Digital Literacies Journal
Nicole James
EDUC 5304: Digital Literacies

Week 1:
The Current Digital Literacies Landscape

DL Chapter 1: Origins and Concepts of Digital Literacy

The picture below shows how all encompassing digital literacies are. They touch on every part of each of our lives.

There are many definitions or interpretations from through the years.

The definition I identified most with was:

"The awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesise digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action; and to reflect upon this process" (Martin, 2006b)

"What isn't digital literacies really...?" - Someone in class

Week 2:
Multiliteracies, New Literacy Studies, Multimodal Literacies

DL Chapter 4: Defining Digital Literacy - What Young People Need to Know About Digital Media?

"Education about the media should be seen as an indispensable prerequisite for education with or through the media." p.73

"Web evaluation approaches appear to presume that objective truth will eventually be achieved through a process of diligent evaluation and comparison of sources. They imply that sites can be easily divided into those that are reliable, trustworthy and factual and those that are biased and should be avoided."p. 77 - I have struggled with some of the checklists and guides for determining reliability that I have come across. It is more messy than reliable and unreliable, and everyone has bias. There are a number of independently generated informative websites, that are not linked to reputable sources that would not past muster on some of these checklists. Bias exists in all media, we need to make sure students understand what it is and can make their own informed judgements with the bias in mind.

  • Representation
  • Language
  • Production
  • Audience

Reminds me of the "Framework for Understanding Media Texts" in the Media Literacy volume of the Guide to Effective Literacy Instruction

There are two sides to the coin, understanding media, and producing media with those understandings in mind. Media is carefully constructed, when students construct their own and are asked to be just as deliberate in their choices, it will deepen their understanding as well.

At it's base media literacy concepts can be applied to digital forms of media. It is about understanding the deliberate, and unintentional actions by the producers of the media, whether it be a book, print advertisement, a webpage or a Vine video.

Anything that can be interpreted requires some level of literacy. The challenge is to connect all of the literacies.

Week 3:
Popular Culture: That's Literacy?

Adolescents and "Autographics"

Shift from traditional "reading path of the text" and linear "reading the world as told" to interactive "reading the world as shown" (p.602)


We don't just read through an article or text any more, we stop to follow links of related materials, watch embedded video, search unfamiliar terms or information as we go.

Autographics: Graphic autobiography - ComicLife could be a great tool for this I've used it for my Anti-bullying comic assignment for the past 3 years.

!They used ComicLife

I find myself wanting to learn more about the students in the program

?Graphic novels are very complex in some ways, but perhaps more because we are so used to reading linearly. Much like kids being able to navigate an iPad, because it is intuitive, but adults having a tough time. Perhaps graphic representations of narratives actually make more sense for kids.

Book six of Amulet is finally out. The anticipation over this book is actually greater than the next Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Our library had to do a draw to be the first student to get to check it out of the library.

DL Chapter: 6 Digital Competence - From Education Policy to Pedagogy: The Norwegian Context

I applaud Norway for putting into place a national plan for related to digital skill, and I wonder what something like that would look like in Canada. However, I am a bit cynical, because I see how we have special add ons to the curriculum in Ontario, that aren't really given all that much support or roll out (Think financial literacy integration).  Even when an organization as small as school board implements a policy, you would be hard pressed to find it being followed in the same way at all school sites.

Then, even if you are able to ensure that the policy is being followed system wide, is possible that a standardized or prescribed curriculum could actually stifle creativity and exploration of ICT?

"The potential of digital media can only be realized if it is anchored in pedagogical, social, and organizational context, supported by political commitment." p. 129

Everyone has to be on board! - Ultimately everything will hinge on the teachers. So equipping them with the support to build their own competence and feel supported and empowered through the process will be very important.

  • Access
  • Manage
  • Integrate
  • Evaluate
  • Create

p. 131   

Above is very similar to the research process...

"The ability to use ICT and the Internet becomes a new form of literacy - "digital literacy." Digital literacy is fast becoming a prerequisite for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship and without it citizens can neither participate fully in society nor acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to live in the 21st century. (European Commission for Education and Culture, 2003, p.3)" p. 132

In many ways to be heard, to do something new, to make money and to learn all require digital literacy. As an adult, in order to learn a new skill, you would now likely go to a web page like EHow or find a tutorial on YouTube, which is much more efficient than heading to the library to find a book on the topic. If people are going to keep up, they must be digitally literate.

Digital Stagnation in Teacher Training??

This is an important question for me. Within my PLN (Twitter, courses, conference attendees) I am surrounded by early adopters and like minded colleagues who see the importance of integrating technology to improve students' digital literacy, but I am concerned with how we help those on the cusp to come along with us. As well intentioned as policy may be (BYOD in Peel for example) if the teachers do not have the competence to put the policy in practice it will not be successful.

