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4:2 Copyright

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Copyright is a hotly contested debate in an ever-changing digital landscape, where we celebrate the political power of practices such as the remix and appropriated images and texts. What do we tell our students to best foster creativity without breaking the law?

“Children are growing up doing what they know is “illegal”” (Remix, n.d.) and there is nothing we can do to stop them, so deeply is it engrained in their lives.  No matter what we tell them, they will still go home and remix.  What we can do as educators is make them aware of the copyright laws and the issues surrounding it, and let them make their own life choices.

So what are the copyright laws in Australia?  Basically, if you want to use something of someone else’s, you need permission.  This pretty much rules out everything apart from looking at a picture or listening to the song once you’ve bought it.  That was fine in the days before the internet and new technologies came along, but with Web 2.0 that makes this law outdated.

The law of copyright should be changing with the times and should take the flexibility of technology into account.  When society changes, the law is supposed to keep up.

Lessig (2007) argues that remix is not piracy as the whole content is not being taken, copied and redistributed, rather it is being recreated to make something else.  He argues that copyright is critical to a “healthy culture” (2008, p. xvi) but that it needs to be “balanced.”

The Creative Commons website, created by Lessig, is fantastic, and it’s both surprising and disappointing that I had never heard of it.  It offers a load of material that are free from copyright.  This website should be a commonly used resource for teachers and students.

If students are going to use a song that they have legally purchased, for example, I personally don’t have a problem with them using it in their presentation which is for private, educational use and not for sale.  The same goes for other forms of media, however I ask students to reference.  I take ideas from scholars and turn them into my own work as an academic essay, and when I do that, I reference.  Remixing is the same thing.  McIntosh (2009) did this with his Twilight and Buffy remix and I think it’s a simple and effective way of combatting copyright issues.  It’s recognising that the original content is not your own, but that you have used it to help create something new.  Like Lessig (2007) asserts, remixing is a tool of creativity and of speech, it is how “our kids” think and speak, and it should not be stifled.

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4:1 Ethics

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What kinds of ethical considerations should be a factor for students using new media?

Looking at this topic, I’m thinking it has to be complex.  It has to be more complex than the ideas that are coming to mind.  But I’ve read the articles and looked into it, and am going to risk sounding naive in this post.

I argue the ethical considerations students should adopt when using new media are basically the same as those they should currently be living by in physical life.  Cyber bullying, trolling, cyber stalking, spam, theft of identity, these things all take place in the cyber arena, but have real life equivalents and existed in the physical world first, before being adapted to new media.  Interacting in the cyber realm is an extension of real life, and a lot of the dangers teenagers face in real life can be extended into the world of the internet.  And these dangers are more severe in the physical world than they are in the cyber one, as Levinson (2009, p. 170) contends, “bullying in a schoolyard or any physical place is usually more dangerous than cyber bullying, since physical intimidation is involved and can escalate into a “beat down.””  Someone being stalked in person is more dangerous than being stalked on the internet, and can also be less evasive, although it has the possibility of becoming physical and it could be argued that the ease of internet stalking could encourage and increase numbers of real life stalkers.  However, “contrary to popular belief, the percentage of single offender crimes against girls where the offender is an adult and a stranger has declined, not increased, since 1994—concurrent with the rise of internet use” (Cassell & Cramer, 2008, p. 54).

So what are the ethical considerations involved in social media?  Don’t bully people, speak to people politely and considerately, don’t talk to strangers or accept them as ‘friends’ on social networking sites, think of possible repercussions of what kinds of photos and other media you refer to, remember that what you say can be public, and don’t give anyone your bank details or your money.

Not only students, but young people and old, need to be just as considerate and ‘street wise’ on the internet as they would in day to day life.  Bullying began long before the internet was ever even thought of, it has simply evolved and is now communicated via several media.  To combat cyber bullying we need not stop students from using the internet, just as we would not keep a student at home to prevent them from being bullied at school.  We must educate them on techniques to overcome bullying.

