Literacy Beat bloggers have long taken inspiration from Peggy Semingson’s dedication to using technology to advance learning. We wondered what she is currently working on professionally for our Influencer series. Her answers follow.
I was asked to write for Literacy Beat about some of the latest projects and ideas I have been working on as they relate to the intersection of literacy and technology. A few of those ideas are shared here. Comments are most welcome!
What trends do you see having a significant impact in the coming 5 years in the space where technology and literacy meet?
There are two ideas I will briefly share: Open educational resources and self-directed teacher professional development via social media (e.g., Twitter).
Lately, I’ve been hanging out with librarians and attending library-focused presentations and events. Librarians are truly on the cutting-edge of the future and are in tune with trends like the changing nature of information and literacy access. One of the main topics of focus among librarians and those in the broader education community has been the concept of open educational resources, or OER.
Generally, OERs are text-based and multimodal resources freely available on the Internet. They are intentionally made and created to broadly share knowledge and information with the goal that others can remix and/or reuse the content to meet their needs. MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses that are offered free of charge), such as those offered by edX, are steadily used by educators and others to participate in open learning and connected with others online. Teachers are providing MOOCs in more grassroots ways, for instance, through Canvas.
OERs, including free courses such as MOOCs, are increasing access to learning and are of importance in underserved areas like third world countries and for those who just need or want to learn a skill or acquire knowledge outside of formal schooling.
What is exciting is these open and freely available resources are gradually replacing expensive textbooks. I’m a firm believer that learning materials should be mostly current and with digital and open resources, they can be more readily updated. I have personally contributed to the OER space also in terms of my YouTube channel which has almost a million minutes of viewings! The most popular video is on the topic of phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics. I think this topic is confusing to a lot of people, globally, so I’m glad I can help add some clarity there! I also share micro-podcasts on literacy topics in my podcast channel on SoundCloud.
One of my goals is to revamp my professional website, Virtual Gadfly, to focus more on sharing concrete tools for K-12 teachers. Future plans include expanding my YouTube channel to include videos on other complex ideas in literacy, such as dyslexia and other high-interest topics.
Also of interest are creating more of what I call dialogue videos, where I am informally talking with another educator about a specific topic in an unscripted way. I have done some dialogue videos with my colleague Dr. Jodi Tommerdahl and she brings her background in neuroscience and linguistics into our conversations on literacy topics of mutual interest. These videos are then also incorporated into my literacy teacher education courses and they are freely available online.
Beginning Reading: Dialogue with Dr. Peggy Semingson and Dr. Jodi Tommerdahl
Another idea I am seeing is the whole idea of teacher professional development as increasingly decentralized away from formal training led by schools, districts, or outside vendors. Increasingly teachers are taking learning into their own hands via social media (e.g., Twitter), digital platforms, and mobile learning (m-learning).
We are all seeing and participating in self-directed learning, or what I call “DIY PD” (do-it-yourself PD) such as scheduled Twitter chats, hashtag learning and awareness (e.g., #weneeddiversebooks), crowdsourced resources, and direct teacher-to-teacher supports. This is part of a broader trend of decentralized learning across multiple social media platforms. I appreciate the grassroots nature of these types of digital learning activities that teachers can participate in. The dialogue taking place on Literacy Beat is another example of educators engaged in “DIY PD” and learning. I would like to do empirical research in this area of self-directed teacher professional development soon. Recently, I wrote a column about the use of Twitter in learning about young adult authors recently in The ALAN Review.
What significant event in your life changed the focus of your work?
Teaching online, starting in 2008, made a huge impact on the focus of my practice and research. At first, I was a complete “deer-in-the-headlights” about teaching online and really didn’t know what to do or what my role was as an instructor. Most people need an overarching framework to guide their thinking about teaching online.
Related to digital teaching and learning, I learned about the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework from a former professor I still keep in touch with, Dave Caverly at Texas State University, San Marcos (in Texas). Learning about the Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007) changed my whole approach to digital teaching and learning as a teacher educator!
The focus of COI is three-fold (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). First, there is the teacher presence and role in the course. Second, there is an intentional fostering a sense of trust and social presence in the course. Third, the teacher actively facilitates a cognitive presence, or an inquiry and problem-solving approach in the course.
It has worked quite well as a foundation and framework for my own teaching. I also create a lot of my own materials, mostly multi-modal. I have been well supported in my ongoing learning in digital teaching and learning by the Center for Distance Education at The University of Texas at Arlington.
What research are you currently working on related to literacy and technology?
I’m working with a small team of colleagues to analyze how a major literacy organization exchanges ideas in networked ways through Twitter. We are incorporating data analytics (“big data” approaches to research) as well social network analysis (SNA) of the publicly posted Tweets from a major conference. We are using mostly computational tools to look at the data.
It’s really fascinating! This ties to my earlier point about teachers seeking to enhance their own learning spaces and backchannels outside of more traditionally sanctioned (e.g., school district or formal schooling) contexts. I’m really interested in how teacher knowledge production about literacy works in self-directed professional development digital spaces like Twitter, blogs, and other online forums. I believe that literacy organizations and publishers will play a big part in helping to facilitate such “backchannel dialogue” related to professional learning about literacy. Stay tuned for more on this soon!
I am affiliated with a small group of colleagues (“Obnoxious Academic Consortium”) in literacy. We want to advance thinking in our field about multimodality in literacy and academia. We want to also advance the idea that there are other venues besides traditional print journals to network and exchange ideas. The blog for this group is here.
Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet & Higher Education, 10(3), 157-172.
Dr. Peggy Semingson is an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Arlington where she teaches online courses in Literacy Studies. Dr. Semingson has experience as a classroom teacher and reading specialist in both Southern California and Texas. Her research interests include social contexts of literacy learning, digital pedagogies, and online literacy teacher education. She has published in Teachers College Record, Language Arts, and Research in the Teaching of English. She was awarded the Jeanne S. Chall Research Grant from Harvard University in 2009–2010. She is on Twitter: @PeggySemingson. Her blog is: http://virtualgadfly.com
Contact Peggy at firstname.lastname@example.org