Norway's plan is innovative and time will tell if it leads to the digital competence it is aiming for.

Week 4:
Digital Literacy and Online Social Networking

DL Chapter 11: Digital Literacy and Participation in Online Social Networking Spaces

IJSMILE: Facebook Issue

Social networks allow us to create our identities through our membership in groups, the content we put up and the content we access through social media sites. Digital literacy is needed as our online presence grows.  

The Dilemma:

We are constantly told as teachers to be wary of social media. The unions and boards release guidelines that ultimately ask us to construct a view of ourselves that may not be representative of our identities. For example, we've been advised not to post pictures or be tagged in pictures where any beverage (alcoholic or not) is being held, for fear of what  people may perceive. It reminds me of the first day of teacher college when we were given a list of rules for female teachers in the mid 1900's regarding skirt length and being seen outside of school in the company of a man who was not a brother, father or husband. Is it a wonder that teachers are not using social media with their students?

Yet, we know that in order to prepare our students to be good digital citizens and learn to properly conduct and navigate social media, education is very important. We know there is collaborative power in a site like Facebook. Sites like Edmodo emulate many of the features for educational use. However one issue that remains is that Edmodo is a sterile environment, in the sense that there is no advertising and the privacy is set by the teacher. As a result, students may not get a chance to learn about  those very important aspects of social media.

Week 5:
Trajectories of “Remixing”

DL Chapter 8: Trajectories of Remixing: Digital Literacies, Media Production and Schooling

Before this reading, it had never occurred to me just how much remixing goes on in the world around us. In music it is fairly obvious. They take lines, melodies, samples straight from a song and reuse them in a different way. Growing up listening to R&B and Hip Hop, the remix was huge.

But other areas can, and are now being remixed with the help of the technology that surrounds us.

  • Fan made movie trailers and music videos
  • Photoshopped images
  • Mashups
  • Fan fiction
  • Memes

Remixing activities in school

Much of what we ask students to do in assignments leads to remixing. Gathering information, pictures, music, videos from a variety of sources and using them to create something of their own. We model text forms, and then ask them to create their own products.

?Did the teacher in the media production example truly not see why the students were concerned about font, or was she just probing for more information to assess media literacy?

In class it really hit home when Warren pointed out that most academic writing is really just remixing. Taking the ideas of others and using them to create your own work. Billions of people have graced this Earth, most thought is no longer original, so what remains is the ability to use what others have given us in unique and innovative ways.

?Collaborative applications such as Google Docs allow for collaborative remixing.

Remix: The Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization.

It seems to take very little to begin an internet craze, or a viral concept. There are more and more. Several versions of an idea but each unique. It happens to the point where it becomes impossible to know who was the first to remix and incite the hybrids. Remixed content seems to be in a contest to "win the internet" by being more creative, funnier, or more unique than others. Yet, remixes and hybrids follow a general structure connecting them to the original remix - original remix?.

Week 6:
Digital Literacy and the Law

DL Chapter 12: Digital Literacy and the Law: Remixing Elements of Lawrence Lessig's Ideal of "Free Culture"

Copyright has always been an issue for me. On the one hand I understand intellectual property, and the idea that people should have control over content they create. Yet, particularly when it comes to education, I believe that there is an obligation to share. If the person using the content is not making money off of it,

Given that Remix is very much a part of our culture, should it be outlawed? Do people really care?

The dangers of young people operating outside of copyright law still puts them outside of the law. What are the effects of criminalizing a cultural act?

Copyright laws and implications for teachers:

Knowledge cannot be copy written, yet the tools and resources we need to give students knowledge and to assess their knowledge often costs money. I am always taken aback by the cost of educational materials, particularly series of readers and levelled books. I can't help but think how awful it is that companies profit so widely from something that should be either very low cost or free.

Every year we are given a copy of Copyright Matters. The poster with photocopy guidelines are posted right beside the machine. Yet, I'd be hard pressed to find a teacher who would stop themselves if it meant their students had to go without the resource, picture or information.

Students often use google images to find and save pictures for projects and assignments. As much as creative commons materials are available, it is still very difficult for students to find their way.

Week 7:
E-Literature and Digital Poetics

Changing the way language is taught is not an easy road. But the mediums through which we communicate have changed and are not likely to go back to simple text on a page. Given that the world is embracing more visual forms of communications, would it not make sense for our language classes to do the same?

