Breen (1986) has called our attention, to the fact that in order to better understand the relationship between classroom input and learning outcomes,
“Or to explain possible relationships between strategic behaviour and language learning, then we need to locate these relationships socially.”
Classrooms, which may be producers of scientific thought, do not proceed in vacuums. Above all, they represent atmospheres which are socially conditioned.
According to Thelen (1981) there exist three types of knowledge which are utilized in any classroom. They are used whether one knows it or not. They are:
“knowledge of self; knowledge of the society in which on participates (i.e. the classroom group); and artifacts.”
Parson (1964) says culture is transmitted, learned and shared (1964: 15); Hall (1976) also considers three characteristics which are fundamental in culture: “it is not innate, but learned: the various facets of culture are inter-related- you touch a culture in one place and everything else is affected it is shared and in effect defines the boundaries of different groups.” (Hall 1976:16)
Culture thus becomes the product of and a determinant of the systems of social interaction (Parsons 1964:15). Parsons also discusses how patterns emerge in one particular social system, which in turn become interdependent with others (1964:15). This concept of patterns is also exploited by Berger & Luckman (1984), in relation to the relation to the reality of everyday life. According to Berger & Luckmann (1984:35), the reality of everyday life appears already objects to the individual, i.e. the order of objects before the appearance of the individual.
In a sense, we come full circle if we now consider Gellner’s view of structures and cultures (1964:153-155). He holds that in modern societies “culture does not so much underline structure: rather it replaces it” (1964:155). This replacement of structure in relation to “small, simple, ‘primitive’ societies, everybody knows the identity and therefore the role of the other members. Bourdieu (1981) stresses this issue by saying;
“culture is not merely a common code or even a common catalogue of answers to recurring problems: it is a common set of previously assimilated master patterns (…).”
Thus, culture becomes that which is fundamental to co-operation and communication among the members of a group – namely, as Stenhouse (1967) phrases it – “recognition and anticipation of the thoughts and action of others” (Stenhouse 1967:14)
If we perceive culture as something which is learnt, assimilated and inherited by the next generation, it forwards that learning is an individual process as one learns for him/herself. At the same time, culture is a shared phenomenon. Culture, therefore, is a phenomenon which is both individually learned and shared. Stenhouse points out that culture is both individual and social phenomenon.
Yet one must be wary – for although culture is intrinsically part of reality, Bourdieu (1981) points out, quoting Kurt Lewin that:
“Experiments dealing with memory and group pressure on the individual show that what exists as “reality” for the individual is, to a high degree, determined by what is socially accepted as reality … “Reality” therefore, is not an absolute. It differs with the group to which the individual belongs.”
Thelen (1981) notes:
All classrooms develop their own culture in the form of a set of expectations which become sufficiently well habituated that people can see how to relate to and communicate with each other. (Thelen 1981:134)
These expectations are perceived much in the same manner by Stenhouse (1967):
(…) the teacher generates in his class common understandings which link mind with mind. (…) the class has a culture (…) of its own. It has shared values, information, techniques, interpretations and meanings.
Therefore, it is my contention that culture cannot be regarded as a fixed, immobile reality. It is dynamic in the sense that it is a phenomenon which is alive and changing. But although change occurs, that does not imply that a culture is altered: any culture will hold elements of changing factors which will in turn be perceived as recurring patterns to the members of the group, thus keeping the group together.
So how can digital storytelling alter a classroom culture – if there is any change indeed? And if there is a change in roles, won’t a specific culture be altered?
I have claimed before (in this blog) that it is not the tool itself that is relevant – it is how the use digital literacies alter learning processes, roles in classrooms and classroom cultures. With the final emphasis being empowering students in their learning process, learning autonomy and preparation for a future is digital.
The process took the form of a journey or exploration; from showing an image to students who then were given the power to form their own questions and answers, to setting up groups where they collaborated together through their LMS on a story, to then transferring their digital fragments to a coherent Word document in order to edit and proofread, to selecting images representing their story and creating a movie.
