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Beyond the “Fakebook” Profile: Purposeful Approaches to Media in the Classroom

By Earl Aguilera, Olivia G. Stewart, Kelly M. Tran, and Dani Kachorsky
 | Jul 11, 2017

Beyond the Facebook ProfileGraphic novels, video games, blogs, and more. With the growing list of media choices to use in your literacy teaching, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. How do you narrow down your options to figure out what’s best for you and your students? And what are the best ways to use this media to support literacy and language arts development over time?

In our work as classroom teachers and literacy researchers, we’ve learned that different kinds of media come with important considerations for how to choose and use them effectively in your teaching practice. Though we continue to learn more every day, we’d like to share what we’ve gathered so far.

Social media: Considering students’ everyday writing practices

Social media can be effective for broadening the space of the classroom, as it allows for an increased, potentially interactive audience wherein the students are largely in charge of creating and designing content. In my research, I have explored how students can use varying social media platforms for writing and have found that students seem to use social media platforms differently based on their understanding of the classroom norms in conjunction with their understanding of the platforms. For example, students tend to write more formally when designing websites but less formally and more personally when creating blog posts or posting to Instagram. It is important to consider the goals of the unit when selecting a platform as these will likely affect how the students write within that platform.

Video games: Bridging virtual worlds and life experiences

Leverage students’ enthusiasm by asking them to connect their gameplay to topics covered in class. For example, a number of teachers have engaged students who are passionate about Pokémon Go by connecting the game to important topics such as biology, geography, and literature. A different approach, however, is to examine the practices of students around video games and other digital media and to use those as points for discussion. The ways that students research and learn online about a game like Pokémon Go, for example, could spark a discussion about Internet literacy and how to tell which sources are reliable.

Visual media: More than just a motivator

It might be tempting to select visual media in the hopes of engaging apathetic students. However, visual media is not the proverbial magic bullet of education. Rather, it comes with its own challenges and can prove frustrating for students unfamiliar with approaching these texts analytically. I’ve watched students quit reading a graphic novel because the images were too chaotic for them to process. That said, preparing students with the terminology and functionality of the medium can go a long way in supporting their literacy experiences. In comics, what is a gutter and what does it do? In film, what distinguishes between a fade and a cut and why do they matter? When students have these tools, they are better prepared to view and discuss these texts.

Literacy educators have the power to transform the way students engage with texts across all kinds of media forms. We hope these thoughts will help you take your own literacy practice to the next level.

Earl AguileraEarl Aguilera is a former high school English teacher, K12 reading specialist, and current doctoral student at Arizona State University. His research focuses on the role of new media literacies for students learning through and about digital technologies.

Olivia StewartOlivia G. Stewart is graduating from Arizona State University, where she focused on digital literacies and literacy practices while using digital technologies. Her dissertation work reflected these interests as she studied how students use varying social media platforms for writing and how these uses effect “what counts as writing” in students’ increasingly digital literacy practices.

Kelly TranKelly M. Tran is a researcher of games and learning. She is particularly interested in the communities around games and the informal teaching and learning that occurs between players.

Dani KachorskyDani Kachorsky is a former high school English language arts teacher whose love of comics, film, and young adult literature led her to put these visual media in a place of prominence in her classroom instruction. Her experiences in the classroom influenced her research interests in visual and multimodal literacy.

Earl Aguilera, Olivia G. Stewart, Kelly M. Tran, and Dani Kachorsky will present a panel discussion titled “Beyond the ‘Fakebook’ Profile: Engaged and Purposeful Literacy Instruction Using Alternative Mediaat the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17.

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