YouTube as a stage for bullying is a slightly different and complex issue, and one that I feel must be regulated.  Regulation of this is complicated though.  As James (2008, p. 7) argues, “how can the openness and socially positive potentials of the NDM [New Digital Media] be retained while unethical conduct is contained?”  YouTube as a stage for bullying is different because the physical bullying can still occur, for example filming a fight and posting that video, but the bullying then goes further and extends to a more emotional bullying as the video is spread and seen by a public audience.   The humiliation is deepened and the opportunity to be bullied by people who didn’t see the physical fight but the video is given to a massive amount of people.  While there is little a victim can do to prevent this, apart from perhaps reporting the video and using it as evidence to press charges, action could be taken to educate the bully on the consequences.

People should be wary on the internet, just as they are in real life and our job as educators using digital media is to make sure students know the risks and how they can best avoid becoming victims.

3:2 Community

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In what ways can online communities foster knowledge, learning, understanding and citizenship?

Could social media mean the end of Totalitarianism?  On the surface that seems a big call to make, but after researching this topic I’m feeling a huge surge of pride for my media-using peers.  Using Twitter and social networking sites to spread the ‘truth’ is the modern day version of the Resistance, and it seems a much more effective one.  If Hitler had have tried to do what he did in 2011 would he have been as successful?  Would his propaganda have been as effective?

The possibilities of social media making the world a better place to live in doesn’t end there.  I also learnt through my research the power and possibilities of social media, and how amazingly caring, compassionate and helpful people can be towards one another in times of need.

In nations where the leaders are trying to gag their citizens, Twitter and other social networking sites continue to give a voice to the mute.  When doing a search on Twitter I stumbled across this link, taking me to an article on Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to receive a Nobel laureate and who has been expelled from Iran since the uprising began in 2009.  ”If you cannot eliminate injustice, you can at least tell everyone about it!” she says.  Web 2.0 has made this simple and easily possible.  As already seen, the media-savvy generation of Insiders love sharing and are comfortable with the notion of the public as experts.  Posting photos, videos and personal anecdotes are already part of everyday life for this generation, so extending it to political views and sharing of political information seems a natural and useful extension.  ”If any question remains about the viability and value of social networking as an indomitable tool of social protest, one needs only to look to Iran… Twitter was the instant front-runner. Posting images, opposition activists shared with the world photographic evidence of bloody protests and notified each other about scheduled protests in Tehran” (Popkin, 2009).

In looking at how Twitter and social media were used to protest the presidential elections in Iran in 2009 we see how powerful the sites are.  So important was Twitter as a media tool in the uprising, the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to reschedule a network upgrade so that the protests on the presidential election could continue uninterrupted (Grossman, 2009).  Twitter seems to be the most popular site for the organisation and sharing of information on political uprisings, as it was in Iran and Egypt.

“So what exactly makes Twitter the medium of the moment? It’s free, highly mobile, very personal and very quick. It’s also built to spread, and fast…. This makes Twitter practically ideal for a mass protest movement, both very easy for the average citizen to use and very hard for any central authority to control. The same might be true of e-mail and Facebook, but those media aren’t public. They don’t broadcast, as Twitter does. On June 13, when protests started to escalate, and the Iranian government moved to suppress dissent both on- and off-line, the Twitterverse exploded with tweets from people who weren’t having it, both in English and in Farsi. While the front pages of Iranian newspapers were full of blank space where censors had whited-out news stories, Twitter was delivering information from street level, in real time….Twitter didn’t start the protests in Iran, nor did it make them possible. But there’s no question that it has emboldened the protesters, reinforced their conviction that they are not alone and engaged populations outside Iran in an emotional, immediate way that was never possible before” (Grossman, 2009).

