New Media Literacies

by Traci Byrnes

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Part 1: Introduction

Literacy has traditionally been known as the ability to read and write. With the expansion of digital tools, literacy has taken on a whole new meaning. Literacy is not only being able to decipher a message and share a message. It also involves being able to do so in a variety of contexts.

There are many theoretical perspectives of literacy. The behaviorist perspective views literacy as breaking the alphabetic code (Baker, 2010, p. 9). The semiotic and multiliteracies perspectives study reading and writing with sign systems. Symbols are signs that represent ideas. The cognitive perspective has created theories about thinking. This perspective has developed processes that explain the thinking that has occurred to produce language. The sociocultural perspective argues that literacy changes as culture changes (Baker, 2010, p. 2).

These perspectives have historically been a part of literacy. With the advent of technology, literacy has had to be reexamined. Baker states (2010), “…the skills required to proficiently communicate with technology requires traditional as well as new reading and writing skill” (p. 2). Thus, the advent of digital or new literacies. According to the 2013 International Reading Association (IRA), digital literacies are practices related to critically navigating, evaluating and creating texts using a variety of digital technologies (as cited in Hutchison & Colwell, 2015, p. 2). The IRA has promoted the expansion of literacy curriculum to include multimedia (Baker, 2010, p. 12).

Digital literacy encompasses a wide range of skills. The new technologies can be new ways of doing things that have been previously done. For example, rather than typing an essay, a student creates a multimodal presentation. Digital literacies allow for collaboration, engaged active learners, creation of products and the ability to share learnings beyond the classroom walls. Digital literacies can also be using digital software that reinforces “traditional” literacy skills. Digital literacies can also be using digital software that reinforces “traditional” literacy skills. Digital literacies also involve a student understanding the meaning that is carried in images, color, sound, video, and other non-textual elements.

Literacy is the ability to read and write in a context that is currently employed in society.

Part 2: Description of Findings from Inquiry

Baker advises (2010), “If our schools continue to limit the literacy curriculum to reading and writing traditional, alphabetic, printed texts, then our children will be well prepared for 1950 but ill prepared for 2050” (p. 2). Hence, the instructional path for literacy is in constant flux. Classrooms now include digital literacy in their curriculum. The abilities that students need to proficiently communicate with technology requires traditional as well as new reading and writing skills. The Common Core State Standards include digital literacy standards for literacy and language arts instruction. Technology standards are integrated with the literacy and language arts standards implying that being literate includes being digitally literate (Hutchison & Cowell, 2015, p. 3).

Technology integration can begin at an early age and never ceases. The level of integration may be influenced by the perspective of the teacher or school. The type of skills and skill levels that are implemented in the classroom will vary based upon age, accessibility and knowledge base. McKenna and Conradi believe in a gradual release model when carrying out technology instruction (Baker, 2010, p. 48). At the beginning the instruction the teacher is very involved. Then, scaffolding is provided for the student. Finally, the student is working independently. The use of software developed to review basic skills is an acceptable practice in the view of McKenna and Conradi. They also support the use of digital devices as a resource. Video clips can be obtained, online dictionaries and encyclopedias can be used. According to Lankshear and Knobel (2007) students at an early level are able to publish digital work. Technology should be used to produce, communicate, and collaborate. The students would be engaged in online conversations offering support to each other. Lankshear and Knobel (2007) support the use of social media as the primary purpose of technology. In a classroom a balance can be found between these two perspectives to provide what is best for the individual students. Below is a video of students in my classroom engaged in a variety of levels of digital instruction. Activities range from practice basic reading skills on Education City to creating a voice thread.

One difficult challenge for many teachers when implementing digital instruction is to give up control in their classroom. Everyone needs to be treated as an expert. Students can flourish in the digital world when they might struggle with other content areas. Students must be given an opportunity to be teachers and share their digital knowledge with everyone.

Currently many reading curriculums are available on line. Student text and supplemental materials are accessed digitally. These materials are able to be shared with parents. Therefore, parents now have unlimited access to the content that students are learning about. Teachers are also able to share with parents digitally published work. Teachers need to thoroughly plan integrating technology. Teachers should use the Technology Integration Matrix as a resource to develop lessons. The technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK) framework can be used to help understand the connections between technologies, curriculum content, and specific pedagogical approaches (Harris, Mishra, and Koehler, 2009). According to Harris et al. (2009), “effective teaching requires knowledge of both the activity and structures/types that are appropriate for teaching specific content and the manners in which particular technologies can be utilized as part of the lesson, project, or unit design”(p. 406). The Technology Integration and Planning Cycle for Literacy and Language Arts (TIPCLLA) is a format to write a digital lesson plan. It involves seven elements. Hutchison and Cowell state, “by using TIPCLLA to plan your instruction, you will have a process for guaranteeing that you have considered many important elements of instruction and have a plan in place to ensure you are focused on important instructional goals rather than the technology you are using” (p. 40).

