Multiliteracies Resource Evaluation

Amy Brohman 250726909
Carolyn Wilson

Think Literacy and Story Boarding

Think Literacy is a wonderful resource, from the Ministry of Education, with guides and suggestions for English teachers, as well as a section for cross-curricular approaches, to help make literacy broader than exclusively English. There are a number of very valuable and well laid out plans for teachers to help the work with students to develop their reading and writing process. It shows how to do a number of activities in a well scaffolded way, so students can easily build up to more difficult tasks. Included in their writing section of cross-curricular approaches, is a story board template. I think this is a great option, even for the artistically challenged, because it allows students to think out their ideas in a detailed way, not just as an idealistic completed project. I envision using this resource in two ways; one for a history classroom, one for an English classroom.

In the English classroom I like the idea of basing this activity on a novel. After students have read the novel (or play, but a larger work), they can consider how they would turn it into a film. Most students will be very familiar with being the audience for a film, but this allows them to consider other aspects. When students are working in this way, they are able to narrowly focus on a few key passages. Think Literacy also includes a list of camera angles and film shots that can be taught about, so that students are making more deliberate decisions when storyboarding. This could be an excellent activity to follow with watching the film version of the novel. Students could consider how the film differed from the novel, and how it differed from their conceptualization of the film, in story board format. This allows them to see how some content must be cut, for the sake of time, which emphasizes and down plays certain parts of the plot. It is the same in all forms of media. By spending time certain elements are highlighted, but other items, or plot points, can simply be ignored. Unless you are aware and critically engaged in watching, you won’t know these elements are missing. Part of the benefit of using this activity is that it is so broad it could be used at any level, with very few or no changes.

I also think story boarding could be drawn into the history classroom (I am focusing on grade 10 Canadian history, since it is the only required history course). Students can be taught about a certain topic, theme or era (the battle of Vimy Ridge, the 1920s, the stock market crash, the Holocaust et cetera) and then allowed, as a form of assessment, to story board a brief scene or story from that time. When reading a novel students are more likely to visualize what’s happening; by drawing storyboarding into the history classroom, it encourages students to visualize the events making them less abstract. Since many historical events have been, and continue to be, turned into films, it allows students to consider the creation of these films as well. Similarly to the novel, certain points will be highlighted and certain elements will be down played, hopefully encouraging students to thoughtfully consider what perspectives are missing, or downplayed in history and film versions of history. As the Think Literacy document states: “The Key Concepts of Media Literacy act as a conceptual framework for developing an informed and critical understanding of the nature of mass media, the techniques used by them, and the impact of these techniques.”

National Film Board

Another resource I see using in both the English and History classrooms are the films on the National Film Board website. NFB describes themselves as a “public agency that produces and distributes films and other audiovisual works which reflect Canada to Canadians and the rest of the world.” Despite the numerous resources available, it is more difficult to find resources with both a focus on Canadian material and a Canadian perspective. NFB is very easy to search, and you’re able to in a number of ways (by subject, or alphabetically). In the Literature section, they have a number of videos that tie in nicely to the curriculum, including one about myths and legends which are covered in grade nine English. Also, there is a growing desire to incorporate more diverse perspectives in literature. In Canada we are lucky enough to have an excellent literary tradition, but more importantly, we come from diverse perspectives. I would like to incorporate the segments they have on aboriginal story telling into grade ten or eleven English (when they have more maturity to respect other perspectives) as a jumping off point for further study. Students could then move on to read a work (short stories or poems) by aboriginal authors. Students could consider questions such as: why are Aboriginal authors’ works less well known than European-Canadian’s works? How does Aboriginal story telling differ from European story telling? This has the possibility to be a unit on its own, but could also be covered, in a superficial way, in a couple of classes. There is movement in this direction, but many teachers still focus on more traditional works and authors. Drawing in Aboriginal authors encourages students to look at many perspectives.

NFB is also a wonderful source for the history classroom. They have a description of their Educational Apps that seems idea for that purpose, “Designed for mobile devices, our award-winning collection of educational apps for the Classroom offer flexible 21st-century options to learners of all ages. Ranging from historical graphic novels to do-it-yourself animation, our apps can also enliven classroom learning. Simply connect an iPad 2 to a projector and share our apps with the whole class.” (Italics added). I did not download the app on my phone, but this sounds like a great way to get students reading, and engaging with historical content. NFB also has a series of study guides to help guide teachers’ use of their resources. One I explored a little more in depth was “Media and Society How They Saw Us: Women at War”. I would begin with a lesson giving the students some back ground on the subject; this could include asking the students what their mothers do for work? Are they homemakers (likely very few are). Are they in traditionally female occupations? By framing the conversation in this way students are prepared to reflect on their own experiences, and consider how different the work force is now for women. Then play video once, and ask students what they notice about the film. How is it different from other propaganda about women during the war? (Here another film clip could be used to contrast, a number of which are available on the NFB website). The NFB also has a film called “Careers and Cradles” that could be drawn into a consideration of women’s roles. Despite the fact that “Careers and Cradles” was made only five years after “Women at War” (in 1947 and 1942 respectively), they present drastically different views of women at work. The description of “Women at War” in the teachers' guide presents an interesting factor in its creation; it was written and created by women, for and about women. This is the reason it would be a good example to use to contrast with other propaganda related to women. How do women present themselves? Compared to how are women presented? How is the message different when women, the subject, have a voice themselves? The guide gives a question “Is there a different relationship between filmmaker and subject compared to Careers and Cradles?” This will hopefully get students looking at different “voices” or perspectives that are possible in media; it could lead into a look at propaganda more broadly.

"The Medium is the Message" Tackk

This leads to a third resource: Tackk. A colleague told me about this, and claimed it was easy to use, so I was intrigued. I am not technical. I haven’t tried to make a website or blog before, but this seemed like a good place to start, especially if I hope to have students use it in the future. It was surprisingly easy, and fun to put together (I’d compare the skill required to a power point).

I liked Tackk, so I wanted to incorporate it into my consideration of resources, so I’ve extended the activities I described above to include a Tackk component. After students have completed their story board, transfer it to Tackk. Either scan hand drawn images, or use graphic design software to create them, or even better, take photos of students in the roles of actors to see what each shot would look like with real people. Under each photo there should be a description of what scene it is depicting (and the page reference) as well as why the choices made were used. These are things that are very similar to the story board, but presented in this way, using photography, or graphic design can be less intimidating for the artistically challenged (like me), and changes the activity to a more 21st century form of learning. If students were to use photographs, they could get a much better sense of what it would look like with real people on the screen. Continuing the example from above from the NFB, students could be asked to draw/design/photograph “women in different decades” with 3-5 posts, and underneath explain why they depicted the woman/women in that way. This helps move two traditionally essay heavy subjects into more interactive and visual areas. Overall, it is an easy way to get students involved in multiliteracies, even those who may be reluctant or intimidated (like me!).

It turns out my colleague wasn't lying; it is easy to use Tackk.

As with all material, it is important for teachers to consider the material critically, the level of their students and whether the resources are applicable, and ensuring that students aren't just watching passively, but critically engaged in the material.

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