Here we see that the immediacy and ability to broadcast to the public greatly contribute to the popularity of using Twitter to foster knowledge, learning, understanding and citizenship.  When people thought that CNN weren’t producing enough coverage on the Iran uprising, the public used Twitter to do it for them, using the hashtag #cnnfail so that people could easily search the ground level coverage (Poniewozik, 2009).  In other words, when mainstream media networks are not reporting as they should be, the public now step up to the mark and do it for them.

While Twitter seems to have been the most popular medium to spread the word, blogs, Facebook and YouTube were also used.  One blog that was preaching the cause claims “Joining a Facebook group is not as good as turning up [to a protest] by any means, but its a way of showing support and keeping in touch with the cause, and other opportunities to act in real life” (Casey, 22 July).  A Facebook group I found, Iran Solidarity, covered the uprising but also other issues in Iran, such as death by stoning.  Information, an anecdote of a woman currently on death row and ways of showing support for her and protesting the practise can be found on the group page.  A search of YouTube brings up videos of all kinds, one I found quite powerful is of a person running and carrying a camera while basijis, a kind of volunteer police squad, are shooting at civilians.  It’s made powerful by the sound of the person breathing heavily, revealing the fear s/he must have been feeling, and seeing the cameraman’s bloody hand.

Another moving video I found through a blog, is one aimed at rallying support.

This website “Track Iran Election Protests Online : Social Media & Search,” is helpful to search social media sites.  It lists social media websites, and what to type into the search engine, to help get to the more relevant information.

Closer to home, Twitter and Facebook were used by the public but also the authorities in dealing with the Queensland floods this summer (“Twitter, Facebook saviour,” 2011).  Social media in relation to natural disasters serve several purposes.  The first most immediate purpose is to spread information, similar to the political situations, what is actually happening at ground level, for example which parts were flooded in Queensland and where to avoid as well as where to go to be safe.  “The hash tag, #qldfloods, used on Twitter was spontaneously accepted as a primary source for information by public, police and emergency services” (“Twitter, Facebook saviour,” 2011).  People were spreading this information to tell loved ones they were safe, but also to warn and help other people.   Axel Bruns from the University of Queensland of Technology said social media was a “full-fledged disaster response mechanism, and probably helped to save lives (“Twitter, Facebook saviour,” 2011).”  The second purpose is to show support and offer help after the disaster has passed.  Gwyneth Howell, a communications expert, says the use of social media for dealing with natural disasters has shown a “beautiful display of humanity” and “sense of real community”  (“Facebook can help,” 2011).  In a society that is often criticised for its individualism and for having lost the sense of looking out for your neighbour, it is heart warming to know that social media can be used to bring people together, to help people and to show support.

I have personally experienced this in several ways.  When I first arrived in London and wasn’t enjoying it, I put a plea on Facebook and had several offers from friends to take me out and show me around.  I also used it to contact long lost friends before my arrival.  A friend of mine uses it as a kind of classifieds.  Her status updates on Facebook have ranged from, ‘I’m playing in a concert tonight’, to ‘I need help setting up for my wedding’, to ‘I have 5kg of onions to get rid of, if you want them come get them.’  Quite touching was the response to her need for help, with so many friends offering a hand.   Another friend is terminally ill and her Facebook wall is inundated with public messages of love and support.  Being able to reach so many people so instantly and easily is creating a real sense of togetherness and community in a way that the younger generation has not known.

A happier example of social media being used to give a sense of involvement and citizenship is Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.  They had a website giving people information and updates on the planning of the day and they broadcast the ceremony live on YouTube.

Twitter, YouTube, blogs and Facebook all allow the people to publicly tell their stories, to let truths be known, to pass on crucial information, to rally support to help a cause and to organise mass gatherings.  The sites can also be used as an alternative to mainstream media.  These sites bring people from all walks of life together, in the case of Iran, to fight a common cause and to invoke change, and in the case of the floods, to help with the clean up and bring the community together.

3:1 Identity

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How is identity constructed online?