We spoke at length about the use of visual essays and their place in language classes, but there are other possibilities for new literacies in language arts:

  • Book trailers (using iMovie or other movie software)
  • Interactive book reviews (using things like glogster, or thinglink)
  • Blogging to respond to and connect with reading (with video, pictures and the ability to receive and respond to comments)
  • Digital story telling
  • Podcasting
  • Newscasting
  • Infographic reports

I found that many of the sentiments expressed in Engaging students through new literacies: the good, bad and curriculum of visual essays (Hughes & Tolley, 2008) could be applied to any of the above. One such sentiment that resonated with me was:

In digital environments words are no longer static black marks on a white page. Different modes of expression or ‘modalities’ – aural, visual, gestural, spatial and linguistic – come together in one environment in ways that reshape the relationship between the printed word and image or sound (Jewitt 2008). This change in the materiality of text – that is, the media that are used to create the text – inevitably changes the way we read or receive the text, and has important implications for the way we construct or write our own texts. As a result, to help our students understand and experience how literature brings them to a deeper understanding in life, we need to find meaningful ways to engage them with it, ways that are also part of their new media world. (p. 7)

One of the challenges I've faced is the fact that somehow we have turned language arts into the study of text forms. Rather than allowing the text forms to be explored at times where they naturally fit, we plot them on our curriculum maps and teach them as formulas. The authenticity gets lost in the approach. What I have found helpful is considering multi-modal products as text forms as well. For example, a game walk-through could be considered a procedural text and newscasts as recounts. I recently discussed with my grade team the idea of allowing students to explore text forms as they become relevant to them, but encouraging them to make sure they explore them before the end of the year.

Week 8:
Digital Literacies New Models of Assessment

I had a good time looking into this topic for my seminar presentation. Given that my previous course was Authentic Assessment with Dr. Wendy Barber, I felt this topic to be a nice continuation of the work that I accomplished in that course.

Portfolios as an Assessment Tool

Considering the many forms that student work can now take because of the technology available to them, it is difficult to continue to assess using traditional methods. A grade in a mark book just doesn't honour the work (both the process and product) that our students are doing. Portfolios allow for students to show the process, document products and reflect on their work. Digital portfolios offer even more dynamic possibilities, including the ability to share, tag and showcase their multimodal work in a more complete way. Digital portfolios allow students to post links or embed their videos, where as perviously only a picture or description were possible. Entries can be tagged and therefore filtered and retrieved for specific audience. Portfolios can be shared with all stake holders and in some cases can then allow for questions and conversation to occur over time about a piece. This year, one of my main goals has been to have my students create portfolios using the app ThreeRing - My literature review and plan for implementation can be found at the link below.

But what about marks...?

Unfortunately (in my opinion), in the public school system, we are still required to give letter or percentage grades on report cards. A final judgement must be placed on the work that students have done and that is through marks. So how are we to mark the variety of products we are given? To be honest, I am not entirely sure yet. For now, I use rubrics. They help to make something subjective (quality) a little more objective by attaching specific criteria along a scale of achievement. In terms of the frameworks for assessing multimodal work I'd say that the achievement chart categories are actually quite fitting:

  • Knowledge and Understanding (Having to do with the content knowledge)
  • Thinking and Inquiry (Having to do with the process)
  • Application (Having to do with putting the knowledge into practice)
  • Communication (Having to do with successfully conveying your learning or a message related to the content)

Regardless of the general framework used for the rubrics,  it is important that the criteria used within the rubric are co-constructed with students. I have found that co-constructing criteria allows them to understand what is expected more clearly. They also take more ownership over meeting the criteria.

In terms of assessment products, I have found multimodal presentations inspire students more, and they are more excited to show what they have learned compared to more traditional assessments like tests, or written assignments. It allows for students to be more creative and express themselves with a little more personality. It is also more interesting as a teacher.

Week 9:
Gaming and Literacy


There is no doubt that there are tremendous opportunities for gaming to be used in education. The concept of gamification goes beyond games, and seeks to create game qualities within the classroom. For example the idea of badging relates to the ability to unlock achievements while playing video games. Much like sticker charts had once done in classrooms. The idea is that students are motivated by smaller achievements along the way to larger ones. I've experienced this concept first hand through the use of a Nike Fuel Band, I gain achievements for milestones, like tripling my daily goal, or hitting my goal for a week straight, and it is very motivating to see the trophies I have earned, as well as those that I have yet to earn - I'm still after the elusive Supernova trophy for quadrupling my goal.

