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Many digital literacy practices may be new to schools, but they are often already well established amongst young people. Multiliteracies and multimodality continue to emerge slowly in classroom practice. As a teacher/researcher, I employed action research to incorporate new digital literacies into my day-to-day teaching practice with my year 7 and year 9/10 classes at a public high school in Victoria, Australia. Students worked collaboratively, within and across year levels, to engage in multimodal design and explicitly interpret and to interrogate multimedia, complex visual imagery and virtual worlds. Throughout this research, students used pseudonyms to interact with each other through an online ‘ning’ social networking environment I established in my classroom. This online interaction included making friends, leaving comments, developing personal profiles, forming groups, using discussion forums, uploading video, publishing multimedia online and gaining feedback. Year9/10 Level C students were encouraged to bring their out-of-school digital literacies into the classroom to help them become mentors to year 7 students.
This research has shown that online social networks provided a range of opportunities for multiliteracies pedagogies and multimodal literacy practices (reading, writing and design) to be part of the day-to-day learning process, much more so than the traditional print media. Social networks also provided a new environment where learning was indirect - in such a way that students did not realise they were learning and sharing sophisticated literacy practices. I found that students possessed the imagination and creativity to combine print, visual and digital modes in combinations that can be used to build an active student-centered learning environment. Working collaboratively across age levels, provided avenues for students to use their out-of-school literacies practices inside the classroom. Learning was more student-directed than in the print-based traditional classroom. By linking students from different year levels, those with whom they otherwise would have little contact, even though each one remained anonymous, the students were encouraged to become more critically aware of those around them.