I think this is a really interesting and complex topic and reading the few suggested articles, while giving me an insight, has also left me with a lot of questions.  As a result this post is part research, part opinion, and a lot of thinking aloud.

Creating an identity for yourself online, I think, is quite easy and fluid.  You can emphasise the traits you want people to notice and minimise or erase those you don’t.  And you can change the image you portray of yourself when you feel like it.  For example, Thomas (2004) quotes Violetta,

“i mean, i’d have whole typing styles for people. like, if i were trying to trick someone i knew into thinking i was someone else, i’d type a lot differently than i do normally.”

This examples shows that Violetta through her language portrays different versions of herself.  As Thomas explains, cybertalk “serves to empower her to thoughtfully shape the identity she reveals through text” (2004, p. 369).  So simply through the choice of words and writing styles one can change how others identify them.  Thomas (2004, p. 366) also gives the example of gender quoting Butler, “gender is not passively scripted on the body, and neither is it determined by nature, language, the symbolic, or the overwhelming history of patriarchy… Gender is an act.”  This statement was meant to support the notion that gender is not a physical thing and can therefore be invented and changed.  I find this notion quite interesting.  To be able to exaggerate your gender, to hide it or to reinvent it in a public arena such as cyberspace would surely have important consequences.  Whilst I agree that gender is not a physical thing, it is definitely manifested physically.  Through mannerisms, the way we walk and talk, the language we use, our clothes, our hair and our makeup.  All these things, of course, can in turn be manifested in cyber space to represent whichever gender we wish.

“Gender is an act.”  This sentence really is food for thought when considering Thomas’ (2004) statement that children are inclined to exaggerate their gender in cyberspace with girls giggling a lot and boys discussing masculine topics.  Why would they do this?  Why is portraying one’s gender so important to children?  When creating an identity online you choose what you want people to see, so why is it so common for children to choose gender as being an important thing to portray to people?

It is clear after reading Thomas’ and then Gee’s articles that both girls and boys use cyber space to play out their fantasies.  Girls use it to become their idols.  The traits they admire in others they adopt themselves through their avatars.  It allows them to become beautiful and attractive, however they perceive that to be.  Boys use it to act aggressively in ways they can’t in real life (without negative consequences).  Through online gaming they can feel strong, powerful, crafty, and masculine.

Gee (2005) contends that players become the game character in both body and mind.  He says the player takes on the beliefs, goals, feelings and attitudes of the character.  This is an interesting similarity to the girls who want become their idol, the boys do the same in video games.

An interesting point in the Thomas article quotes Cowie (1990 in Thomas, 2004, p. 362)

“when she asserts that a spectator may fantasise that they are inside the action of the fantasy, that they can be a participant in the fantasy they are gazing at, and that, furthermore, they may simultaneously participate in the fantasy from any or all of the characters and roles that are being enacted.”

I immediately identified with this– isn’t it that that makes reading books and watching movies interesting?  We empathise with the protagonist and other characters, we cry when they’re sad, we rejoice with them when they’re happy and so on.  And as the viewer or reader, we can empathise with all the different characters and their different view-points in the same sitting.  Taking this much further, is a little girl named Lindsey in the Wolf and Heath (1992) article.  She not only empathises with the characters but she becomes the characters.  When reading we get the impression she jumps straight into the story like Bert in Mary Poppins when he enters his chalk drawing.  Lyndsey adopts the speech and the actions of the characters as she is reading, but also when she is reminded of a story by an external trigger.

Lyndsey is playing with the traits of the characters, similar to how girls play with traits through their avatars.  In cyberspace children can play with their identity, trying on different traits, adopting some and rejecting others.

