My Research - Action Research 2008/9

Knowledge sharing, knowledge building: Using social networking to develop critical literacy and to encourage creativity

What I was trying to find out?

This research investigated ways in which curriculum teachers including English and literacy educators might benefit from examining popular digital culture, and the ways in which young people make use of it, to improve the teaching of print and multimodal forms of literacy. This research asked the following questions:
• What kinds of literacy and learning practices are adolescents involved in as they interact in online social networks; how do they make sense of them, and how are they affected by them?
• What do online social networks and adolescents’ engagement with them have to teach us about how to teach both print and multimodal texts and literacies, and to update and strengthen literacy curriculum?
• What kinds of approaches, models and resources are needed to support teachers in the development and implementation of ICT-based curriculum that addresses multimodal forms of literacy?


Aim 1:To make teaching and learning more relevant to students’ lifeworlds by moving aspects of curriculum online.
This aim was achieved through building online environments such as blogs and nings for publishing student work. Building scaffolding and support to allow students to share ideas about their learning by designing online environments where learning moved in a range of directions and provided a more open ended curriculum environment closer to students’ lifeworlds. I used open ended activities where student themes and topics were negotiated and learning occured using a wide range of internet resources, support forums and video tutorials to provide greater flexibility in the learning process.

Aim 2:To help students connect meaning, interpret and interrogate the large bank of multimedia, complex visual imagery, music, sound and virtual worlds that may surround them in their daily lives.
This aim was achieved through designing curriculum that involved a wider range of multimedia resources. Giving students opportunities to produce their own multimedia and publish their work online while requiring students to provide constructive feedback for each other throughout the learning process.

Aim 3:To build structures into the curriculum that encouraged creativity which helped students become responsible for their own learning while becoming more socially aware of the world around them.
This aim was achieved through designing student online forums where students learnt from each other 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Giving students an environment where they can produce their own resources available where and students started their own forums on their own topics produced opportunities for students to take responsibility and share learning while becoming socially aware of others.
Making connections to other students around the world through global blogging helped students become more globally and socially aware. Ensuring support was given to students while building social online environments where students interacted and learnt from each other helped build critical literacy and encouraged creativity.

Using the internet gave students the resources to focus in depth on the themes and topics that interested them in their lifeworld. It also opened up the opportunity to grow socially within their interest areas as they became more aware of the world around them at a click of a button. As they became more socially aware they also needed to become more critically aware. Using blogs, wikis and nings opened up online social environments for them to explore in the classroom.

Documenting their progression to learn as students became more critically aware of themselves and those around them allowed analysis of this area. Students were involved in suggesting and developing the scaffolding needed to achieve the desired results - ie assessment plans, reviews and timelines - hence building a structure that others can follow. Incorporating student selected topics, using web 2.0 resources and developing projects that became more open ended resulted in students being actively involved in a wide range of activities, hence the development of good scaffolding was an important part of the action research cycle.

Data Collection

Data collected to achieve these aims involved two of my secondary school classes:

  1. Group B - year 7 class:
Data collection involved collection of data from our class Year 7 ning created at Students had access to create their own forums and each had their own “My Page” that they developed. Data collection included student work that was uploaded and posted to the site, peer reviews on this site as well as students comments and discussions. Students used this ning to publish and discuss their podcasting with a web 2 resource called a VOKI at and produced a multimedia photojourney outlined at
  1. Group A - Level C Multimedia class:
Data collection involved collection of student data from our class blog at and class ning at . Data included student online published work, student comments from peers and online interaction between students. Students made online connections with other students from around the world to experience a wider understanding of audience and social awareness within the classblogmeister educational community. Students produced a multimedia production of their choice to publish online and share with year 7 students. They produced something that year 7 students learnt from. Their audience were other students – an open ended and student directed learning activity.
Other data that was collected from these classes included the taking of field notes during class discussion and observations of individual students. Detailed descriptions of student reactions to each other as the project progressed were also taken. Class brainstorms were documented using inspiration software and a wide range of informal discussions were documented through note taking.
Analysis involved using units of data as suggested by Bogdan (2003) and coding categories of data where all units were marked with the appropriate coding category numbers hence scrutinizing sentences carefully was necessary. Decisions were made as to when one unit ends and the other begins - some units of data had more than one coding number.

Bogdan, R. 2003. Qualitative research for education : an introduction to theory and methods (4th ed ed.). Boston, MA :, Allyn and Bacon.

Resources I have made

Scaffolding for the classroom - 3, 2, 1 Peer Review and Student Reflection handouts

My Paper - Masters of Education in Language and Literacy

Chapter 1 - An introduction to the research
Chapter 2 - Review of the literature
Chapter 3 - Methodology
Chapter 4 - Data Collection and Analysis
Chapter 5 Findings
Chapter 6 Discussion and Final Comments

References from this paper