More Updates from AILA: Notes Visual Literacy and the Digital Workplace

Here are some notes from the first keynote was from Wibke Weber, in her talk about “Fusing words and images — new forms of public storytelling.”

  • In recent years, the rise of multimedia creates a complex milieu of words and images; they must be seen as equal partners in meaning making
  • Data visualizations
    • In the past few years, these have found a home in “data journalism” — a hybrid form using images, words, and numbers to create a new cohesive form
    • For a long time, images were viewed as the “little sister” of language and the fact that images could represent ideas was largely ignored
    • However, we know that visuals have more than an illustrative function — they can help narrate and make arguments
    • The semiotic system of language appears in the form of headlines, articles, captions, but numbers and maps show visual orientation and analysis
    • With the continuing forms of data visualizations, there are many new ways to represent ideas
    • The strength of data visualizations is that they provide evidence; they explain something visible that is difficult to understand in text alone (if designed well)
    • On the other hand, visual evidence can appear misleading and can look “objective,” but this is illusive. Even though they are based on numbers and texts, they are always the artifacts of an artist and/or design team. They are open to critique of color, font, shape, and more.
    • This means that we need to look at the data source, how it was collected, how it was visualized, and more. Words tell, but pictures show. So the main function of data visualization is to show, to tell a story.
  • How do images tell stories?
    • A data visualization must have a beginning, middle, and end
    • Famous graphic from Charles Joseph Minard that depicts the devastating losses in Napoleon’s army on their march to Moscow
  • Comics
    • The use of the comic medium to cover events, even in journalism, is at an all time high. For instance, they are being used in the Guardian and NYTimes.
    • Comic journalism is not about funny pictures, it means that you are pulling on the news and using journalistic techniques and ethics
    • Like narrative journalism, comic journalism covers the public story behind the private one
    • They can represent a variety of ideas and events, for instance this one about Ebola
    • The challenge for comic journalism is that, because comics are generally seen as fiction, people may struggle to see comic journalism as “true” and authentic
    • Journalists must use verbal and visual clues to share the fact that they are a part of the work (e.g., having a picture of the journalist in the comic, or by having a historical photograph of a person with their comic representation)
    • Colors, tone, light, shape, handwriting or print — all of these devices are ways that comics can be read for authenticity. Speech bubbles versus text boxes, too. The stylistic elements corroborate the authenticity of the comic.
    • It must be clear that the journalists are telling the truth, not a fictional story. This becomes even more important when illustrating breaking news and when using virtual reality.
    • What are the authentication strategies that we can use?
  • Research/dissertation drawn as a graphic novel
    • Nick Sousanis’s “Unflattening”
    • We are often unable to see past the boundaries of our current frame of mind — we need to bring the visual into academic discourse. It allows us to step outside of our own system and to see work in relation.

She has shared a great list of resources for infographics, and I thank her for allowing me to post them here:

Tools: 

Blogs and Tutorials:

Finally, Daniel Perrin shared his thoughts on “Investigating intercultural communication in the digital workplace”

