Published February 21, 2013
Two UB education professors known for their pioneering work in teacher education and the integration of digital media into public school classrooms have edited a book celebrating what they call “an essential new literacy” in American schools.
“Multimodal Composing in Classrooms: Learning and Teaching for the Digital World” (April, 2012, Routledge) is co-edited by Suzanne M. Miller and Mary B. McVee of the Graduate School of Education. It features case studies from classrooms of all grade levels that serve as exemplary illustrations of how to reach and teach students in a digital world.
“In the digital world, we rarely read and write print text alone,” says Miller, “so allowing students to learn by writing with video, for instance, opens classrooms up to compelling social, cultural, political and civic digital practices.”
Miller, associate professor of learning and instruction, is founding director of the City Voices, City Visions (CVCV) project, which sponsors an annual student film festival screening digital videos.
Contributors to the book include current UB colleagues and former doctoral students now teaching at other institutions. Some of the case studies of successful integration of digital technologies in schools come from CVCV high school classrooms and others from elementary and teacher education classrooms.
The book highlights six “action principles” for using digital technologies to support students’ learning and encourages readers to go beyond the specific cases to discuss practical challenges and dilemmas raised by new literacy studies.
“Historically, issues in multimodality, new literacies and multi-literacies primarily have been addressed theoretically in an attempt to promote a shift in educators’ thinking about what constitutes literacy teaching and learning in a world no longer bounded by print text only,” says Miller.
“While theoretical study is necessary and beneficial,” she says, “this book advances discussion to the realm of application and practice.”
“We were committed to authentic explorations of learning and teaching in a digital world,” adds McVee, associate professor of learning and instruction, noting that the book contributes the voices of teachers and students who are exploring real consequences of digital teaching and learning—real people in real classrooms.
A recent review of the book in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education concluded that it “provides hope, encouragement and honest reflection, supporting other educators to embody multimodal design pedagogies and to embrace the learning of ‘new literacies’ in ‘new times.’”
Miller’s City Voices, City Visions project attracted national attention when it was founded 11 years ago, a time when video production was just starting to be accepted as a basic educational tool by the academic culture.
Through CVCV, Miller, a former high school English teacher, showed students from the Buffalo Public Schools how to compose their own digital videos as part of their classroom work. This was several years before YouTube inspired legions of video authors and made the process part of mainstream culture.
McVee and colleagues working through the Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction, which McVee directs, also have come to national prominence for developing innovative digital literacy practices for use in teacher education, including most recently work on a reflective video pedagogy.