Sunday, 31 August 2014

Assessment Item 4: Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences

What makes a good digital text

Despite Goodreads’ narrow interpretation of a book as being something with an ISBN number, “the book as a physical object with paper pages is now only one version of what a book might be” (Hancox, 2013, para. 7). As many have discussed before, a digital text can take many formats and permutations (James & de Kock, 2013; Parker, 2013; Sadokierski, 2013b; Walsh, 2013).
Various criteria exist as to what constitutes a good digital text.  Its ability to engage, enhance, experience, elucidate, explain and entertain (James & de Kock, 2013; Miller, 2011); the use of multiple media and a single unified story without redundancy between media (Phillips, 2012; Walker et al., 2010); a linear yet enhanced reading experience, engaging multiple literacy and learning styles with intelligent, flexible and intuitive design with longevity (Parrott, 2011). To this can be added the potential to cater for different ability and facility with language and technology and preferred multi-sensory behaviour while bridging participatory skills and social needs with academic skills (Anstey & Bull, 2012; Roskos, Burstein, Shang, & Gray, 2014; Walker et al., 2010). Finally a good text, digital or otherwise will immerse and absorb the reader while allowing them to interact with the world and others, or an alternate reality, vicariously and integrate new knowledge and understanding into their existing schema or worldview (Fuhler, 2010; Ryan & Ryan, n.d.).

Compare experience digital versus print

In any comparison of the print / digital experience it should be emphasized that neither has moral nor educational superiority, but rather fulfil different functions and meet different literary, literacy and learning needs.
The most obvious difference is the format, though the non-linear nature of digital media is often commented on with its potential to disrupt the reading process and the need to have a strategy to stay on track and the necessity of learning and incorporating new conventions and practices in experiencing digital literature (Anstey & Bull, 2012; Chuk, Hoetzlein, Kim, & Panko, 2012; Francus, 2013; James & de Kock, 2013; Roskos et al., 2014; Skains, 2010). Digital features can create an enticement to buy, assist with the appreciation of literature, facilitate interpretation and understanding or motivate adjunct composition (Unsworth, 2006).
Experimentation with digital literature will, after a while, create a sense of discomfort in a self-aware educator as it becomes obvious that “their” pedagogical functions of elucidation and enhancing understanding of literature are usurped by the medium which can offer these benefits in a manner that fits with a learners’ preferred learning style and mode at a personalized pace. However, one’s role as a curator, guide and co-collaborator in all literary and literacy aspects of learning is enhanced (Lamb, 2011; Leu et al., 2011; Mills & Levido, 2011). Finally, the teacher can use the digital affordances to enhance student’s 21st century literacy skills as they come to grips with understanding the codes and conventions, functions and aspects of all semiotic systems (Anstey & Bull, 2012; Bowler, Morris, Cheng, Al-Issa, & Leiberling, 2012; Malita & Martin, 2010; Walker et al., 2010).

Incorporation of a text into a learning program

One of the digital texts I most enjoyed was 'First World War: the story of a global conflict' (Panetta, 2014a).
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The scope of this interactive documentary is such that it could be used in a variety of classroom settings, however the one I would choose would be the unit on “Memoir writing” in the Grade 7 English Unit where students are encouraged to explore a variety of compelling narratives and to create their own story (UWCSEA-East Campus, 2013). The students are from many different countries and cultures, including around one third from India, and the documentary, in particular the “Empire” chapter could form the basis for curating works of literature, poetry, music and art created in times of conflict and war. Students could bring examples of narratives and art forms from their own cultures that either relates to World War 1 or other conflicts to supplement material introduced by the teacher such as examples from the “The Disasters of War, 1800-2014,” show (Rubin, 2014). This would align with the concept of the teacher being a facilitator and curator who shares and highlights aspects of the curriculum in a multi-modal and social context allowing students to extrapolate to their own learning and literacy (Fuhler, 2010; Mitra, 2013; Serafini & Youngs, 2013) and ties in with the concepts of design thinking in education where “The focus is on processes – producing, assessing, developing, creating, revisiting,  revising. Learning content becomes secondary to developing the how-to skills for how to be a learner in the 21st century” (Gerstein, 2014).


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