  • AL Research Frameworks
    • Beginning with a “newspaper extinction timeline” from futureexploration.net
    • How do we begin to investigate solutions in this field
    • Combining many frameworks
      • Ethnography, grounded theory, Realist-social theory, Transdiciplinary action research, Dynamic systems theory
      • Connecting to real life problems
      • Change and stability
      • Agency and structure
      • Practitioners and researchers bring in their knowledge as experts
      • Collaborate and learn from one another
      • Learn and adjust goals, methods, and findings
      • To produce new, emergent, situated knowledge
      • Focusing on what works, for whom, under which circumstances
      • Not about the grand theory, but what works in certain contexts
  • The Idee Suisse Research Project
    • Focusing on SRG public broadcasting which is caught between a public mandate and private forces while being asked to stimulate public discourse
  • Macro level findings
    • In the program mandate, SRG is supposed to promote understanding, cohesion, and exchange across the various publics
    • Intercultural communication is a part of the media company’s mandate, but they don’t have the right tools and knowledge to bring together contradictory expectations of public discourse and compete against private, entertainment programs
    • Managers talk the talk, but do not walk the walk in propositional reconstruction — “public service media are not the institutions to solve social problems.”
  • Knowledge transformation from the ground floor — it doesn’t come from management, it comes from those who are doing the work
    • Understand the macro results
    • Take a closer look at experienced practice
    • Discover emergent practices and “third ways” out of critical situations
    • Deriving and telling the good practice story
    • Formulating guidelines for knowledge transformation measures
  • Data collection and analysis
    • What are the distinctions between what happens in the newsroom, in the conferences, and what appears on screen — recording the data during the course of a year
    • This is the “mother of spyware” that we installed — so we had to plan for ethical and practical aspects, also just having people know what we were doing and why
    • How do we do all of this in a theoretically and methodologically sound manner?
  • Conclusion: from tacit to explicit
    • We had to look at the hypocrisy framework — the organization is exposed to contradictory expectations. They must response to the conflicts in order to survive.
    • We also looked at the tacit knowledge frame — looking at how individual, experienced journalists filled in the slots left open by management. They develop strategies to meet organizational and public needs.
  • Looking at a specific case
    • Thinking about the writing situation, activity, and the strategies/practices
    • A particular journalist was highly experienced and was allowed to do “forbidden things” such as closing a story with a quote. He was a counter-conventional person and had the skills to be able to pull this off.
    • He would write the text after composing the video with the editor.
    • He would also write the introduction for the anchor woman himself; this is uncommon, because the journalist normally writes the story and the anchor writes her own introduction
    • Normally, the anchor’s introduction is about selling the news piece. But, for this journalist, it is really important that the anchor provides context for the piece. He knows how to tell about complex things in a simple manner.
    • The journalist goes through a very linear writing process for the anchor’s part of the story. His own writing process is a bit more recursive, but he is able to get the info for the anchor created in a very linear manner.
  • In a more abstract format… writing strategies in a propositional format
    • To distinguish between the two stories (background and current)
    • To tell the recent story in the news text because it fits the recent pictures
    • To tell the background story because not all the audience is up-to-date
    • To tell the background story in the anchor text because there are no pictures
    • In short, there was a high degree of intercultural communication between the journalist and the anchor (different professional cultures within the organizations)
  • What are the strategies that the journalist uses across the writing process?
    • Goal setting
    • Planning
    • Controlling
    • Revising
    • Defining the task
    • Implementing the product
    • Reading sources
    • Reading the text so-far
    • Handling writing tools
    • Handling task environment
    • Handling social environment
    • Establishing relevance for the audience
    • Finding the sources
    • Holding space and time restrictions
    • Limiting the topic
    • Staging the story
    • Taking own position
    • Revisions
  • This differs from the traditional Flower and Hayes model, where a student is given a task that they are supposed to do for school
    • But, in real life, writing requires goal setting well before planning
  • The “good practice” story
    • Whereas critical situations denote exemplary constellations of circumstances which could lead to failure, good practice stands for potential success for everyone involved in creating the story.
    • Production conflicts force an emerging solution
    • Orientation to uptake to complicating action to resolution to coda
  • “what works for whom in what circumstances” (Pawson and Tilley, 1997)
  • Research-based guidelines for knowledge transformation measures
    • Fostering conditions as drivers of emergence
    • Ensure experience in teams
    • Facilitate negotiation
    • Promote variation
    • Reflect routes and develop repertoires
    • Expose to the unexpected — and remain open to it
  • Conclusion
    • Applied linguistics research shows and fosters intercultural communication on three levels
      • between societal groups of a multicultural society
      • between professional cultures within the broadcast company
      • between practitioners and researchers in trasndisciplinary collaboration
    • Linguists can identify, analyze, and solve problems related to real-life issues

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Updates from AILA Junior Researchers Meeting

This week, I have had the good fortune of presenting a keynote at the 7th Junior Researchers Meeting in Applied Linguistics, sponsored by the International Association of Applied Linguistics. I focused my keynote yesterday on both the work that I have done with my NWP colleagues to produce Assessing Students’ Digital Writing, as well as my own career trajectory as a teacher and researcher.

It has been wonderful to interact with various researchers throughout the rest of the morning, most of whom are finishing their PhDs or beginning their careers in Europe. As I listened to the variety of topics they are studying and questions that they are pursuing, I was pleased to see so many of them employing theoretical frameworks that address new literacies and methods that employ new technologies such as analysis of digitally-mediated communication — including words in English and other languages, as well as the new universal language of emojis — as well as screencasting as a tool for capturing, and then replaying and analyzing, the writing process.