Not mentioned in these articles is the portrayal of identity through social networking sites such as Facebook.  While there is no use of avatars in Facebook there is a similar manipulation of identity.  One can choose to upload photos of themselves of a certain style and appearance, and can tag themselves thus drawing attention to photos of themselves uploaded by other people.  This creates a physical impression of how you want people to see you.  Then of course there are the status updates.  These tell a lot about a person, what they’re doing, where they are, what they find funny, they’re likes and dislikes, their level of intelligence, who they’re with, how they’re feeling… the list could go on.  What a person writes as a status update has been carefully chosen and worded for an unknown amount of people to see.  Each time you write something, you are portraying a certain message about you as a person.  Less blatant, but with the same effects and intentions, are comments and wall posts.  What you write on someone’s wall, or how you comment on someone else’s wall post, photo, video or link is publicly exposed and sends a message about what kind of person you are.  As Thomas (2004, p. 369) wrote in her article,

“It would appear that being articulate is a highly sought-after quality when building friendships online, and that this quality creates positive and deep interactions with others. Since identity online is primarily realised through interactions, it follows that literacy skills in terms of the ability to use language well plays an essential role in identity construction and perception.”

Moving on from written language, the links and videos put on Facebook also portray a certain identity.  I have friends that quite often post newspaper articles they find interesting, this obviously gives quite a lot of information about those people.  Not only that they are intelligent, but what current issues interest them, what their political views are and what their opinions are on controversial issues.  Others post videos they find amusing, thus portraying themselves as people with a sense of humour.  A lot post links to music they like.  Like other links, putting your musical taste online for so many people to see prompts discussion about the band and the song, it introduces people to new music and it allows bonding over a common interest.

As with the avatars, Facebook with it’s status updates, comments, photos and links allows people to create an identity and a sense of self that they want others too see.  It allows you to choose how people perceive you.

I’ll finish this post with some final questions:  What are the consequences of creating a version of yourself that is different from the real one?  Is it healthy for a girl to become the beauty she dreams of being but will never physically become?  Does this improve her self-esteem or lessen it?  And do violent and tactical video games serve as a release for boys that they would otherwise not get?  Or does it encourage them to adopt those values and behaviours in real life?

*sigh*


2:3 Assessing Multimodal Texts

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What key theoretical insights about multimodality are required to effectively assess multimodal texts?

“Fully multimodal assessment is probably impossible, given the fact that once in a multimodal world, many children will immediately break any genre rules we may have identified” (Vincent, 2006, p. 56).  Good-o!  That’s just what I want to read when given the task to assess a multimodal text (please read sarcastic tone here!).

Vincent (2006) explains that to assess a multimodal text you need to understand the grammar of each semiotic mode used in the text.  These could be graphics, images, sound, music, animation and so on.  He asserts each of these require assessment in themselves.  However, he also quotes Stein (2003 in Vincent, 2006, p. 56) who argues that when all the modes are put together, “the whole can be greater than the sum parts.”  This means that assessing the individual modes in itself is not enough as when they are combined they create another aspect that also needs to be assessed.

What sprang to mind when I thought about what to put in a rubric was the subject of media.  Media teachers surely would already have rubrics I could adapt to suit my needs, they’ve been assessing multimodal texts for years.  This idea was soon put to rest after reading an article by Bearne (in Burke & Hammett, 2009).  While she supports my idea of multimedia being unfamiliar to English teachers and more familiar to design teachers, she points out how multimodal texts really are the product of different learning areas.  So while I could borrow from the media department, that is not enough.  Vincent (2006) realised the same.  In his study he did a search for multimodal assessments and found rubrics that assessed the media side of things, but not the content.  In his primary school classroom, he “relied principally on qualitative assessments based on Kress and van Leeuwen’s (1996) grammars of semiotic modes, and observations of the degree to which students integrated modes to present the messages” (Vincent, 2006, p. 54).  He continues with the argument of how important multimodal texts are in the classroom for students who have difficulties expressing themselves in a verbal or written format, but who effectively communicate through multimodal texts.  “The development of a multimodal text assessment tool therefore raises an issue of equity. We need such a tool if we are to recognise the achievement of students who have used these alternative pathways to literacy” (Vincent, 2006, p. 55).

