Connecting Multicultural Education and Multiliteracies

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

During the last year, Dr. Diane Lapp and I had the opportunity to work with several prominent thought-leaders to explore how multiple literacies and multicultural education intersect and promote greater learning and understanding amongst our students. The result, under the guidance of Dana Grisham, was a themed issue of Reading and Writing Quarterly that was just released online. In the introduction, Diane and I wrote, “Digital technology, whose users comprise ever-changing communities, permits previously disconnected worlds to find commonalities and explore differences. Technology has the potential to connect students and educators across cultures, and, at the same time, make it possible for students to participate more fully in their own cultures” (Wolsey & Lapp, 2015, p. 97).

cover of Reading & Writing Quarterly  journal

The six articles in the current special issue of Reading and Writing Quarterly each address topics that demonstrate how technology can facilitate learning, build students’ understanding of their culture, and construct bridges across and to other cultures. The table of contents may be found below. Please take a few minutes to visit the special issue on the Taylor and Francis website (preview and abstracts) or through your university electronic library resources.
• Imagining Writing Futures: Photography, Writing, and Technology by Cheryl A. McLean & Jennifer Rowsell

• Fostering Students’ Science Inquiry Through App Affordances of Multimodality, Collaboration, Interactivity, and Connectivity by Richard Beach & David O’Brien

• iPad Deployment in a Diverse Urban High School: A Formative Experiment by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher & Diane Lapp

• The Council of Youth Research: Critical Literacy and Civic Agency in the Digital Age by Antero Garcia, Nicole Mirra, Ernest Morrell, Antonio Martinez & D’Artagnan Scorza

• Multicultural Education and Multiliteracies: Exploration and Exposure of Literacy Practices With Preservice Teachers by W. Ian O’Byrne & Shane A. Smith

• A Digital Tool Grows (and Keeps Growing) From the Work of a Community of Writers by Nancy L. Roser, Melissa Mosley Wetzel, Ramón Antonio Martínez & Detra Price-Dennis

Wolsey, T.D. & Lapp, D. (2015). Introduction to teachers and students as creators in blended learning environments. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 31(2), 97-101. doi: 10.1080/10573569.2014.963906


Search engines and multimodal representations

I was recently working with my third year, teacher candidate, students exploring the skills, strategies and dispositions necessary to successfully conduct Internet inquiry within the information-seeking cycle. The information seeking cycle is comprised of (a) planning inquiry questions and forming goals for internet inquiry; (b) generating and revising search terms; (c) investigating search results with a critical eye; (d) locating and transforming information; (e) critically evaluating information; and synthesising and communicating information to others. The students undertook an Internet information challenge, What caused the downfall of the Mayan civilisation?, to develop metacognitive awareness of their own skills, strategies and dispositions when conducting Internet inquiry. What I observed was that some students began this information quest by exploring videos and images relating to the Mayan civilisation. Helen explained the strategy to me, “I usually search for information by looking at videos and images to get the main concepts related to a topic. Then I will look up some articles when I have this background information”. Does this strategy represent a shift from privileging text as the primary source of information to favouring more multimodal representations of information? In this blog post I will explore some search engines which provide multiple representations of information.

Googling’ has entered the lexicon to become synonymous with searching for information online. The left hand panel on the Google interface, as shown in the screen shot below, provides a number of interesting representational choices such as, images, video, blogs, discussion fora, news features and time ranges. However, you can also customise your search results according to reading levels at basic, intermediate or advanced reading levels. This is a positive affordance for struggling readers. The Twurdy search engine ( ) will also sort search results according to readability levels. You can also, of course, customise the search results by using the customised Google Search Engine Tools ( ). See Jill’s wonderful post on Customised Google search engine on Literacy Beat, March 2011

screen shot of Googel left hand panel

Screen shot of the left hand panel on Google Search engine

Other search engines privilege a more multimodal, multi-representational approach to presenting information. The Qwiki search engine ( ) combines images, infographics, video and voice to enhance interactivity. Some of the pronunciations, especially for Irish place names are hilarious and entertain my students greatly! Qwiki is also available as an app for IPad, IPhone and Android devices. Qwiki Creator has just been released by the Qwiki team in alpha format and is currently available by invitation only. Qwiki Creator allows the user to create their own Qwiki representation with voice, text, images and video. I can see many possibilities for using Qwiki Creator with students in our classrooms. I think it’s certainly one to watch out for. A screen shot from the Qwiki interface is shown below.

Screen shot of Qwiki related to Inishbofin, Galway, Ireland

I have also recently begun to explore the Instagrok search engine. ( )
Instagrok provides both a visual representation and a journal format. Watch the video for an overview.

To grok, the developers tell us is to ‘understand thoroughly and intuitively’. Instagrok presents a visual graph of the key concepts related to a topic. You can click on any of the key concepts to investigate that concept more thoroughly. In addition, on the right hand side of the screen, you can view key facts related to the topic¸ web sites, videos, images, and quiz topic questions related to the topic. You can pin any of these representations on to the visual graph. See my screen shot related to a grok I conducted related to the collapse of the Mayan civilisation. There is also a slide bar at the top of the screen to adjust the level of difficulty of the information presented. What really excites me about Instagrok is that you can also create a journal, which is automatically generated, as you annotate the visual graph. See the screen shot of the journal below. As Instagrok allows the teacher to create student accounts you can view the work of students in these journals.

Screen shot of a grok related to the collapse of the Mayan civilisation

Screen shot of the  journal created by Instagrok realted to the collapse of the Mayan civilisation

So have fun exploring these search engines. Have you noticed any changes in the ways you are searching for information online? Do you privilege text over other formats such as, video, voice or images? What about your students? Do let us know by replying to this blog.

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