Monday, February 23, 2009

Literacy Cycle

The concept of a Literacy Cycle to describe what is happening when eLearning is being fully integrated with the teaching of English began in 2007 at Pt England School when we were researching the impact of Podcasting with KPE on student learning outcomes in English. I was observing what was happening in the classrooms and met with teachers involved and together we co-constructed the idea of a literacy cycle to visually describe the process occuring. This was very much a work in progress and evolved as the teachers, particularly Sandy Lagitupu, provided feedback on what worked and how the Literacy Cycle could be improved to reflect actual practice.
We were quite over explaining to people that 'this is NOT an ICT project, this is a literacy project - a 21st century way of doing literacy!" There is no way that we are talking about throwing out effective practice that teachers have developed for the teaching and learning of literacy. We are simply saying that by using 21st century tools we can extend the value of the teaching, continue the learning beyond the completion of an exercise AND hope to hook kids into enjoying 'traditional' literacies. So we began looking at a way of depicting graphically what was happening in the classroom.The Literacy Cycle for podcasting with KPE as it is currently being used in Sandy's classroom is shown above.
English as it has been taught for centuries in many schools has been a linear process. For example, teaching writing progressed something like the diagram to the left. The key point of difference with the linear approach is that when the outcomes of the lesson are published ( and this may be by rewriting a 'good' copy, typing it up and stapling it to display on the wall or even publishing it on the school television programme) the book is shut, the print out dangles on the wall or the TV is turned off. That piece of learning concludes and we move on.

The Literacy Cycle concept has emerged from the opportunities offered by Web 2. We still desperately need quality English/Literacy teaching occuring in our schools as the foundation. But 21st Century students need opportunities to do something with the learning outcomes in their own language ie turn them into a digital learning object that they have created; a movie, an animation, a podcast, a funky slideshow etc. And then this digital learning object (DLO) can be shared online in a Web 2 environment where it can live on and on and on.... And it is here that more opportunities for engaging students in literacy learning can occur, through the threaded conversations and reflections posted in the associated comments.

In 2008 twelve teachers across the seven schools in our EHSAS cluster developed Literacy Cycles around the projects they were embarking on for Manaiakalani. The students involved ranged from 5 year olds to teenagers at high school. The project range is equally diverse. Each teacher identified the 'hook' they would be using with their students to motivate them and this is placed in the centre of the cycle (as can be seen in the movie below). The Literacy Cycles have brought coherence to a number of teachers who have previously struggled to clarify the convergence of eLearning and English without creating a whole new programme, and certainly without any suggestion of dispensing with researched and proven methods for teaching the foundations.
The projects mentioned above are being researched over a three year period and the interim findings of 2008 have been shown to us this week. In short, the students have continued to make progress. In fact a number of the projects have seen progress beyond the expected national norms. But of at least equal importance, a large group of students have had genuine 21st century learning experiences for at least one year and have become excited about their learning! More about this in another post...
We are very happy for the Literacy Cycle concept to be used by others who find it helpful. We would appreciate acknowledgement where appropriate that it began with the KPE podcast and Pt England School and has been further developed by the teachers of the Manaiakalani schools.