Digital literacy has had an influence on literacy instruction. Traditional literacies must continue to be taught as they are needed to by digitally literate. Technology implementation can be at a variety of levels. Teachers need to think through the process of integrating technology. Reflection is also needed to continually provide quality literacy instruction.

Part 3: Tutorial---Padlet

Padlet is an online tool that students and teachers can use to collaborate, reflect, and share in a secure location. It essentially is an online “bulletin” board. This tool allows a person to create a wall with an individual URL. This URL can be shared and others can add to the wall with 24/7 access. Pictures, hyperlinks, documents and videos can be embedded into a padlet. The Padlet creator can moderate additional posts and remove posts. This tool is free and extremely easy to use. Watch the screen cast below for tutorial on how to use Padlet. Here is a link to written directions on how to use padlet

Teachers and students can utilize padlet in a variety of ways. Padlet can be used as a notetaking tool during professional development or a class presentation. It can be used as a tool to organize digital information. Here is a link to a padlet I created to organize professional readings. Presentations can be created to share with others. A group can collaborate to create a common document using padlet. Padlet can be an assessment tool. Students can create a padlet to share learning or a teacher can create a padlet and have students add to it to share their ideas on a discussion topic. Padlet could be a tool to record brainstorming ideas. The uses of padlet are endless.

Padlet can be used at all grade levels in all content areas. Students will need access to a computer or ipad to create, read or collaborate using a padlet. They also would need internet access. An email account would be necessary to set up an account with padlet. Early elementary students could easily work together to create a padlet that tells the beginning, middle, and end of a story. The students could draw pictures or take pictures that support these parts of a story map and include them on their padlet. In Social Studies, a student could create a padlet telling about a State that they are learning about. For a music assignment, a student could share their learning about a composer and include an audio clip.

Padlet has many strengths. The best parts of padlet are that it is free and you are not limited in the number of padlets you can create. This tool is extremely easy to use. Literally with two clicks of the mouse you begin to create a padlet. Another strength is the ability to change the settings on the padlet. You can allow additional pads to be added to your padlet, thus allowing for collaboration. Or, you can disallow additional pads and the padlet becomes a presentation tool. A weakness would be the limited number of backgrounds that are able to be chosen for the padlet. Another issue with padlet is the inability to change the font size and color. These are critical components of digital literacy and padlet does not allow for their adjustment. Another issue with padlet is the fact that it limits a post to 160 words. So, it would not be effective tool to use for a lengthy presentation.

Padlet requires the use of both Traditional and New Literacies. Some Traditional literacies that are needed to create a padlet include: writing notes; writing sentences; determining a topic, main idea, and details; proofreading; organization. The creator of a padlet needs to decide what they will include on each pad. The padlet has a space for a title (topic). Each individual pad can be labeled with the main idea. Then, the details for that idea are written in either note form or a complete sentence. The creator of the padlet will need to proofread their padlet before sharing with others. The creator can move the pads around on their “bulletin” board to organize their ideas. Digital literacies are also needed to create a padlet. Basic computer knowledge needs to be known. The creator needs to know how to access the internet and how to search for pictures, articles or videos they may want to include in the padlet. The creator needs to know how to download/upload these digital items or copy links to them. They also need to be able to manage settings and be able to set the method that they would like to use to share the padlet. The ability to share a hyperlink after the creation of the padlet is a necessity. The creator of the padlet should understand how the background can influence the audience. The reader of a padlet must also have Traditional and New Literacies. The reader must be able to read in order to understand the information on a padlet. They need to be able to write if the purpose of the padlet is to collaborate. The reader should have the ability to read and understand digital text. They also need to be able maneuver on a web page. They need to be aware of how to click to add a pad. The reader should also be able to play videos and access articles as they may be posted on a padlet. Both Traditional and New Literacies are requirement when using padlet.

Padlet can be used as an assessment tool. The use of padlet can also be assessed. A teacher can have students complete a reflection of their learnings using a padlet. The students could create a 3-2-1 response to class readings. The students could create a padlet that includes their favorite parts of a story. Students could develop a padlet that summarizes the main points of a lecture. The padlet itself can also be assessed. The teacher can look for organization, integration of digital elements and use of appealing background.