Dr. Gitsaki's latest book: Recipes for the Wireless Classroom – Mobile Learning Activities
Dr. Gitsaki’s latest book: Recipes for the Wireless Classroom – Mobile Learning Activities

This morning, I was able to enjoy a keynote from Christina Gitsaki, from the Center for Educational Innovation, Zayed University, Higher Education, UAE. The focus of her presentation was on an iPad initiative that she supervised over the course of 18 months at numerous universities across the UAE. The major takeaway from her talk is one that I think we continue to grapple with throughout the world as we employ new technologies — how can we invite teachers to engage in meaningful professional development so their instructional methods change in substantive ways? That is, rather than simply introducing the iPads into the classroom and asking students to do something on screen as compared to doing it on paper, how can we instead engage them in a task that they would not otherwise be able to do without the technology? Needless to say, she shared a fast-paced talk, and here are some quick notes from her presentation.

  • MALL – Mobile-Assisted Language Learning
  • Looking at the explosion of mobile learning in 2005-201 with new technologies such as MP3s, PDAs, mobile (and then smart) phones, tablets, and laptops. This led to ubiquity, but then in 2010 the iPad brought about a revolution.
  • The UAE education system has a bilingual language policy, and students learn English for an average of 3-6 hours per week. All the courses in bachelor’s degree programs are taught in English, and about 20% of high school graduates are eligible for these programs right at graduation. The other 80% enter “foundational” courses to gain more English proficiency.
  • Gitsaki was in charge, as an associate dean, in implementing the iPad initiative. This involved 17 colleges, 22,000 students and the demand was for an entirely paperless classroom.
    • To assess this program, she conducted a variety of formative applied research methods including surveys, observations, and classroom assessment data.
  • Teachers reported that they gained confidence in using the iPads in the classrooms, managing their lessons, taking care of technical issues, and preparing materials.
    • However, they remained concerned that the iPads were really helping their students gain proficiency in English. Unfortunately, most teachers were only using the iPads for vocabulary lessons.
  • Students generally reported positive results with using the iPad, including a great deal of use in the classroom. Most of them do feel that the iPad is helping them learn more with English. In short, there is a very different picture from the students and the teachers, but this is all self reported data. Students were also using their iPads for other tasks, such as blogging.
    • So, she tried to correlate what the students said that they were doing with what the end-of-semester assessments showed, too. Students who performed at least three types of activities on the iPad in class and outside of class, did show some impact on their test scores.
  • Critical issues that we learned from the study:
    • Pedagogy — technology was dictating what the teachers were doing in the classroom, needed to help them use a “technology-enhanced,” not “technology-driven” method
      • Also, needed to teach teachers how to use the iPad in an EFL context. We need to discover and understand best practices for teaching and learning English.
    • Teaching materials — the materials created by textbook publishers were simply PDF copies; interactivity was very difficult because of having to use different annotation tools on the iPad
      • We also requested that the teachers to create their own resources, but we never really taught them how to do this; we had no expertise in teaching teachers how to create these resources
    • Assessment — current practices for evaluating the impact of tech in education needs to broaden; this does not fully measure the extent of the skills that students are learning
      • We need to find new ways to identify and measure the skills and knowledge that students are gaining from mobile tech
      • For instance, looking at a platform like Knewton for learning analytics
  • So, where does this take us as we look at mobile devices in the classroom?
    • Need a longitudinal research agenda
    • Need to rethink teaching tasks
    • Need to reconsider what it means to read and write in digital spaces
    • Need to understand how mutlti-tasking and environmental distractions can affect learning
  • Intro to the Center for Educational Innovation
    • Invitation to come to the center as a visiting researcher — travel to the UAE!

There are more sessions today and tomorrow, and I hope to find time to blog about them as well. For the moment, Gitsaki’s work remind me that we need to continue our efforts at teaching teachers how to employ digital tools and spaces in smart, critical, and creative ways. This is a challenge that I can relate to and — as is evidenced by the many other young researchers here at this conference — one that we will continue to face, and embrace, for years to come.


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