I (Cathy) was recently asked to give a storytelling workshop for a third year Early Childhood Education Class. The professor felt the experience might broaden her students’ concept of literacy. As a practitioner of multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996) I felt compelled to blend “old world literacy” which in this case would be storytelling (it is the oldest form of entertainment for our species), and new world literacy, which in this case was an online interactive learning system called Today’s Class. (I have mentioned Today’s Class in an earlier post. Today you get to hear how I put it into practice).
Initially, the students (a broad range of ethnicities, ages, and English language proficiencies) shared they had never previously experienced storytelling. They had been read to and assumed this was the same thing. Most admitted they had never heard of Todays’ Class either, but were game to give it try. I warmed them up by delivering an old folktale (old world style, just me, them and their imaginations) which blew them away. “I could see the story!”, and “I was captivated” were some of the responses. The class was then arranged into small groups of three, each group having a lap top with access to the internet. Each group was “invited” into the Today’s Class site and asked to give their group a “nick name”. On the large screen at the front of the room, I posted questions about the storytelling experience for them to consider. After some deliberation, the groups posted their responses, using only their nick names for identification. I was intrigued by their reactions as the team responses popped up on the screen. They were highly engaged. I could have heard a pin drop they were so intent on reading the other groups’ answers. When I used to do this kind of activity, the groups used chart paper and markers to record their answers and these were posted around the room. I usually read out the answers because the printing was often not legible across the room. Also, I often filtered what I read aloud, instantly deciding what the key points were and only sharing those. However, with the big screen, it became each students’ responsibility to do the reading and the filtering. The accountability and engagement levels were higher.
As we moved through the workshop, experiencing different forms of storytelling, the groups returned to conferencing at their computers, analyzing the responses and discussing the salient points. Both my students and myself were delighted with the results. Storytelling and technology were a perfect fit. The students left with a much deeper understanding of an ancient literacy form, many vowing to use it in their child care centers, but also left with a much broader view of the usefulness of modern literacies. Old and new world do blend. I couldn’t help but wonder how Aesop might have felt about Today’s Meet. I think he would have liked it.
New London Group. (1996) A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review,1, 60-89.