Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Transforming Classroom Instruction with Personal and Technological Literacies: The WebQuest Connection

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Transforming Classroom Instruction with Personal and Technological Literacies: The WebQuest Connection

Article excerpt

Girls like Shanique, Jasmine and Lolly in Mr. Hade's classroom are the "digitally at home" kids (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003) and their lives revolve around computers, video games and the Internet. Technological literacies such as writing and publishing using the computer, creating and maintaining websites and blogs, research on the Internet, IM, and text messaging among others, are part of these students' personal literacies and repertoire of learning. While they are conversant with and engaged in these activities mostly outside of school, they are, more often than not, disengaged in school (Millard, 2006). However, these personal literacies can be harnessed to promote a culturally responsive teaching by connecting and integrating them with academic literacies.

This article documents an account of one fifth grade teacher's journey as he integrated students' personal literacies and WebQuest to foster a culturally responsive teaching. I examined the learning in Mr. Hade's classroom through the sociocultural lens.

The sociocultural-historical theory challenges the traditional conception of learning as the transmission of knowledge. This perspective defines learning as "changing participation in culturally valued activity with more expert others" (Larson & Marsh, 2005, p.4). The child is perceived as an active member of a constantly changing community of learners in which teachers and students construct authentic opportunities for learning (Guiterrez & Rogoff, 2003; Larson & Marsh, 2005; Rogoff, 2003). From this perspective, literacy is acquired in a variety of contexts through social interaction and co-constructed through tools teachers and students use in everyday life both in and out of school such as traditional texts, multimodal texts like websites, blogs, instant messaging, video games and other computer-mediated artifacts. The notion of coconstruction of knowledge implies critical consciousness that recognizes that children possess literate voices which must be acknowledged (Larson & Marsh, 2005). Children learn with more knowledgeable others (teachers/peers/adults) within the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978), which represents the range of a child's ability characterized by the difference between a child's current level and the level of ability she reaches in solving problems with assistance. The teachers' role is to guide students through various levels of participation including apprenticeship, guided participation and participatory appropriation (Guiterrez & Rogoff, 2003). This theoretical perspective also posits that classroom instruction should be culturally relevant (Alvermann, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 1998), promote both engagement and active learning, as well as reflect and value children's cultural choices in an effort to ensure that schooling is relevant and meaningful to them.

The emphasis on cultural competence by the sociocultural theory necessitates a reflection on the concept of culture. Culture in its simplest view is a particular way of life of a people which expresses some meanings and values not only in art and learning but also in institutions and ordinary behavior (Morrell, 2007). Culture manifests in everyday practices and lived experiences of people. It is not static but fluid and dynamic and reflects societal values at any material time. Popular culture is everyday culture (Alvermann Oc Hong Xu, 2003). In today's society, the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become the most dominant cultural tool that affects the way we live, communicate and think. They have also become culturally relevant to both children and adults alike. Culturally relevant teaching should therefore include "the integration of new media and Internet in schools in ways that allow youth culture and its varied literacies to flourish alongside, as well as to influence academic genres" (Hull & Shultz, 2002, p. 48). Lankshear and Knobel (2003) observe that the kinds of texts that are important to contemporary children's lives are different from those promoted in the early years of the twentieth century. …

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