Taking a step forward or a blast from the past?

Life has a way of going in circles sometimes. I have just either taken a step forward into a new career direction or stepped through a wormhole and warped back in time. I have submitted an application for a position as Part Time Library Assistant at the State Library New South Wales. In doing so, I moved my former library work experiences from the mists of the deep past (1989-1995) to front and centre on the “relevant work experiences” section of my resume.

The job itself sounds quite similar to the positions I held more than twenty years ago, but feels like a step in the direction of my new endeavours. The State Library New South Wales (SLNSW) is something of my dream employer with regards to the Masters degree I am currently pursuing – my dream job within SLNSW would be creating and implementing educational programs for school excursions, incursions and digital learning, such as those featured on the website. Here’s hoping this is a step in that general direction, even if everything old is new again.

 

References

State Library of New South Wales. (2018). Schools and teachers. Retrieved from http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/learning/schools-and-teachers

Post-assessment reflection: literature review

Wow! That was quite a task. I was too broad in my thinking at the beginning of the task – just knowing that I would broadly like to do something related to digital literature and primary school. Because of that, and the fact that “digital literature” may not be the best term for digital literature in the research sphere, I was at sea for quite awhile. That led to my topic narrowing in a way quite different to what I may have originally intended. My path led towards comparisons of reading on the screen vs on paper, but it was not until I had nearly finished writing the paper that I realised that I had never actually used the term “screen reading” in my searches. Ah, for the literature that I might have found had I travelled a different path!

This leads me to realise why actual student research is usually done under the supervision or advisory of someone more knowledgeable in the field than the student, and why regular research projects published in journals are often done in a team and over a longer period of time! I feel as though I poured large amounts of time and energy into the effort and barely shaved the merest shred of slushie-base from the iceberg of potential information. Hopefully that is enough for the purpose, though! Now comes the three week wait for the judgement call on that issue.

Final project feedback plea

Desperately seeking collegial collaboration!

For the final project for my subject on Literature In Digital Environments, we need to create a digital storytelling project that is applicable for use in our professional context. Our proposed project is meant to have collaborative input from colleagues and classmates. To that end, I would love feedback regarding the feasibility, appropriateness and interest factor of some of my project ideas.

My context in brief (or as brief as possible for me):

  • Primary Teacher
  • Currently working as a casual only when Uni is not in session
  • I have a school I do most of my work at – I’ll call it “XPS” – but I have not done much this year because of Uni and they are currently having a major shuffle in the exec as the Principal and a DP moved on in the past 6 months, so the entire Exec Admin level is shaken up.
  • I will be exploring the possible creation of NESA-Accredited PD courses with a colleague who has attended their training session – in the English KLA, likely centering around English Textual Concepts.

Ideas:

“Quarantine Station Stories” – Looking at stories from the Quarantine Station in Manly – basing on a piece I wrote for Historicool magazine with several pieces of short historical fiction based on actual stories related to quarantine at the station. – Look at creating interactivity, perhaps content creation facility… connection to source documents.

  • Links to curriculum – geography – places, spaces, features that suit the site for quarantine, different uses over time; History – local history (reasonably local (45 min drive) to most places I teach); English – authority (primary sources, secondary sources), genre – historical fiction
  • Context – could be used at multiple schools, could be used in PD context
  • Drawbacks – technical skill, might need to coordinate/get permissions from State Library NSW or Q Station for materials

Continue reading “Final project feedback plea”

INF533 Assignment 2 Critical Reflective Practice

Digital texts – the actual, the good, and the purpose

In an early blog and forum post for this subject (Simon, 2018a), my top-of-the-head definition of digital literature mostly encompassed re-contextualisations of print literature (Walsh, 2013) available on various digital platforms. I personally used these mostly as a matter of convenience, according to access or price considerations. Since writing that my horizons have been greatly expanded.

I have learned that there is no agreed-upon, standard definition for digital literature (Groth, 2018). Instead definitions seem to run the continuum from any text that you can experience on an electronic device (which I would personally define as digital texts rather than as digital literature) to only works that incorporate both textual or narrative qualities of literary merit plus an inextricable link to the digital medium on which they were created to be experienced (Groth, 2018). My preference is for a definition somewhere between these extremes.  At this point, my working definition would be: a work with a substantial contribution of written text with literary characteristics that is published and intended to be experienced via a digital device. This allows for a fairly wide range of examples and levels of quality.

