Beyond the One Dimension (No, Really!)
1st They Say: From Vasudaven, Schultz and Bateman (2010, p. 443)
Paragraph….”In particular, we focus….”
Students who are given new modes of expression to use come to a new understanding of themselves. Vasudasen et. al. refer to these understandings “new literate identities.. Authorial stances.” Such a set of opportunities are seen as great ways for students to take personal ownership of the curriculum and to see life and all of its dimensions, “home, school and community” as places of learning that make their own lives more meaningful.
1st I say:
I feel as though this is the sets of tracks of what this Digital Literacy program is doing for me over the year while all the while helping me view the parallel set of tracks I want to help my students along past, present and future. This year is my second year as speech and debate coach in my school and the sixth year I have held a position since beginning my career. In my current position I am the more politically informed moderator of a pair so I usually coach the students in the group discussion event while my colleague, the English teacher, takes care of the speech (dramatic reading and presentation events). As we have so many students in the group discussion event on our team, it has been a priority for my colleague and I to try to have students try out new activities because one important by-product of their collective congregating in the one event is that ultimately some of them have the chance of eliminating each other in rounds by out performing them as there are seven group discussion members in each round from all of the participating schools. While it is less likely that they will knock each other out of preliminary rounds the chance increases as they move to other rounds. But the main point has been that both of us coaches have to reinforce that one’s authorial stance does need to be expanded. As we are an all male team weighted heavily toward a very male dominated event,having an authorial stance has two connotations. The first being their ability to see themselves as competent in the event of speech that it one’s personal preference but to all the moreso find at some point their ability to have a sense that they are not limited to that event as an author (or speaker). The second connotation is the question of mastery in relation to others or social power. Our students sometimes cannot see that this is possible beyond the event of group discussion where they can be the alpha male. We try on a regular basis to let them know that they will indeed have the euphoria of being the alpha male, or that guy when presenting their very best and confident self in any medium, probably all the while augmenting their skills set for later group discussion rounds. All of this discussion is clear to me that it is deeply laden with irony. Despite our best attempts to encourage these very intelligent and capable young men to expand upon their abilities, which is most certainly within reach, they have seen this particular category as the category of their high school speech careers.
2nd They Say: From Vasudaven, Schultz and Bateman (2010, p. 444)
Paragraph… “In recent years, with the advent of new technologies…”
The authors are greatly concerned that there is no symmetry between the lives of students in that todays youth are “engaged in a wide range of literacy practices outside of school…” but school is now designed as a precursor to taking a standardized test that yields results that are not in the students best interest and make their scores and therefore their learning a “tightly regulated and controlled” experience. So the outcome is really a bifurcation of the theoretical (all the ideas learned in school) and the practical, all of the experience one can have as a multi-dimensional human being.
2nd I Say:
This quote brings this particular academic year full circle for me as a student. In the Fall were assigned the 2015 NEAP Abridged Reading Frameworks to read for EDC 532. It was in those pages that I first encountered the concept of cognitive targets framed as such. I knew that there were such things as I have read plenty about Bloom’s Taxonomy of Skills (both the old and the new). But as a would be constructivist who is constrained in my practice by the accountability and drudgery of preparing final exams I find that I have to become more precise in my criticism of final exams even if they will never go away. For one main reason akin to the concerns of Vasudevan, et al: They do not meet the cognitive targets that we may or may not specifically articulate to ourselves as a department (and maybe moreso outside of it). In my career the only department I have been in is an English department and I cannot say that those final exams were any different as they were a repetitive regurgitation of year long material.
As for a being a theology teacher under similar restraints as those described by Vasudevan et.al., I am grateful for having an understanding department that wants to grow out from this position into something increasingly more holistic and authentic in its direction and mission. One personal part of the journey for me in trying to maintain a sense of intellectual independence from the prevalent testing mentality began last year when I realized it was time for me to put my hand at writing course proposals for electives. I had never done this before but it appears to have been the highlight and most practical creative potential I’ve tried to actualize in between my 2009 Writing from the Soul course at Andover Newton and this course in Digital Authorship at URI. For one thing, writing electives for our school would mean that they would be offered to our seniors only, who do take AP exams but not regular final exams. So therein lies a great degree of diversity when it comes to assessment. With that in mind, I cranked out four different course proposals. Two of them were particularly multimodal in their scope, one being a course on church architecture, art and music. As for application to daily life, I do have the sense that our students will prefer their whole lives to live in buildings as opposed to camping and in said buildings would like to have walls furnished and as human beings music will likely be an enjoyable soulful activity throughout their lifespans.
So in addition to wanting expand our curriculum in a multimodal way, I have been inspired by what I have been challenged to do by having to join Hitrecord.org. At that site I have had to go public. I have had to be willing to have a public persona with an audience. I am in the process of evolving my longtime project on Church music, architecture and art that has been a part of my course for a number of years. At its inception it was an in house set of presentations with Google slides. There was no connection to life beyond the school. In the next iteration it became a project of interaction with the use of Pinterest. Because of the way I see the world now in a more multidimensional way because of my experience in the course and on Hitrecord.org I know now that project needs to evolve more and expand to students current experience of faith communities and not being about analysis of buildings but interactions they have in communities and the possibilities of expanding their horizons through pilgrimages to new places that are communities of living faith. That new iteration will follow the graphics below in my final project.
Evolution of a project on Church Architecture, Art and Music
Stage One: When it was about creating some Google slides...
Stage Two: When it moved to Pinterest and became interactive.
"Reading Framework for the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress." Reading Framework for the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress / NAGB. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
Taj, Mohammed. "What to Do in Group Discussion(GD)Round." YouTube. YouTube, 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
Vasudevan, L., Schultz, K., & Bateman, J. (2010). Rethinking composing in a digital age: Authoring literate identities through multimodal storytelling. Written Communication, 27(4), 442–468.