Rethinking Multiliteracies

I’m about to start again my multiliteracies course but I’ve been giving it a major re-think in light of some of the awakenings many of my colleagues and I have undergone this past year.  One of these has been the awakening prompted by Nicholas Carr and his suggestion that Google is making us stupid, explained more thoroughly in his book The Shallows.  Another influential book making people think through critical multiliteracies is Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble. Yet another awakening has been the re-envisaging of learning environments around networks that has been developed over the past three years by educators participating in and reflecting on MOOCs.  A MOOC that is going on right now is called EpCoP MOOC, a study of e-portfolios, which is yet another topic gaining increasing acceptance lately, and which I’ve already started incorporating more overtly in my multiliteracies courses, as Me-Portfolios.

The Shallows

On August 5, 2011, the NPR On the Media program hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield recorded a live event on the question of whether the internet will deliver us or destroy us: .  The second segment of that event starts out with a cute song that I spliced out of the mp3 file I downloaded from that URL.  Maybe this piece can create a light mood for my newly conceived multiliteracies course:

However, on to meatier matters. Earlier in the show Brooke and Bob had been holding a debate, the kind where each debator is assigned one side of the argument (and then later in the program they reverse roles, so in these segments they are each acting their assigned parts, sometimes with exagerated sarcasm). Bob brings up Nicholas Carr as indicative of the Internet’s tendency to send us off into shallow multitasking directions seemingly at once, to the point where we lose our very ability to think as deeply and reflectively as our counterparts in previous literary eras. 

Brook Gladstone solicits Kate Hayles to speak about hyper-attention where people, especially young ones, are adapting to the presence of so many stimuli in their media environment ( I alluded to this in my blog post entitled the Narrows and the Shallows: (the narrows is what David Weinberger says we risk if we do not expose ourselves to information proliferating on the Internet).

Yes, it goes without saying that our brains change with every new learning experience, but Brook’s conclusion also is similar to mine, which is that these changes are developing what we already are, not making new humans out of us: “I’m just suggesting that this new technology just makes us more of who we already are. If we’re lazy, well, then we have all these opportunities to steal and cut and paste, and if we’re hedgehogs, we can just burrow, burrow deep without end.” Television didn’t make a generation of kids lazy, it simply gave lazy kids an opportunity and a means to escape what they were trying to avoid, while people like Clay Shirkey did not succumb totally to the lure of Gilligan’s Island, but obviousy found time to develop themselves in ways that would express the full potential of what they in fact were. In Shirkey’s case, judging from his writings, the Internet was a critical tool in that development.

Here’s the complete transcript of this segment on Personal Impact of the Internet: 

and the audio relevant to this discussion:

Here are the other two transcripts from this broad/podcast episode:


The Filter Bubble

Brooke Gladstone sums the Filter Bubble up nicely at the start of her interview with Eli Pariser here:

“Does the Internet cocoon us with likeminded people or do the hours we spend online expose us to more points of view? In his new book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, author Eli Pariser contends that the Internet is actually forcing us into echo chambers, that it looks at our Google searches, our emails, our Facebook posts, studies the links that we click on and decides what we want to know.”

This is another train of thought that would be fun to develop and keep in mind as we progress through the four weeks of this TESOL PP107 Multiliteracies course.



The first MOOC that called itself a MOOC took place in 2008, and since then there have been a dozen or more. Participants in the recent EduMOOC started developing a wiki page on the topic, which you can find if you search on the expansion of the acronym, Massive Open Online Course  

It’s rare that I can find time to participate fully in MOOCs but the whole point of MOOCs is that you learn as much as you like of something in your own time and at your own pace by taking advantage of an opportunity to learn not only acknowledged experts in the field but from hundreds and thousands of other expert peers like yourself. My participation in EduMOOC resulted in a paper in the form of a Google Doc, which I presented in PowerPoint format in August 2011 first at the University of Oregon and then at the Moodle Moot Virtual Conference online event organized by Nellie Deutsch. These left the following artifacts available online:

As relates to the multiliteracies course, I explain in these links how I have been organizing my course along MOOC precepts almost from its inception in 2004. Accordingly I have decided to break the upcoming iteration of the course along the lines of the subject headings of one of Dave Cormier’s three excellent videos on MOOCs, “Success in a MOOC” (all three videos can be linked from Leigh Blackall’s page:  

Dave says that success in a MOOC involves 5 phases:

  1. Orient
  2. Declare
  3. Network
  4. Cluster
  5. Focus

It seems appropriate to make the first four phases the topics for the four weeks of the TESOL PP107 multiliteracies course.  The last phase, forcusing, can be a follow-up activity that should follow logically if the course is successful.  In the EVO rendition of the course, it will be the topic for the 5th week, as outlined at



Another thread that will run through the course is the Me-Porfolio aspect. This section pretty much replicates what I said about Me-Portfolios in the Google Doc referenced above. First of all, I need to make clear why I evaluate participants (pass or did not try) on their Me-Portfolios.

I have started referring to these sets of linked artifacts as “Me-Porfolios” to draw attention to their constructivist / connectivist nature. User choice in material to be covered makes it logical to encourage participants to adopt Me-Porfolios in
  1. specifying their own course objectives and outcomes as they orient in the course; 
  2. presenting their individually tailored plan of achieving those objectives, and; 
  3. documenting their accomplishments through an online portfolio linking to deliverables prepared in showcasing those outcomes.

As per the most recent rendition of the multiliteracies course: 
Some references:

  • Videos and articles on e-portfolios from EpCoP MOOC:
  • K12 Online Conference 2009 | Googlios: A 21st – Century Approach to Teaching, Learning, & Assessment: Abstract: “This presentation sheds light on a model that demonstrates relationships between emerging tools and learning theories and between Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), and ePortfolios. By using Google Sites as a main dashboard that “mashes up” multiple Google Apps like Blogger, Youtube, Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Docs, and iGoogle into an ePortfolio, students can build and organize their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) simultaneously with “building bridges” through their Personal Learning Network (PLN)–all while supporting e-portfolio authentic assessment.”
  • Graham Attwell, E-portfolio Development and Implementation,
  • Dr. Helen Barrett, Electronic Portfolios and Digital Storytelling for lifelong and life wide learning, Dr. Barrett’s work has considerable depth; consider:
    • An excellent interview with Robert Squires June 18, 2010, on Instructional Design Live:
      • Here she says that ePortfolios should have the characteristics of ownership, purpose, and process
      • In other words, ePortfolios are property of the creator, done authentically, and never completed, something students will want to maintain intrinsically
    • Other of Dr. Barrett’s links:
  • Two articles by Trent Batson,
    • – “The learning management system may seem like the quintessential academic technology application, but instead the ePortfolio is. Both will be transformed by the distributed nature of the Web (data and functionality residing in multiple places), but the learning management system will start to lose its identity as a unified system when it is distributed to operating system functions or Web functions, while ePortfolios will retain their identity even when distributed because ePortfolio is glued together and its development guided by learning theory. … ePortfolio is the learning technology of this age.”
    • Particularly points 7-10 in “Ten Rules of Teaching in this Century
      1. Re-examine and adopt the move from teaching to learning 
      2. Re-visit the accountability measures on your campus 
      3. Make a corollary change in assessment 
      4. Insist on teaching only in technology-enabled classrooms
      5. Make sure your students have technology management tools of their own 
      6. Insist on faculty having management tools for their own professional development 
      7. Do not discard the lecture or class discussion approach when appropriate, but use it primarily for the purpose of helping students address the essential problems of the course: Use lectures and discussions to help students to make progress in their projects and therefore to build their course portfolios.
      8. Make sure your students have a digital repository of some sort–a portfolio system, a wiki, a blog, a Web page builder, a place to store and manage the evidence of their active learning.
      9. Require your students to interpret their collected online evidence at regular intervals and, finally, in capstone Web presentations. 
      10. Make the collection of evidence the primary work of the course. In other words, students should be graded largely or entirely on their final portfolio for the course. In a learning-centered course, the portfolio is the sine qua non.
These suggestions require that educators become aware of the paradigm shifts required of them and of knowledge workers in general as we all adapt to the 21st century in which we find ourselves. I count ten such shifts in my article:

Stevens, Vance. (2010). Shifting sands, shifting paradigms: Challenges to developing 21st century learning skills in the United Arab Emirates. Chapter 20 in Egbert, J. (2010). CALL in Limited Technology Contexts, CALICO Monograph Series, Volume 9. pp.227-239. My last draft version of this article can be found online here:
Accordingly, I made e-portfolios a part of my course for the first time as a stated assessment tool the last time I taught the PPOT course in September 2010.
When I tried this on students initially, they were hesitant and confused over what was expected of them when I asked them to create e-portfolios.  It was anything but straightforward to convey to them that these portfolios are not for me, they are for them.  It’s a break from tradition for a teacher to say, ‘I’m not really evaluating you on this, you are evaluating yourself, I’m only insisting that you go through this process.’  Accordingly I was constantly fending questions that were variations on ‘what does the teacher want this to look like?’
Eventually in this last course I decided to model what an e-portfolio might look like by creating a portal that would link to participant work on their e-portfolios. This portfolio of portfolios modeled one possibility for them and helped us to identify successful examples of e-portfolios as theirs became all linked in one place here: 
Readers of this article who feel they’d like to get in there and experience a MOOC while exploring the relationship of e-portfolios to MOOCs, can avail themselves now of an opportunity of prime relevance to this topic, EpCoP, an e-Portfolio and Communities of Practice MOOC, is running through August and September this year 2011.  This MOOC is a ‘lite’ version, with only a few hundred participants enrolled so far, but it’s been gaining traction.

The EpCoP MOOC course is proceeding through 7 levels:

  1. Establish an understanding of e-portfolios 
  2. Decide on a purpose of your e-portfolio:
  3. Find a space for your e-portfolio 
  4. Gather evidence of your learning at your e-portfolio  (from Sept 1, 2011) 
  5. Determine how you will engage in reflective practice 
  6. Decide on who to share your e-portfolio with and refine your collections
  7. Reflect on and evaluate your e-portfolio 


EpCoP MOOC is taking place in these spaces:

Visit EpCoP MOOC


A course syllabus emerges

The course as it has evolved so far has patterned itself first on Stuart Selber’s triparite breakdown of the topic of multiliteracies (, and more recently on Mark Pegrum’s five lenses through which to view digital technologies ( It is still useful to view our current course content through the warp and woof of these threads while incoporating the new directions that a study of a topic whose nature changes with each new development must obviously take.

This table encapsulates the past course frameworks:

Selber’s aspects of multiliteracies:

  1. funtional
  2. critical
  3. rhetorical
Pegrum’s five lenses:

  1. technological
  2. pedagogical
  3. social
  4. sociopolitical
  5. ecological


Week 1 – In the orient phase we introduce some literature on MOOCs and e-Portfolios and have participants find or designate a space where they will anchor their Me-Portfolios for this short course

I’ll set up crowdsource spaces where participants can suggest tools useful for the course.  These tools include

  • Blogs 
    • Blogger with tabs, especially conducive to portfolio approach
    • Posterous is becoming one of my favorite blogspaces, so media friendly, and conducive to group work
    • WordPress is the choice of many
  • Wikis
    • My favorite is PBWorks
    • which I prefer over WikiSpaces
    • GoogleDocs is an excellent wiki for collaboration
    • Etherpad clones are great for classwork

EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 6 01:00 GMT 

Learning2gether event – Sunday September 11, 2011
Vance Stevens has made changes to the TESOL PP107 Multiliteracies course at that he and colleagues have developed over the last several years, based on their experience and what has been learned from facilitating about a dozen iterations of the course.  In particular the course is more overtly rooted in the MOOC paradigm (where MOOC stands for miniscule open online course) with distinctly connectivist attitudes.  Assessment is done by what I call Me-Portfolios.  Accordingly we will try to make the course weave itself to some extent with what is happening the the EpCoP MOOC (the E-portfolios CoP MOOC running through September). I look forward to discussing the rationale for the course with participants or with anyone interested.  The event takes place at 13:00 GMT in Blackboard Collaborate (Elluminate)


Week 2 – By now we suggest that students declare their interest and intentions in the course through their Me-Portfolios.  This declaration should include a statement of what they expect to learn or gain from the course and a statement of how each anticipates accomplishing the stated goal.

Digital storytelling and relevant Web 2.0 tools can start to be introduced here. Participants are likely to already have their favorites, so again a crowdsourced document will be useful:

    EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 13 01:00 GMT 

    Learning2gether event – Sunday September 18, 2011
    This week we join in progress SLanguages 2011 – 16-18 September 2011 
    Website or Map:
    Organized By: Heike Philp aka Gwen Gwasi on EduNation and AVALON Learning Islands

    Week 3 – In the network phase, participants find each other’s Me-Portfolios and make comments.  Their own posts should be documenting how they are achieving the objectives they declared in Week 2.

    Tools that will assist here are feed readers and social bookmarking sites.

    • Social bookmarking
      • Delicious and Diigo
      • How to use both at once
    • Feed reading
      • Google Reader (everyone should set up their own)
      • Other uses of RSS
        • Pageflakes, Netvibes, and similar
        • I’ll think of more
      • Tags
        • Tag games
        • Spezify, Addictomatic, and similar

    EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 20 01:00 GMT 

    Learning2gether event – Sunday September 25, 2011

    In the second of  the new embedded series organised by Dennis “Osnacantab” Newson: Webheads in Second Life, Jeff Lebow will run an informal workshop on filming/recording in Second Life demonstrating the online program screencast-o-matic  he used for recording Graham Stanley’s recent inworld talk.. The event takes place at 13.00 GMT at Webheads H.Q. EduNation, Second Life,

    Week 4 – At the cluster stage the Me-Portfolios are getting fleshed out with artifacts documenting how knowledge is being created and developed. At the end of the week participants will be expected to present their portfolios at a synchronous online event or leave a recorded screencast of their presentation embedded in their portfolio, or both.  

    Tools needed will be those relevant to this goal.

    • Synchronous presentation tools
      • Elluminate
      • WiZiQ
      • Big Marker
      • Big Blue Button
    • Screencasting tools
      • Jing
      • Camstudio
      • uTiPu

      EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 6 01:00 GMT 


      Learning2gether event – Sunday October 2, 2011, 12:00 to 15:00 GMT

      This is graduation day for this round of TESOL Principles and Practices of Online Teaching courses. Participants in PP107 are invited to show and discuss the portfolios they created for the course.

      Twitter comments

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        About Vance Stevens
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        4 Responses to Rethinking Multiliteracies

        1. Anonymous says:

          Happy to have advance heads up on next evomlit and figured you’d be taking even more of a turn to the mooc. Unfortunately, the google docs link to the written version of your me-learning presentation won’t share with my google account. Did you see this?

        2. Anonymous says:

          Ditto the presentation on SlideShare

        3. Anonymous says:

          Hi Vanessa, thanks as always for your thoughts.This seems to be key to the Wired Campus article: "The game-changing idea here is that when we have assessment right, we should not care how a student achieves learning." Exactly. I mention as much in my Google Doc. Speaking of which, when you say it won’t share, do you mean you can’t read it at all? When you say ditto on the slideshare at, what do you mean, ditto what? Can’t see it? Let me know privately or post here, thanks.

        4. Pingback: Learning2gether – Vance Stevens discusses changes to TESOL PP107 Multiliteracies | Learning2gether

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