So, what makes a work of digital literature or a digital text a “good” one? I agree with Walsh (2013) that there should ideally be a synergy between the literary textual elements and the digital features (or affordances). An effective digital text goes beyond the written words and static illustrations and, while it may be able to be printed out and experienced in that format, a printed experience would be a diminished one. I consciously used the word text, because a particularly strong example of a digital text that I came across in my explorations was a digital information text sold through iBooks by Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre (Carson, 2017). The text incorporated multimedia and interactive features in and engaging way that extended the information provided in a way that was congruent with the narrative and disciplinary content (Kao, Tsai, Liu, and Yang, 2016). It was also appropriate to the age level (K-2) in terms of interest and the variety of reading levels in that range. Unfortunately, I got stuck on the term “literature” in the assessment task description. I do not consider information texts as “literature”, no matter how high the quality of their writing.

I think digital texts serve the purpose of informing and communicating and telling stories, just as texts in other mediums have throughout time. While I think that there are shifts in the balance of the skills we harness when reading in digital environments, I think the essential core of communication skills remains relatively constant. This is somewhat contrary to the views put forward by some relatively alarmist voices in the field (Leu, et al., 2011; Wolf, 2010), as I mentioned in my response to this forum post (Simon, 2018b). Continue reading “INF533 Assignment 2 Critical Reflective Practice”

INF533 Assessment 2 Review 3: Dr Seuss Treasury – The Lorax

Oceanhouse Media is the official e-book app developer for the works of Dr Suess (Dredge, 2012). Among their many offerings is the Dr. Seuss Treasury – School (Oceanhouse Media, 2016a), containing fifty-five Dr. Seuss titles, including a version of The Lorax (Seuss, 1971). That particular title was investigated for this review, which will look at the digital features of this enhanced e-book (James & De Kock, 2013) and their efficacy in educational settings (Yokota & Telae, 2014).

The  app would fall under Maureen Walsh’s (2013) broad category of traditional literature re-presented in digital form, Unsworth’s (2006 as cited in Walsh, 2013, p. 182) electronically augmented literary texts, and Lamb’s (2011) interactive storybooks. This places it in what could be termed a “comfort zone” of digital literature – not particularly innovative, like transmedia or extended reality texts (Breeze, 2018), but situated in a safe, popular, and comparatively commercially competitive (Dredge, 2012) niche.

Dr. Seuss is a well-known author of children’s literature whose books meet the threshold of demonstrating quality literary elements (Walsh, 2013; Yokota & Teale, 2014). One key area to evaluate in the digital versions are what Walsh (2013) describes as the “synergy” between the literary elements and the digital features. Research findings suggest that while multimedia features can have a positive effect on story comprehension and expressive vocabulary development, interactivity, broadly speaking, does not (Takacs, Swart, & Bus, 2015). However, specific types of interactivity, when congruent with the storyline and aligned with effective reading pedagogy, can increase story comprehension and engagement (Kao, Tsai, Liu, & Yang, 2016). Continue reading “INF533 Assessment 2 Review 3: Dr Seuss Treasury – The Lorax”

INF533 Assessment Task 2 Review 2: Wuwu & Co.

Wuwu & Co. (Step In Books, 2014-2018) tells the story of five creatures who come to seek help from the resident of a little red house in the woods during “the coldest winter in two thousand years” (p. 1). The story is told through a combination of written text and interactive scenarios that make use of a variety of the technological capabilities of iOS devices, as will be explored later in this review.

Though the information page on the app carries the Apple age rating of 4+, on the catalogue description page the developers have added “Made for Ages 6-8” (Step In Books, n.d.). The level and type of interactivity required in the app, the interest level of the material and the complexity of the language support the older age range indicated. The English language text difficulty is calculated in the range appropriate to Years 2 and 3 by the Free Lexile Analyser (MetaMetrics, Inc., 2018; Biblionasium, 2018). It is available from the Australian iOS App Store for AU$9.99.

