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.


  1. thank you for watchinng my swimmming video giving me some good feedback and your site is cool

  2. Hi Dorothy

    You forgot to mention that the reason why podcasting with KPE took off was because of your efforts to establish and support it within the Senior School at Pt England.

    Furthermore, the success of the Manaiakalani EHSAS cluster directly lies in the excellent facilitation and direction provided by you. Our children are so lucky!

    Just thought YOU needed to be acknowledged too.

    Thanks for all your support.

    Mrs Lagitupu.

  3. The Literacy Cycle incorporating literacy and e-learning simultaneously certainly shows the way forward for 21st century learning, no doubt about it. It includes the three key aspects of Gee’s Bill of Rights for Literacy: Situated Practice, Overt Instruction and Critical Framing.
    I love the way the kids really understand how the DLOs can be put together for a world wide audience. When they understand this they can begin to appreciate and critique the huge variety of formats and modes in which information can be presented, and they become active users of all types of Multiliteracies, especially viewing and presenting. Fabulous!
    Vicki Baas.

  4. Hi Dorothy,
    I've just come across this blog entry. My perspective on the implementation of ICT tools is that they are most effective when embedded in the classroom literacy practice. I've not had enough to time to research this at present. As I seek to provide ideas and impetus in my own school to see this occur, this Literacy Cycle with DLO's embedded within it will be an excellent source of discussion as we move forward.
    Thanks for sharing :-)

  5. Hi there, I think the Literacy cycle looks fantastic, I have just begun a similar project with my year 3 class in CHCH, I am hoping to visit your school also!! Keep up the great work, thanks to the kids in room 5 for showing me how to make popcorn!!!!
    Andrew Wilkinson- Team leader Riccarton primary school, Christchurch.

  6. Hi Dorothy, I found your keynote speaker address at the ESOL conference totally exciting and inspirational. I plan on getting started with my Esol class at Kelston Int. immediately -that is as soon as I get parent permission slips signed. I've already used your site to start my blog (had never even seen one before) and am hoping to find some brilliant students in class who can help us get ahead with it all.

  7. Dear Manaiakalani School Students and Teachers,

    My Language Arts Instructional Technology Teacher, Sarah McPherson, in New York City suggested we learn about your project and contribute to it. I find your contrast between the usual linear approach to literacy with the Podcasting with KPE cycle very inspring and helpful. All learning is cyclical; we always need feedback in order to progress and learn all the aspects - reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, publishing - at a higher level. I look forward to keeping in touch with you.
    - Levia Shanken
    Instructional Technology English Learning Arts Student;
    Biology and General Science Teacher

  8. I forgot to add that on the 3 point feedback system, I thought all 3 rubrics were excellent:
    it was positive, thoughtful and helpful for learning.

    - Levia Shanken

  9. @Levia Thanks for the feedback. I must say that for all of us using the literacy cycles the hardest part to achieve consistently is the reflective feedback. We all know how valuable it is, but it is still the part that slides away when things get busy. And we also know that the literacy cycle approach has made it very transparent and so we acknowledge our shortcomings - but what about those who are still teaching 'old skul'? How do they keep accountable for the reflection and feedback element of teaching and learning?