New Literacies: Risks, Rewards, and Responsibilities

“To be literate tomorrow will be defined by even newer technologies that have yet to appear and even newer discourses and social practices that will be created to meet future needs. Thus, when we speak of new literacies we mean that literacy is not just new today; it becomes new every day of our lives” (Leu, 2012, p. 78)

New literacies are the “ways in which meaning-making practices are evolving under contemporary conditions that include, but are in no way limited to, technological changes associated with the rise and proliferation of digital electronics” (Knobel and Lankshear, 2014, p. 97). It involves examining how, through the use of digital technology, the learner of today can come to identify, understand, interpret, create and communicate knowledge in novel and often unconventional ways.  While the incorporation of new literacies allows the educator to meet students where they are at, to engage and enliven learning through the relevancy and interest of the learner, restructure the power dynamics of learning, and to extend learning beyond the classroom, the approach of the educator towards engaging with new literacies is often a daunting undertaking.  In her article, Hagood (2012) highlights the processes by which teachers were introduced to and implemented new literacies into their classrooms. Working with a group of 9 middle school teachers during bi-monthly meetings over the course of a year, the author (2012) provided them with a three phase process towards introducing new literacies. These phases included an introduction phase to learn about new literacies, an exploration phase of the skills and tools necessary for new literacies, and a design and implement phase. The output was an inquiry-based project incorporating new literacies the educators could use in their classes. Using the participants’ reflections on this process, Hagood (2012) outlined their takeaways towards the implementing new literacies so as to lessen push-back, increase interest for participation and overall increase teacher satisfaction with incorporating new literacies. These included starting small and learning to implement new literacies through pre-existing assignments,  test trying new literacies to facilitate learning when traditional avenues fail, and expecting to fail and retry as part of the process for developing their educator skills with new literacies. Hagood (2012) noted that while many of the participants recognized the fact that students were well ahead in their connectedness to digital technology, that this was not the motivator for their implementation of new literacies. Rather it was the fact that many of the participants felt invigorated by what they saw their students capable of producing, the increased engagement of their students, by their own personal growth, and by their renewed enjoyment of teaching through new literacies. In addition, the educators felt that they developed a collaborative network which not only pushed them to stay on task but also made them feel more invested in sharing what they had learned thereby reiterating the connectedness to context and people that comes with new literacy.

While this article lacks in any quantifiable data with regards to how implementing digital literacy impacted student and teach motivation and student success within these classes, the incorporation of the teacher’s voices in reflecting on what resulted carries great weight in thinking about how this introduction of new literacies must be transformed into workable practices for the educator. This was a single small group in a single school from a single training year and Hagood (2012) presents no follow-up or check-in to see how these teachers are fairing in their use of new literacies in the following years. Have they expanded their incorporation of new literacies beyond the one inquiry-based project and how did they do this? Or perhaps they limited themselves to the one project, change projects, or abandoned new literacies altogether? What obstacles came about over time which impacted how they developed their skills and their overall implementation of new literacies? These are questions this article doesn’t address but are of interest when thinking about how to aid educators in exploring and adopting new literacies. What did their students think of these new literacies

In thinking about research, the above questions bear greater examination.  It would be interesting to expand upon this towards examining the best processes for implementing new literacies by examining outcomes such as motivation, efficacy, self-directedness, and overall success for both student and teacher.

Hagood, M. C. (2012) Risks, Rewards, and Responsibilities of Using New Literacies in
Middle Grades. Voices from the Middle, Volume 19 Number 4, May 2012

Leu, D. J., & Forzani, E. (2012). New literacies in a Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, …∞ world. Research in the Schools, 19(1), 75-81

Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2014). Studying new literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 57(9), 1-5

 

 

 

Video Podcasts and Education

Kay, R. H. (2012). Exploring the use of video podcasts in education: A comprehensive review of the literature. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 820-831