Step In Books (2016) via YouTube

Wuwu & Co. is a digital narrative (Walsh, 2013) created specifically for the iOS platform and cannot be effectively experienced without the use of an appropriate device. It blurs the boundaries somewhat when viewed through the lens of Annette Lamb’s (2011) five reading environments. While it can be classified as an interactive storybook app, it has qualities of non-linearity congruent with the hypertext or interactive fiction category that she describes. One of the notable elements of interactivity is the device-based virtual reality (VR) segments. VR is one of the modes of extended reality (XR) that some see as the currently expanding frontier of digital literature (Breeze, 2018).
Continue reading “INF533 Assessment Task 2 Review 2: Wuwu & Co.”

INF533 Assessment Task 2 Review 1: My Place

My Place (Wheatley & Rawlins, 1987) is an enduring work of Australian historical fiction. The book relates the personal stories of children living in one local area in Sydney for every decade from 1788 through 1988. Each child relates a short account of their family and community, giving insights into the historical period and the development of the geographical area as well as showing evidence of their connection to country. Character ages range between seven and twelve, which makes the text relatable to primary school students. The first-person narratives have the cadence of recounts told by children where details such as a new colour for the house, an older brother bringing home a girlfriend and also heading to war are related with similar weight given to them using somewhat naive, straightforward language. Historical developments presented from the perspective of the children are enhanced by Donna Rawlins’ warm illustrations created with materials common to most contemporary primary school classrooms. This is a quality piece of literature that can be used across the curriculum in a variety of key learning areas including English, History, and Geography (McMeekin, 2010; Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) & Education Services Australia (ESA), n.d.).

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) produced a television series based on the book (Chapman Pictures Pty Ltd & Matchbox Pictures, 2009-2011). Episodes have been added that widen the timeline to include “before time” and continue through to 2008 (ACTF & ESA, n.d.). The twenty to twenty-five minute episodes also present more detail than the brief illustrated recounts in the book. The high production values, historical detail, and quality cast of this production make it an excellent resource for extending engagement with this story. Full episodes are available on kanopy and sometimes on ABC iView, but selected clips are always available on the My Place for teachers website.

Australian Children’s Television Foundation (2011) via YouTube Continue reading “INF533 Assessment Task 2 Review 1: My Place”

Literature search… trying to keep afloat and find my way to shore

I had hoped to make my life easier by choosing a research area that tied in with my other subject for the session “Literature in Digital Environments”. While I have found some leads in my subject readings, it is striking me as a difficult topic in which to find the type of literature for which I am searching. Hopefully as I strike some promising veins I will find enough (and not too much) to move forward with.

I am definitely feeling adrift!

Picking literature to review

I had really hoped to have my first review done for the second assessment task in INF533 by this past Friday. The thing that is holding me up is the question of what to choose.

I would really like to have my three examples cover not only three different digital literature categories, as specified in the assignment, but also to cover the breadth of my K-6 teaching context. If possible, they would represent different genres and/or text purposes as well. Therefore, I am hesitating to commit myself to a review until I am sure which items will be part of my suite of reviews.

One issue I am struggling with is what to count as “literature” as some examples I find stray more towards music, visual art or performance art (Andrews, 2000-2018) and other fine examples of works with digital affordances that enhance quality text are informational (Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre, n.d.) or journalistic(News Corp Australia, n.d.) in nature.

Another area of struggle is that many of the really interesting web-based works or born-digital works using app or online platforms that I have found seem most appropriate to only the highest level of primary school or, truly, to high school or beyond.

The Boat Interactive Webcomic – Matt Huynh. (Huynh, n.d.). A bit too intense for Year 6?


Device 6 – one of the most enjoyable text-based experiences I have had in months! (simogo, 2013)

I think that I am narrowing down my list, though, so hopefully a review post will be hitting the aether soon!

 

References

Andrews, J. (2000-2018). Oppen do down. Retrieved from http://vispo.com/vismu/oppen/index.html.

Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre. (n.d.). Multi-touch books. Retrieved from http://fieldofmarseec.nsw.edu.au/digital-learning/multitouch-books/.

Huynh, M. (n.d.). The boat interactive webcomic – Matt Huynh [Streaming video]. Retrieved from http://www.matthuynh.com/the-boat/.

News Corp Australia. (n.d.). Kids news: News for kids. Retrieved from https://www.heraldsun.com.au/kids-news/news.

simogo. (2013, July 31). Device 6 – reveal trailer [Streaming video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/KrpAzVcebhg.

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