Our school district is in the process of getting a new website. We have contracted with a very creative local company called Pondry. Because of this local connection, I have the privilege of following the progress of this new site as it moves from vision, to framing, to design, and then to launch. We are very excited about the possibilities of building a site in this way. As we have thought about and researched what we would like to include on our site, how we want it to look and how we want consumers and producers to interact with the site, we have learned a great deal. Designing a website is definitely a skill and an art. This skill is not just for the creative types like Pondry who have made a business out of helping others create and communicate in this new media, this new media literacy is a skill that we all need to learn in order to be literate in the world we now live in. Dr. Jason Ohler defines literacy in this way. "Literacy means being able to consume and produce the media forms of the day." Ohler suggests that the default media form has shifted from the essay to the multimedia collage. We no longer just consume print in a linear fashion. We read with video clips, images and hyperlinks. Knowing how to navigate in this new media is definitly part of literacy, but literacy is not just reading, it is also writing. We need know how to write in this new media as well. Understanding the elements of art has become a valuable part of literacy as we don't only need to know how to create a good paragraph, but where that paragraph should go on a page and what other elements will be linked to that paragraph. Ohler suggest that this new literacy brings art to the forefront changing the basics from the 3 "r"s, Reading, wRiting, and aRithmatic, to the 4 "r"s including aRt.
There are many connections between the skills needed to develop a new website and the skills needed to be truly literate today when communicating with new media.
1. Know your audience. Choose font, words and images that meet the needs of your audience.
2. Move from linear to hyperlink. There is great power in making connections, everything doesn't have to fit on the front page.
3. Know the rules of the road. Creativity is great, but don't change the rules of the road. People should be able to know where to go and be able to follow your thoughts.
4. Keep it simple. Flashing text and twirling objects rarely add to understanding and enjoyment.
5. Get out a map. Collage should not mean lack of planning. Plan the design and navigation before you jump in to the creating.
On Monday I will be sharing a great web tool called Glogster at Digital Literacy Workshop.
Glogster is a great way to practice the skills needed to communicate using media literacy. You and your students can learn by creating digital collages. The great thing about digital is that it is so easy to change if things just don't quite look right or make sense. No messy glue to deal with. Play with colors and shape. Decide what text is important enough to make it to the front page. Decide how you are going to connect the readers to other important information that doesn't make the first page. Determine paths that make sense. Check to see if your colors attract or detract the reader from the important content. I hope that you will explore this tool share this tool with your students.
My mind swims with ideas about how this rich media can lead to deeper thinking, problem solving, making connections and collaborating with others.
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