The complexity of assessing multimodal texts does pose a problem.  Already we know how long a multimodal text takes to produce, which leaves teachers hesitant to embark on such tasks, and having assessment of the texts be so complicated further discourages teachers.   All together it makes it difficult to encourage teachers to adopt multimodal texts in their curricula.  As Vincent (2006, p. 55) points out,

“Unless teachers possess an adequate means of assessing multimodal texts, they will not assess them, and are unlikely to accept them as normal means of text production, to be judged equally with verbal texts. Yet my study, as well as studies such as those by Beavis (2001) and Daiute (1991), has strongly suggested that multimodal texts are a pathway to literacy for a substantial group of students.”

He continues with the argument of how important multimodal texts are in the classroom for students who have difficulties expressing themselves in a verbal or written format, but who effectively communicate through multimodal texts.  “The development of a multimodal text assessment tool therefore raises an issue of equity. We need such a tool if we are to recognise the achievement of students who have used these alternative pathways to literacy.” (Vincent, 2006, p. 55)

The UK Literacy Association has done some research in creating a standardised assessment for multimodal texts, but it has had some criticism (in Burke & Hammett, 2009).  Three strands for assessment were identified: composition and effect, text structure and organisation, and sentence structure and punctuation.  However, Bearne (in Burke & Hammett, 2009) describes several constraints these strands have in not being able to assess the full extent of multimodal texts.

Using Bearne’s progress markers (in Burke & Hammett, 2009) I have created a generic multimodal text rubric, without weighting, that could be adapted for different uses.

Generic Multimodal Text Rubric

I have also assessed my own multimodal text, found in my previous post 2:2 Creating Multimodal Texts.

Multimodal Text Assessment of My Country

2:2 Creating Multimodal Texts

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How easily can you (and your students) create multimodal texts?

The wonderful thing about the Insider and Web 2.0 mindset is sharing.  Due to this there are hundreds of web applications available to help you create a multimodal story.  Creating a multimodal story with the help of any of these applications can be extremely simple if you follow the given format.  I will take you through the process of creating a story, highlighting the easy and difficult parts.

Step 1:  You must already have your story/text.  This could be the part that’s already in the curriculum.  Turning into a multimodal story is the good copy.

Step 2:  Choose the application or format to use.  When I set to create mine, I wanted to mimic in part the Inanimate Alice story, in that I wanted scenes that were text alone, text with image, moving image and sound effects as well as music.  As earlier stated, if you’re happy to follow the given format of the application the process is simple.  However having an idea and trying to manipulate the application to do it can prove frustrating, time consuming and sometimes fruitless.

Step 3: Find images that correspond with the text.  This alone can take hours.

Step 4: Find appropriate sound.  The problem here may be that the song you choose is too long or too short to match the length of the story.  This problem can be solved through editing, another timely task, however it is not always possible in a given application.  If you would like to add sound effects, you must strive to find an application that allows the sound to be edited so you can slip it in wherever you want, rather than matching a slideshow to a song, for example.

Step 5:  Publishing your finished product will depend on the application.  Some will allow you to embed it, others won’t.  Some will allow you to publish on YouTube or Facebook, others won’t.  Few will allow you to download it for use as you see fit without a fee.

Once you have chosen an application and if you are happy to follow the guidelines and format of that application, the process of creating a multimodal story is relatively simple and straightforward.  If you can’t figure out how to work the application yourself there is usually a tutorial to show you how.  Then it is simply a matter of playing with it until you get your skills up.

This leads me to my final point.  While these applications make creating a multimodal story easy, they are extremely time consuming.  Creating a story that lasts two minutes can take hours upon hours, which causes problems for using it at school.  Teachers are known to be living well below the poverty line when it comes to time.  If a teacher were to create one to use in class, it would have to be a holiday project, or one sponsored by the school.  To have students use this as an activity is fantastic, but would need to be very, very structured.

