Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Integrating New Literacies in Higher Education: A Self-Study of the Use of Twitter in an Education Course

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Integrating New Literacies in Higher Education: A Self-Study of the Use of Twitter in an Education Course

Article excerpt

As the Internet is increasingly becoming the defining technology for literacy and learning with the majority of the world expected to be online in the next fifteen years (Leu et al, 2011), developing skills, knowledge, and dispositions to engage in the new literacies of the Internet are essential for successful engagement in education, work, and democratic participation (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008; Leu, O'Byrne, Zawilinski, McVerry, & Everett-Cacopardo, 2009). As new forms of communication and information use are continuously emerging with the expansion of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs)--e.g., blogs, video editors, presentation software, bulletin boards, avatars, virtual worlds, social networks, Google docs, and more--individuals will need to keep pace with the successive literacies necessary to effectively engage with these technologies (Coiro, 2003; Kinzer & Leander, 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003; Smolin & Lawless, 2003). In this context, preparing students to become proficient participants in online, networked environments has been heralded as one of the most pressing challenges for education in the 21st century (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004).

Despite this urgency, conservative educational practices remain the mainstay in higher education (Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, Sendurur, & Sendurur, 2012), with very few faculty integrating new literacies or contemporary technologies, including social networking sites (SNSs), in their practice (Ajjan & Hartshorne, 2008; Coddington, 2010; JISC, 2008; Moran, Seaman, & Tinti-Kane 2011; Poore, 2011). The consequences of this schism are significant as confidence and facility with the literacies of the Internet and ICT s are soon to be "important determinant(s) of an engaged life in an online age" (Leu et al, 2011, p. 5).

The objective of this self-study is to expand the emerging scholarship on meaningful integration and scaffolding of SNSs and the new literacies requisite for their effective use in higher education environments. As a teacher educator, the first author describes the successes and challenges she experienced introducing Twitter into her college classroom. By outlining students' diverse reactions and the range of discoveries they made in learning to use Twitter for professional purposes, this study highlights the potential benefits and complexities associated with successful integration of social networking and new literacies in higher education environments.

Literature Review

New Literacies

Traditional literacies, defined by the use of paper, pencils, and books, have been increasingly broadened to include new literacies (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004) required for successful marshaling and use of information from the Internet and an ever-expanding range of ICTs. Leu et al. (2004) identified several principles characterizing a new literacies perspective, including the centrality of the Internet and ICT technologies and the need for individuals to develop additional literacies to use these technologies to their potential. New literacies are understood to be deictic (Leu et al., 2011), dynamically changing at the rapid pace of technological advancement, and reflexively linked with technology as the forms and functions of literacy and technology are continuously changed by the other (Reinking, 1998). Meaning within new literacies is represented across a multiplicity of media formats extending beyond print and two-dimensional graphics to include such forms as audio and video, photographs, icons, animated symbols, and diverse combinations of colors, fonts, and point sizes (Lemke, 1998). New literacies demand new forms of critical thinking and strategic knowledge as the panoply of unfiltered information on the Internet demands new higher order thinking skills in locating, evaluating, and managing a vast information stream (Muspratt, Luke, & Freebody, 1998). …

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