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Exploring New Literacies in a Teacher Education Course: Developing Conceptions and Instructional Approaches. Cheryl Rosaen, Michigan State University Marj Terpstra, Calvin College MSU Literacy Achievement Research Center.

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Exploring New Literacies in a Teacher Education Course: Developing Conceptions and Instructional Approaches

Cheryl Rosaen,

Michigan State University

Marj Terpstra,

Calvin College

MSU Literacy Achievement Research Center

Presentation at theannual meeting of the Literacy Research Association, December, 2010


This study examined 25 teacher candidates’ written work produced during an Exploring New Literacies Project.  Candidates learned about new literacies through course readings and their own research, employed a new technology in teaching colleagues about a new literacy, recorded notes on their learning, created and updated concept maps representing their effective literacy instruction ideas, wrote a final reflection on their learning, and constructed a new literacies lesson plan. The analysis revealed that students developed a more comprehensive view of new literacies, but did not fully employ these understandings in their instructional planning. Implications for further course project development and further research questions are identified and discussed.


Purpose: Share our practices and challenges in preparing teacher candidates for teaching and learning with new literacies


We hope to stimulate dialogue among teacher educators around pedagogical challenges and promising approaches.

challenge 1 new literacies require new approaches to k 12 teaching and learning
Challenge #1: New Literacies Require New Approaches to K-12 Teaching and Learning









teachers need to
Teachers need to…
  • go beyond teaching students to engage in traditional practices of reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing
  • recognize the social, situated nature of multiple literacies both in and out of school
  • use technologies to create multi-modal social environments for inquiry and communication


challenge 2 new literacies require new approaches to teacher preparation
Challenge #2: New Literacies Require New Approaches to Teacher Preparation
  • Teacher candidates must learn to…
    • help K-12 students develop the required literacies for using both existing and future digital and print media
    • engage K-12 students in meaningful literacy practices in a variety of social contexts
connecting past with present experiences
Connecting Past with Present Experiences
  • Teacher candidates may view the texts and genres they read/wrote about in school as disconnected from the multi-modal or hybrid texts they are reading and writing in out-of-school contexts


our pedagogical challenge
Our Pedagogical Challenge
  • Teacher candidates see few models of classroom uses of today’s new literacies
  • How can we help them learn to design instruction that engages their own students in reading and writing multi-modal or hybrid texts?
  • How can tools such as podcasting, digital storytelling, or online social networks become a part of authentic learning in their language arts curriculum?



Goal 1:expand teacher candidates’ conception of literacy and prompt reflection on their learning

  • Goal 2:develop teacher candidates’ digital literacy and prompt reflection on their learning
  • Goal 3: stimulate teacher candidates’ thinking about how they might use their insights to teach new literacies (including digital literacy) in their own K-5 classroom

The New Literacies Project



Take digital natives quiz

  • Use wiki to explore new literacies
  • Post an interesting definition of literacy on wiki

Explore one new literacy

  • Use a new technology to teach colleagues about your new literacy and post on wiki
  • Blog: take notes on your learning

New Literacy Choices











Blog: What does it mean to provide “effective literacy instruction” to diverse learners and how do the new literacy and new technology you explored inform your thinking?

  • Blog: Develop a lesson plan that helps students at your grade level learn something new that would help them be successful in using the new technology to teach their peers about a new literacy.

Virtual Class

• View colleagues’ products

• Evaluate and provide written feedback to one colleague

• Respond to one colleague’s blog




Environmental Literacy






Teacher Educators

  • How did our conception of literacy change over time?
  • How did changes in our conception influence how the New Literacies Project was designed and supported?

Teacher Candidates

  • To what extent and how did teacher candidates’ conception of literacy change during the semester?
  • To what extent and how were they able to apply their new ideas about literacy to lesson planning?