When discussing transmedia narratives, , Max Giovagnoli (2011) explains that:
“cross-media and transmedia, both used to identify narratives that simultaneously develop on multiple media. As always, the difference lies in the nature of stories and in the way we choose to tell them. In this sense, there are:
– narrative forms that don’t change when they are diffused on multiple platforms (for instance, a short film released in the same version at the cinema and, at the same time, on the web or during a TV show);
– narrative forms that share the same elements (plots, characters, atmospheres… ) but that change depending on the publishing platform through which they are released (for instance, the same short film might be developed as a series or as a movie for the theater; its protagonist for a comic book series, etc… ).”
“This latter way of storytelling, which is much more powerful and effective, is often identified as cross-media in some countries (for instance in Europe) still today. In others, particularly after the term has been accred- ited in the Hollywood film industry, it is known as transmedia.”
I shall refer to the process as transmedia, for students worked collaboratively through their LMS, then thru images and sound and finally through their voices. For the last stage was in fact a group performance.
Each group presented the class their movie, a stream of images representing their written work, accompanied by music which reflected their story. The audience (i.e. the other students) watched and then told the whole group how they interpreted the images and music, thus creating another story. At times there were overlaps of stories, desires, cultural references mixing and shared by the students own personal and generational culture. Afterwards, the group who had showed the movie, read their story to all.
The ritual of taking control of the teacher’s desktop to standing together in front of the class, each member of the group reading their part of the story, took the form of a flowing performance, where each member had a role, while all members of the class were equally engaged and in tune with the readers words and story.
“The four cardinal points of “doing transmedia” are:
1. Doing transmedia means to involve multiple media in a publishing project, keeping the features and the language of each one, even if they are part of a single system of integrated communication;
2. Doing transmedia means to make the project’s contents available on different technological platforms, without causing any overlaps or inter- ferences, while managing the story experienced by different audiences;
3. Doing transmedia means to allow the multiple media to tell differ- ent stories but all exploring a common theme, even if it is experienced through multiple narrative perspectives;
4. Doing transmedia means to agree to give a part of the authorship and responsibility of the tale to the audience and other storytellers in order to create a participatory and synergistic story in the experiences of the different audiences of the tale.”
Max Giovagnoli (2011)
Synergy. With the implementation of digital tools, there were shifts in power and roles. I as a teacher was put aside while students took control of what they wanted and how they wanted to express themselves. Students used current digital tools, incorporated elements of transmedia to the traditional storytelling. They were challenged and in their groups had to compromise. Collaboration and cooperation – elements important in the past and increasingly relevant today when participants are involved in online projects.
Obviously, there is an element of relativity as I had set up the task through the LMS and then added selecting images and sharing their movie with the whole class. That was the framework. A queen never abdicates in the game of chess. (see previous blog entries).
There are elements too of a hybrid practice; the whole journey was not soley digital, despite the digitalized beginning. Writing is still writing and before students eventually publish their work in their blogs, their writing needs to be edited and proofread – just as without digital technology. Hence I perceive this experience of a hybrid transmedia task, where cultural classroom practices were altered and learners given a sense of empowerment.
For as C.S.Lewis once said ” We read to know that we are not alone”.
Sharing stories consolidates participants in a culture, whether that be on a large social scale or in a classroom.
Stories are to be shared.
Stories may disrupt classroom cultures constructively.
Creative voices may bring disruption.
Voices are to be heard.
Berger, P. & T. Luckman, – 1984, The Social Construction of Reality, Penguin
Breen,M.P. –1986, “The Social Context for Language Learning – a Neglected Situation?”. In SSLA 7, pg. 135 -158
Bourdieu, P. -1981, “Systems of Education and Thought”, in Knowledg and Control, ed. Young, M, Collier Macmillan
Gellner, E. – 1964, Thought and Change, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Hall, E.T. – 1976, Beyond Culture, Anchor Books, Double-day
Max Giovagnoli & ETC Press 2011 -TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING, Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non commercial-NonDerivative 2.5 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5)
Parsons, T. – 1964, The Social System, Routledge & Kegan Paul
Stenhouse, L. – 1967, Culture and Education, Thomas Nelson & Sons
Thelen, H. A. – 1981, The Classroom Society, Croom Helm