Monday, July 26, 2010

Anime and WebKinz to evaluate reading?

At first look this article appears to be the perfect match to what I am researching! Only time will tell! This article premise is that if we want to know how to teach digital literacy we first need to understand the difference print and digital text. Authors, Rowsell & Burke (2009) will focus on the multimodal design and the reading path. Their goal is getting best practices for incorporating digital reading into the curriculum. An interesting point is that online reading is student/learner centered. It also describe as other resources have, of the advantages of the collaborative learning approach.

In the literature review, Mary McNabb (2006), from Literacy Learning in Networked Classrooms, describes three curriculum benefits of the Internet:
1) designing Internet-based activities to help meet the diverse of students by engaging them through personal interests, 2) customizing teaching-learning cycles in ways that motivate students, and 3) fostering self-directed learning (107)
These are very 21st century focused advantages of using Internet in the classroom with a focus on motivation and learner centered learning.

The information in this article is based on two case studies one a student who is struggling reader and the other who is very proficient at reading digital text. It is important first to define a couple of key terms that are the focus on this study. First, they define “multimodal” as “…the use of different modes of communication to create an effect” like the actions/gestures in an anime are as meaningful as the visuals and dialogues. “The point is the modes work in concert with one another.” (107) Next, the term “reading path”, which talks about how the reader looks at the text—where are they drawn to first, then where to next and finally where does the reader end up at (107). In printed text the reader can move around on the text but there are no real deviations from the printed page but digitally reading is “constructed” as the reader moves through the site. They also use the term metalanguage and multiliteracies—that we are not just dealing with text anymore but readers have visual modes and audio modes to deal with as well.
This study was conducted while the students were working on their computer. They used “stimulated recall” (108) which meant the students would talk aloud as they moved through websites. The researcher taped the student responses, had a follow-up interview and also interviewed participating teachers.

Peter is a 14 year old special education student who shows a high interest and motivation in digital worlds but who is a loner and is struggling in reading at school. He shared a very in depth knowledge of an anime characters, Yu-Gi-Oh cards and Lego Star Wars that he has gained from the internet. The other student is 13 year old, Patty, who is a straight A student and is very involved at school and in her spare time likes to take care of Webkinz virtual pets.

To analyze their reading they used a Multimodal Framework that included looking at four steps: discourse, design, production and distribution, which allow these authors to analyze and understand multimodal text. (110)
The researchers looked at two websites of the student’s choice. Peter’s website is “Naruto which carries a storyline and can be viewed as a televisual online text or a videogame.” Patty’s is Webkinz “which is an interactive site where users find an online identity and community through their stuffed animal avatars.” (110) Their analysis of Peter was that he “can decode, and he understands plot, setting, characterization. He builds on prior knowledge to understand other, related texts and uses design principles to understand the plot. Peter is a capable reader in this setting, yet he continues to underachieve in his school reading assignments. Patty excelled in site where she can play games, win Kinzcash, design, advertise, build, shop and care for virtual pets. Patty showed frequently how she used prior knowledge and new knowledge to construct her virtual world. (115) The reading that these students did on these websites made reading more real to them, thus engagement. Patty was able to take the knowledge and decision making skills used at her site to apply to real world (probably adult level) situations.

It was concluded that digital reading is very complex—decoding may be the same for both but educators need to “understand the design inherent in digital texts, one comes closer to bridging the gap between the digital realm of literacy and the traditional.” (117)

Reflection: Okay so this wasn’t the perfect article but it does draw my awareness that students have to take in a lot more than just text when they read online. These websites, although they were games and an interactive site, show me the huge impact that students are not just reading anymore they are doing constructing of new knowledge on many levels. I don’t think this is happening to the same degree when reading text. Another important point I take away from this article is that the level of understanding and motivation is very high using digital text.

Rowsell, J. & Burke, A. (2009). Reading by design: two case studies of digital reading practices. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(2) 108-118.

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