“…self-study is about the learning from experience that is embedded within teachers creating new experiences for themselves and those whom they teach” (Russell, 1998, pp. 5-6)


2 Teacher Educators

Instructor, senior-level literacy methods course

Technology Support Educator

2 Cohorts of Elementary Teacher Candidates (n=51)

46 females

5 males

data collection and analysis
Data Collection and Analysis

Concept Maps (3 per student):

  • shape
  • depth of details
  • levels of connection among concepts
  • new literacies conceptualization and integration
  • technology conceptualization and integration

Written work of 2 blog groups per cohort (n=12)

  • changes in thinking about literacies
  • interaction among blog participants

Virtual Class blog reflections and lesson plans (n=51)

  • focus area for plans
  • presence/absence of integration

Instructor lesson plans, project descriptions, record of correspondence

  • changes in thinking about literacies
  • changes in content and structure of project over time
understanding and teaching new literacies
Understanding and Teaching New Literacies

Most teacher candidates reported a broadened conception of literacy

My conceptual understanding of literacy has changed since the beginning of this class. During one of the first days of classes I made a literacy concept map which basically was confined to the areas of traditional language arts instruction. For instance, I thought literacy primarily was composed of the learning of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

During the middle portion of this course we were asked to define literacy and post it on our class wiki. At this time my understanding of literacy had changed to include critical thinking and new literacies like: cultural literacy, numeracy literacy, digital information media literacy, environmental literacy, social literacy, political literacy, visual literacy, and emotional literacy.

As I reflect now, I think that literacy incorporates all of this and so much more.This became clear to me when using my new technology, scrap blogging. This is because it made me realize our world is ever changing and that there are always new mediums and topics to learn and become literate in. It is our jobs as teachers to filter through all this new material and find out what is going to impact our students’ future the most and what knowledge they need to function as a successful member in society (and the world). (Marcy, Blog Entry, March 23)

understanding and teaching new literacies1
Understanding and Teaching New Literacies

Although most candidates could talk about what K-6 students would need to know and be able to do, less than half developed lesson plans that integrated new literacies with the new technology

integrated lesson plans
Integrated Lesson Plans


  • explaining emotional literacy using LetterPop
  • using a scrapblog to discuss characters’ emotions in The Little Red Hen
  • creating a short movie to represent ideas about visual literacy
  • using a scrapblog to teach another student about their culture
  • creating a collage about recycling using images from magazines and the computer

included experiences that were similar to the tasks teacher candidates completed during TheNew Literacies Project.

 supported K-6 students in learning about a new literacy while they also learned to use a new technology to share their learning.

changes in teacher educators thinking and lesson planning


specificity and support in the project improved as we clarified our own thinking about new literacies and the goals for the project

findings inform our future plans
Findings Inform our Future Plans
  • The set of experiences was powerful enough to help teacher candidates expand their conceptions of literacy and talk broadly about implications for classroom teaching and learning
  • They could select a starting point for planning by either focusing on a new technology or a new literacy (with plans to follow up in the other area), or integrate the two
  • Candidates appreciated the ‘learning by doing’ approach to the project
the journey continues
The Journey Continues…
  • Make the goals for the project more explicit
  • Emphasize that candidates will explore two new literacies
    • digital literacy is required
    • another literacy is identified by choice
  • Provide resources for exploring integrated lessons
    • video examples
    • articles describing integrated practices
    • sample lesson plan
  • Be more explicit about the purpose of our modeling the use of digital literacies (wiki, blog) in the course
  • Ask candidates to reflect on their use of these Web 2.0 media
  • Promote more social interaction about how candidates’ thinking is changing throughout the project
  • Include both digital literacies and other new literacies in all blog prompts
future research directions
Future Research Directions
  • To what extent and how do new teachers integrate new literacies into their teaching?
  • How do they navigate planning for more traditional literacies with broader goals for incorporating new literacies into their instruction?
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  • Bomer, R., Zoch, M. P., David, A. D., & Ok, H. (2010). New literacies in the material world. Language Arts, 88(1), 9 – 20.
  • Cazden, C., Cope, B., Fairclough, N., Gee, J., Kalantzis, M., Kress, G. . . . Nakata, M. (1996). A pedagogy of multi-literacies: Designing social features. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.
  • Coiro, J., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D. J. (Eds.) (2008). Handboook of research on new literacies. New York: Routledge.
  • Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (Eds.). (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures. New York, NY: Routledge. 
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