purpose of the text effectively in ways that could not be done in print. There are also works like The Boat (Le & Huynh, n.d.) an SBS digital work that falls in the category of a print work converted to digital with synergy between the literary and digital elements (Walsh, 2013, pp. 184-185; Yokota & Teale, 2014, p. 581).

via GIPHY Continue reading