While the use of podcasts in education is growing, the literature to support their effectiveness in learning is far from concluded. Kay (2012) offers an overview of the literature on the use of podcasts in education a) to understand the ways in which podcasts have been used,  b) to identify the overall benefits and challenges to using video podcasts, and c) to outline areas of research design which could enhance evaluations of their effectiveness in learning. Utilizing keywords, such as ‘podcasts, vodcasts, video podcasts, video streaming, webcasts, and online videos” (p. 822), Kay searched for articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Through this she identified 53 studies published between 2009 and 2011 to analyze. Since the vast number of these were of focused on specific fields of undergraduates, Kay presents this as a review of  “the attitudes, behaviors and learning outcomes of undergraduate students studying science, technology, arts and health” (p. 823) Within this context, Kay (2012) shows there is a lot of diversity in how podcasts are used and how they are structured and tied into learning. She notes that podcasts generally fall into four categories (lecture-based, enhanced, supplementary and worked examples), can be variable in length and segmentation, designed for differing pedagogical approaches (passive viewing, problem solving and applied production) and have differing levels of focus (from narrow to specific skills to broader to higher cognitive concepts).  Because of the variability in research design, purpose and analysis methods, Kay (2012) approached this not from a meta-analysis perspective but from a broad comparison perspective with regards to the benefits from and challenges presented in using video podcasts.

In comparing the benefits and challenges, Kay (2012) presents that while there are great benefits shown in most studies, some studies are less conclusive. In examining the benefits, Kay finds that students in these studies are coming into podcasts primarily in evenings and weekends, primarily on home computers and not mobile devices (but this will vary by the type of video),  are utilizing different styles of viewing and that access is tied to a desire to improve knowledge (often ahead of an exam or class). This suggests that students are engaged in the flexibility and freedom afforded them through podcasts to learn anywhere and in ways that are conducive to their learning patterns. Overall student attitudes with regards to podcasts are positive in many of the studies. However, some showed a student preference for lectures over podcasts which limited the desire of the student to access them. Many studies commonly noted that students felt podcasts gave them a sense of control over their learning,  motivated them to learn through relevancy and attention, and helped them improve their understanding and performance. In considering performance, some of the studies showed improvement over traditional approaches with regards to tests scores while others showed no improvement. In additional while some studies showed that educators and students believed there were specific skills such as team building, technology usage and teaching skills the processes as to how these occur were not shared. In addition, some studies indicate technical problems with podcasts and lack of awareness can made podcasts inaccessible to some students and that several studies showed that students who regularly accessed podcasts attended class less often.

In reflecting on this diverse outcomes, Kay presents that the conflict evident in understanding the benefits and challenges is connected to research design. Kay (2012) argues that issues of podcast description, sample selection and description and data collection need to be addressed  “in order to establish the reliability and validity of results, compare and contrast results from different studies, and address some of the more difficult questions such as under what conditions and with whom are video podcasts most effective” (p. 826).  She argues that understanding more about the variation in length, structure and purpose of podcasts can better help to differentiate and better compare study data. Furthermore, Kay asks for more diverse populations (K-12) and better demographic population descriptions within studies so as to remove limits on ability to compare any findings among different contexts. Finally, she presents that an overall lack of examination of quantitative data and overall low quality descriptions of qualitative data techniques undermine the data being collected. “It is difficult to have confidence in the results reported, if the measures used are not reliable and valid or the process of qualitative data analysis and evaluation is not well articulated.” (p. 827) From these three issues, Kay recommends an overall greater depth to the design, descriptions, and data collection of research is needed in video podcasting research.

While literature review offers a general overview of the patterns the author witnessed in the studies collected, there are questions about data collection process as the author is unclear as to a) why three prior literature reviews were included as part of an analysis and b) as to whether the patterns she discusses are only from those papers which had undergraduate populations (as is intimated by her statement on this – as noted in italics above) or is it of all samples she collected. The author also used articles published in peer-reviewed journals and included no conference papers. It is unclear what difference in data would have resulted from including these other sources.

Overall the most critical information she provides from this study is the fact that there is no unifying research design that underlies the studies on video podcasts and this results in a diverse set of studies without complete consensus on the effective use of podcasts in education and overall little applicability on how to effectively implement video podcasts. The importance of research design in creating a comparative body of data cannot be understated and is something which should be considered in all good educational technology research. Unfortunately, while Kay denotes the issues present in how various studies are coding and how data is collected and analyzed in the studies she examined, she does not address the underlying research design issues much when thinking about areas of further research.  While this is not to lessen the issues she does bring up for future research, the need for better research design is evident and given little specifics by Kay.  One would have liked a more specific vision from her on this issue since greater consideration towards the underlying issues of research design with regards to describing and categorizing video podcasts, sampling strategies and developing methods of both qualitative and quantitative analysis are needed.