I chose to focus on padlet because I feel that it would be a beneficial tool for lower elementary teachers to utilize. As a literacy coach, I would use provide professional development on the use of padlet. By creating the screen cast, I already have part of the professional development presentation ready. Then, throughout the year, we would use it as a tool for collaboration. I could set up a padlet for various topics of discussion such as FAST, Reading Curriculum, Interventions, and Current Articles about Reading. Everyone, including me could post questions and comments about the topics. It would be an easy way to get the same information out to everyone simultaneously. We also would also discuss how we could use padlet in the classroom. I would offer teacher support on the implementation of padlet in the classroom.

Part 4: Reflection & Conclusion

My perception of literacy has changed dramatically throughout this course. At the beginning of this semester I felt as a first grade teacher, that I was doing what I needed to build my students digital literacy by allowing them to work on the computers using software to review basic skills. Now, I realize that it is my responsibility to provide my students with opportunities to create digital products. I need to allow my students to explore digital tools and teach others about them. I need to have them literate for the year 2050. I have tried to implement the use of web 2.0 tools. At this point in the school year, many of our projects have been collaborative with scaffolding from the teacher. The next semester, I would like to have my students work on creating individual products. This will take some additional organization on my part. I will need to set up accounts for various tools I would like to use (voicethread, padlet, showme, etc.).

Currently I have students on ipads, netbooks or desktop computers daily. Previously, we would visit the computer lab once a week and use netbooks once a week. I have come to the realization that time on digital devices is preparing my students for their future learning and careers. I also use the mimo and document camera daily. I have also begun to share what my students are doing digitally with parents.

One of the web 2.0 tools my students have used is voicethread. I used this as a prewriting activity when writing letters to Santa. I instructed the class in how to use thread and then they recorded their ideas for their letter on voicethread. But, after the recording I deleted all of the student work because the internet was not connecting well and I closed out of the program. Therefore, we tried it again after writing the letter. The students recorded their letter to Santa this time. I was amazed that a week later these first grade students could independently walk to the computer and record their voice thread. Most of them did not need a reminder of how to use the tool. The kids loved hearing each other’s letters. I shared the voicethread with our tech integrationist, my administrator, and parents. Below you can click on the voice thread link to hear our letters. (It is created in the name of one of my colleagues as when I was setting this up, I found out I didn’t have any more free voicethreads. I have since learned that our school has accounts available for our students. So next semester, all the students will have and account.) For the parents, I shared both the web address and a QR code. The use of QR codes has also been new for me in the classroom. Now, I use QR codes for students to get to websites I want them to go to on the ipads. I use a QR code for students to get to the site to login to our reading series online components. I am using these online resources each week. I assign students digital text to read. I also have started to assign digital writing assignments. I would like to expand doing this in the future. Below is a screen shot of a vocabulary assignment that I was completed on line by one of my students. I have started to use concept mapping tools in my classroom. Below is a screen shot of a life cycle that our class worked together to create using spiderscribe. I would like to start having my students use text annotations. One way I plan to incorporate this into my class is by having the students locate an image that goes with a topic of study and create a diagram. Below is an example of this using a firefighter as the image.

I have made the transition in my lesson planning to include digital resources and tools. I am always thinking of how I can incorporate digital tools when creating lessons. For example, we just finished learning about “The Nutcracker” and seeing the ballet. During our learning about the ballet this year, the class used Britannica on line to research ballet. We were able to locate a video about ballet and a graphic of ballet positions. The students were engaged in their learning and felt very proud that “they” could find a video. I will continue to think about if digital tools will help my students in the lessons I am presenting.

The future of digital literacy is beyond my grasp. I never thought I would be so dependent on technology in a first grade classroom. I do think that I will see the day when each student will have their own device at this young age. I think the days of completing worksheets to drill and practice literacy skills may someday be behind us. Students will be practicing these skills digitally and sharing their work with a teacher online. Students will be creating digital oral and written presentations. I think a classroom may become paperless. Gaming in the classroom will become more widely accepted. The digital literacy skills that students will need will continue to change. The students will probably always be ahead of the teachers and the devices they have available. The other day, a student was trying to use a netbook as a touch screen. The digital literacy that this child has was further developed than the equipment I had in the room. The future of literacy and technology is unknown.


Baker, E. (2010). The new literacies: Multiple perspectives on research and practice. New York: Guilford Press.

Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (n.d.). Teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Learning Activity Types. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 393-416. Retrieved from Harris_Mishra_&Koehler_2009.pdf

Hutchison, A., & Colwell, J. (2015). Bridging technology and literacy: Developing digital reading and writing practices in grades K-6. Rowman and Littlefield.

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2007). Sampling "the New" in New Literacies. In C. Lankshear & Knobel. (Eds.) A New Literacies Sampler. Peter Lang. Retrieved from

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