Monday, July 20, 2009

Webzine Projects: Tapping into Technology to Promote Literacy

In a tech-savvy world, where young people demonstrate enthusiasm and facility in using technology, webzine (web-based magazine) projects are a progressive way to integrate reading, writing, and speaking skills with the internet and media literacy instruction. According to “New genres in literacy: Classroom Webzine Projects” (Eagleton and Hamilton, 2001), webzines expose students to narrative, expositive, and communicative formats; they are ideal for promoting oral literacy, print literacy, media literacy, and hypermedia literacy skills in a creative environment.
II. INCENTIVES TO EXCEL:
Eagleton and Hamilton (2001) found that writing for webzines encouraged students to produce more well-developed and polished work than they would customarily submit to a teacher. Students regarded peer observance as the primary source of motivation for this type of productive alteration. The fact that their friends and relatives might have open access to their work served as an impetus for students to devote more time, and solicit ideas and editing assistance more frequently.
III. DIFFERENTIATING STUDENT INTEREST:
Journalism projects, such as webzines, allow teachers to differentiate based on student interest (e.g. sports, fashion, and the arts) while promoting English Language Arts skills such as writing, research, critical analysis, speaking. and listening. Allowing students to choose topics that appeal to them is empowering, it enhances learning, and it helps students to see connections between school and the things they are interested in learning about (Tomlinson, 2001). Drafting “articles” for a webzine about a person they admire or hobby can excite students about the writing process in a way that traditional instruction does not. Furthermore, seeing their own names in bylines can serve as positive reinforcement for writing a piece that is published.
IV. AFTER-SCHOOL WEBZINE PROGRAMS:
Webzine assignments work inside and outside of the classroom, and make ideal foundations for after-school programs. Zine projects fit the SAFE (Sequenced, Active, Focused, and Explicit) criteria for effective after-school programs (Granger, Durlak, Yohalem, & Reisner, 2007): The processes involved are sequenced; the proposed instruction is clear; the students are actively engaged in the zine’s development; and they have a common goal on which to concentrate.
Granger et. al (2007) argued that ideal after-school programs offer academic content within a context that capitalizes on the fact that everything is actually taking place after school, thus eliminating the perception of a tedious extension to the regular school day. Creating after-school webzine projects also promote “worthy use of leisure,” one of the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education established in the early 20th century (Johnson, Musial, Hall, Gollnick & Dupuis, 2005).
While implementing an after-school webzine program is likely to require that students and instructors devote a significant amount of time and energy to the project, the rewards are clearly plentiful. Instructors will reap the satisfaction of knowing that they have contributed to a program that motivates students, and promotes achievement and self efficacy; and students will have a constructive outlet for their energy and a forum in which to showcase their intellectual and creative talents.

References:

Brown, C., Juvonen, J., Pfeifer, J. (2007). Prejudice Reduction in Schools. Social Policy
Report. 8-10.

Eagleton, M. B., Hamilton, M. D. New genres in literacy: Classroom Webzine Projects.
The New England Reading Association Journal v. 37 no. 3 (2001) p. 32-40

Granger, R., Durlak, J. A., Yohalem, N., & Reisner, E. (2007). Improving after-school program
quality. New York, NY: William T. Grant Foundation.

Johnson, J. A., Musial, D., Hall, G.E., Gollnick, D.M. & Dupuis, V.L. (2005) Foundations of
American Education. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Tomlinson, C.A.. (2001). How to Differentiae Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. 2nd ed.
Alexandria: ASCD.

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