I have been trying to figure a way to incorporate badging into my classroom in a way that is respectful to students and does not become a competition between students. The site I have been looking into using is called, and I was introduced to it through my school board's promotion of Connected Educators Month. We had the opportunity to submit evidence of 3 levels of connectedness - peer, community and global, earning a badge for each, and a #Peel21st connected educator badge for achieving all three. I enjoyed finding evidence for each challenge, and I was constantly thinking of ways to use it with my class. I recently thought to combine the use of badges with the digital portfolios my students are creating as their method of submitting the evidence of their achievements. I was also thinking to use it in math, for things like, times tables mastery, or a graph that uses all success criteria (appropriate title, labels, accurate, neat etc.) I am undecided as yet but will keep thinking through it, and then give it a shot. Perhaps I could award a badge for each text form the student uses in a meaningful way.

Gaming in the Curriculum

Gamification in the classroom also refers to the use of actual gaming software within the class. One game I have experience with is It aligns to the Ontario math curriculum, and uses an algorithm that is meant to give students questions within their capabilities without the kids ever knowing. For example, if students seem to be struggling with 2 digit subtraction with regrouping, it will not move them on, but there is nothing in the game interface to indicate that to students. As a teacher, however, the game provides comprehensive analytics separated into specific topics so I can see the areas my students are having difficulty in individually and collectively. It also gives me the option to push out certain topics between set dates, so it is a bit like assigning homework questions, but in game format, and the students aren't aware. Our board was very clear that aside from the initial set up, prodigy was not to be used during instructional time, but rather as a way for students to practice math at home.

Games like prodigy math game are specifically designed for learning and align to standards, whereas games like Minecraft were not specifically designed for classroom use, but are being used to connect to curriculum. I have yet to try Minecraft, but I can see how it and other programs allow for students who are interested in gaming to connect with class work in a way that is more appealing to them. My concern becomes, mistaking edutainment with good teaching. How do we find the balance between the things that are shiny and cool, and using them in a valuable and effective way. Although I guess that is always the question with any new 'thing' in education. It just so happens that most new things relate to new technology.

I don't doubt the value of Minecraft in education, but I do know the barriers that I would face in implementing it:

  • The program is not on the school's software image
  • The time it would take to develop lessons within Minecraft
  • Access to computers or devices for the students to play Minecraft
  • Engaging the students who aren't interested in Minecraft
  • Fear of making Minecraft less appealing to those who are interested because it has been 'schoolified'.

Week 10:
Online Cultures and Intercultural Communication

Throughout the seminar presentation I tried to make connections between my classroom's culture both in person and online. We exist in several spaces online. As a class we are on Twitter @missjamesclass, we are on and we are on Office 365 for education (class website, student blogs, and board-wide newsfeed), and we've participated in GoogleHangouts.

My class is a lesson on Intercultural Communication. I have yet to see a classroom quite as diverse as the one I teach. Bringing the world to us seems natural, because we already represent quite a bit of it - I love it! In our class we speak, English, French, Urdu, Twi, Vietnamese, Arabic (a few different dialects) and Tamil. We are Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Atheist, and Buddhist. I have a student who has lived in more countries, in his 10 years than I have visited in my 29 - I need to travel more. We have unique issues because of it. For example, during one group problem solving task in math, a student was placed with 2 newer Arabic speaking students, who were helping each other in Arabic. The student who did not speak Arabic was feeling very left out and confused by this, so we had to discuss the etiquette around using a common language in our groups, except for situations where a bit of translation is helpful for the group to complete the task.

Online some of that melts away. The language of communication is English, even when students who speak the same first language are communicating. Student blogs have even helped to increase the amount of English writing practice my students are getting because they are writing more on their own time.

When considering identities in the seminar I couldn't help but think back to when students created their avatars in bitstrips for schools. I asked that they create their avatars as close to their likeness as possible. Each year, I am surprised at at least a few of the representations I receive. Skin colour, weight/muscularity, height and clothing style seem to be the things my students most commonly change in themselves. Seeing as how I have only done this with grade 4s and 5s I find it sad that they already have a desire to change their body image. Most heartbreaking to me are those who choose skin colours several shades lighter. Knowing that for some it reflects the negative impact of the stigma attached to dark skin across several cultures. But I digress. Having the avatars allows for students to make their online identity that much more real.

Outside of class I know my students participate in online communities such as Twitter, Facebook, Clash of Clans and Minecraft. From the glimpses they've allowed me to see, I know that there are very discourse systems  in those environments. They do not have the same expectations of themselves when it comes to their own online communities as with our school related online communities. For example, the use of text speak, and emojis is minimal within Office 365, but was commonplace on Clash of Clans chats. I find it interesting that they are so easily able to switch from one to the next, and wonder if that means, that despite our best intentions in speaking about digital citizenship and online etiquette and how to conduct ourselves in online communities, they have already learned to separate their behaviour by grade 5? Does this mean we have to start them on classroom related online communities well ahead of when they are on them on their own? Is it our place? Regardless of the answers I plan to continue using our online environments as training grounds for my students.