In conclusion, multimodal stories are straightforward to create and very rewarding educationally, but if you have any kind of imagination you will become so engrossed they will be the sole focus of your life until they’re completed days later!

Here is a very short multimodal text I made to the first two verses of a very well known poem, My Country.  It is very basic but my aim here was just to play around with the web application Prezi.  I really would have liked to add music to it, but Prezi does not allow that and while it claims teachers can download the video, it is in a format that cannot be copied into other editing software or applications to further manipulate, nor can the downloaded version be uploaded to this post.

2:1 Viewing Multimodal Texts

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What makes a multimodal story successful?

Generation Y or the Millenial Generation has grown up surrounded by image and sound. For today’s young people an old fashioned book, in black and white print is not as appealing as previous generations found it, resulting in unmotivated and low ability readers. Introducing the multimodal story. “Recent research demonstrates that attending to the rich, multimodal literacy practices of young people opens up ways of getting to know them and creating new points of learning and engagement” (Mahiri, 2004 in Vasudevan, 2006 – 2007).

The most basic element of a multimodal text is image. In Inanimate Alice the reader is exposed to both still and moving images.   The use of image in a text aids comprehension. For struggling readers images give them an extra support in understanding the text. Inanimate Alice, while containing a lot of images, does not over do it and still leaves room for the imagination. This is important as it allows readers to still use their imagination and create mental pictures. It weans the reader from a text where images are given and little imagination is required to a text with no images where imagination is essential. This acts as a crutch for struggling readers and allows them to build confidence and get used to having to imagine what the setting looks like rather than be given the image. In Inanimate Alice, for example, we are given images of what the landscape looks like, her house etcetera, but we never see Alice herself, nor do we see her parents. We can’t be sure where she comes from and hence we cannot guess her ethnicity. Not only does this allow the reader to imagine what they look like, but it also leaves it open for readers from all ethnicities to identify with Alice and her family.

Another important part of multimodal texts is sound. In Inanimate Alice we do not hear a narrator of any kind, we hear background music and sound effects. A lack of narration allows the reader to read the text at his or her own rate and style, whilst the sound effects greatly enhance the reading experience. When Alice is about to fall and we hear her scream, the reader really feels like they are witnessing something horrible, and feel her fear. The sound of the crunching snow adds to the description of the cold and enhances the feeling and imagination of walking through the cold. Likewise when we hear Alice breathing. Sound effects add another dimension to the imagery of reading. The reader may have a mental picture of Alice walking through the snow, but being able to hear her do it makes it all the more real.

The background music makes it more interesting for young people who like to have all senses engaged. Silent reading for a lot of students can be really off-putting, so reading whilst listening to music is more likely to appeal to them. Considering that this is a generation that permanently has their earphones in listening to music from their iPods and other media devices, the fact that this story already has music attached to it would interest them.

In teaching English to high school students I often remark students checking how many pages are in a book that we are reading as a class. Similarly when teaching literacy if a book is too thick the student will not pick it up to read. Because the multimodal story is not a hard copy, the student has no way of gauging how long it is and therefore cannot be turned off reading it.

Another attraction for students who are not avid readers is that with the multimodal story a student is only exposed to short amounts of text at a time, thereby not being overwhelmed by how much reading they have to do. In Inanimate Alice the reader sees only one or two sentences at a time, a very feasible amount of text that the reader can read at their own pace before clicking the button when they are ready to read on.

One final attraction for the modern adolescent and therefore success of multimodal stories is the games and interaction they have to offer. This breaks up the reading of the story while still engaging the student and requiring cognitive action. For struggling and early readers reading requires a lot of concentration and can be quite tiring so having some short games and interaction in the story allows the reader to have a short break while still being engaged in the story before continuing on reading.

The multimodal story is a win-win. Students get their technology and entertainment while teachers get them reading.