Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Framework of Viewing and Representing Skills through Digital Text

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Framework of Viewing and Representing Skills through Digital Text

Article excerpt

The digital practices of primary school children

The meaning of literacy in the 21st century has changed markedly with emerging and now dominant technologies: that is, the move away from writing to the new digital text mode, and from the medium of the book to that of the monitor screen (Kress, 2010). It is therefore important to extend the notion of literacy beyond the traditional modes of listening, speaking, reading and writing to include digital text and communication.

Language curricula in primary schools around the world are being revised in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore and Australia to incorporate new forms of literacies (Department for Children schools and families UK, 2009; Ministry of Education Ontario, 2006; MOE Singapore, 2010; National Curriculum Board Australia, 2008). These literacies are proposed as prerequisites for the effective consumption of digital texts and communication through contemporary technologies (Kress & Jewitt, 2003; Unsworth, 2008).

Today's technologies allow children to engage with digital text on a regular basis outside school (Buckingham & Willett, 2006; Kimber & Claire, 2008; Prensky, 2001a). However, the extra-school skills that are acquired from interacting and communicating with digital text remain unexplored. Digital text incorporates the four macro-skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, but requires additional skills including frequent use of visuals, dynamic information, and interaction.

Contemporary language curricula in schools need to incorporate emerging literacies (Jewitt, 2006; Kress, 2003; Martinec & Leeuwen, 2009). Language is broadly understood as the main meaning-making resource for constructing and consuming information (Unsworth, 2001). However, in Hong Kong, the government-mandated primary school English Language curriculum has not incorporated digital text as an integral aspect of language learning(The Curriculum Development Council, 2004). To incorporate digital text into the language curriculum, a viable set of recommendations is needed to address the skills required to engage with the emerging literacies.

There is an emerging gap between children's out-of-school digital practices and practices in the primary school English Language classroom in Hong Kong (which remain focused on linguistic learning). The literature suggests four areas of digital practices that impact the engagement on monitor screens:

* The ability to recognize and create elements in different modes (Jewitt, 2006; Unsworth, 2008);

* The ability to apply the affordances of modes in meaning making (Jewitt, 2006; Kress, 2003; Martinec & Leeuwen, 2009);

* The ability to link elements of information in different modes contextually in spatial or temporal layouts (Kress, 2010; Leeuwen, 2005); and

* The ability to navigate on screens (Leeuwen, 2005; Martinec & Leeuwen, 2009).

These four areas of digital practices are also evidenced among the children, who participate in various social networking sites regularly. Their semantic practices involve not just engagement with written text, but also elements of other modes (Connelly, 2008; Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; Unsworth, 2008). The escalation of the children's engagement on different sites has resulted in their quickly adapting to the different navigation potential of screens (Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2001b). They are also obtaining screen-based information with different layouts of different mode composition (Walsh et al., 2007).

Based on this concise review, we may conclude that there are skills to be derived from children's intuitive understandings arising from their natural interactions with digital text. The skills utilize but are additional to listening, speaking, reading and writing, and involve frequent use of visuals, dynamic information, and interaction through digital text. Such skills are categorized in the literature as viewing and representing (Kress, 2010; MOE Singapore, 2010). …

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