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'The Transpoemations Project': Digital storytelling, contemporary poetry, and refugee boys

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This article describes a five-week summer literacy program designed for a group of 70 multilingual refugee boys resettled from their home countries in Africa and Asia to a city in the Southeastern USA. The students attended local public schools but struggled to experience academic success in the traditional classroom. The summer program addressed this issue by offering the students a curriculum in which they worked, alongside American teachers, in small learning groups, completing activities premised on specific twenty-first century literacies, such as critical thinking and the creative manipulation of texts and technologies. The students interacted with high-interest literature written in English and with selected productivity tools, including the filmmaking software MovieMaker. The program culminated with each student producing a digital story – a ‘transpoemation’ – adapted from an autobiographical response to George Ella Lyon’s poem, ‘Where I’m From.’ The students translated their own poems through a series of scaffolded steps in order to create short films for preview and critique. Working with the computer, with texts they had generated, and with images and music, the students showcased their facility with storytelling, with the English vocabulary they were acquiring, and with visual media, demonstrating a growing sense of academic confidence.
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... If this social and cultural capital is then affirmed, students' possibilities for realizing their investment and increasing their competence will be enhanced (Jiang 2018;Norton 2013). Furthermore, affirming students' social and cultural capital through media production in multiple modes essentially highlights their communicative repertoires as resources rather than deficits (e.g., Darvin and Norton 2014;Emert 2013). In turn, this could help complicate stakeholders' often reductive and stereotypical understandings of second or additional language learners from migrant backgrounds (e.g., upward mobility and reinvention for immigrants or victimhood and helplessness for refugees (Campano and Low 2011)). ...
... In practice, refugee-background learners may experience racism, discrimination, or devaluation (e.g., Omerbašic 2015;Mendenhall et al. 2017), teachers may become overwhelmed by the diverse ways in which these youth's lived experiences manifest in the classroom (e.g., Warriner et al. 2020), and limited research on this population may perpetuate the lack of teachers' full preparedness to meet youth's needs (e.g., Shapiro et al. 2018). Studies also noted the prevalence of deficit-oriented educational approaches that focus mostly on remediation (Emert 2013;Shapiro et al. 2018). Deficit-oriented approaches de-emphasize the agency, resilience, and the varied social, cultural, semiotic, and intellectual resources that refugee-background youth have, i.e., their funds of knowledge (Moll et al. 2005). ...
... For example, asset-based and culturally responsive approaches value and develop refugee-background youth's funds of knowledge (Warriner et al. 2020). Specifically, studies have highlighted the usefulness of building on refugee-background youth's multimodal (including multilingual) communicative repertoires and funds of knowledge (e.g., Emert 2013;Shapiro et al. 2018;Reynolds and Bacon 2018;Mendenhall et al. 2017;Bigelow et al. 2017;Kennedy et al. 2019). Therefore, digital media production holds promise for the language and literacy education of refugeebackground youth by making visible and unpacking the complexities of their experiences, while also enhancing refugee-background youth's prospects of becoming agentive, creative, and critical designers with access to social power, economic gain, global citizenship, and diverse lifeworlds, no less than their migrant and nonmigrant background peers (e.g., Emert 2013;2014b;Leurs et al. 2018). ...
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Reviews of research have provided insights into the digital media production practices of youth in and out of school. Although such practices hold promise for the language and literacy education of refugee-background youth, no review has yet integrated findings across studies and different digital media production practices to explore this promise. This scoping review summarizes and discusses the key findings from research on varied types of digital media produced specifically by refugee-background youth in and out of school. It situates digital media production practices in the context of this diverse population, which experiences forced migration, and highlights 5 main themes from findings in 42 reviewed articles. Digital media production afforded refugee-background youth: (1) Ownership of representations across time and space; (2) opportunity to expand, strengthen, or maintain social networks; (3) identity work; (4) visibility and engagement with audiences; and (5) communication and embodied learning through multimodal literacies.
... Media may include photographs, video clips, voice-overs, and music (Lambert, 2018). In a series of studies employing DST with refugee-background children and youth in community-based and summer literacy programs in the U.S, Emert (2013Emert ( , 2014aEmert ( , 2014b showed how the narrative form of DST drew learners to demonstrate their real-world knowledge, express their identities, build connections with each other (e.g., through collaboration), and engage in developing and showcasing their English language learning for authentic purposes, be it through composing key sentences and practicing new vocabulary for their digital stories, translating their poems to a visual medium, revising for clarity, or presenting orally to real audiences, all of which increased learners' academic confidence. ...
... Through DST, the students in our study were also able to make intentional investments in their learning through a strong dialogical foundation, targeted and spontaneous language development, new digital literacies and skills creating counter-narratives of empowerment and pride by going public with their digital stories, reiterating how flexible classroom structures and routines can be guided toward nuanced learning and agency. Our findings support previous research (see review in Michalovich, 2021b) that shows how digital multimodal composing can afford youth from refugee backgrounds opportunities to agentively frame their representations of themselves (e.g., Leurs et al., 2018), reveal their competency in digital literacy practices (e.g., Gilhooly & Lee, 2014), share, and take pride in their knowledge about real-world issues as they communicate it to audiences (e.g., Luchs & Miller, 2016), express and process their emotions (e.g., Jang & Kang, 2019), enhance their language learning (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014a(Emert, , 2014b, represent and reposition their identities (e.g., Michalovich, 2021a), and narrate their lived experiences (e.g., Johnson & Kendrick, 2017). ...
Article
This study addresses the urgent need to develop innovative pedagogies that build upon and enhance the digital literacies and representational practices of culturally and linguistically diverse youth from refugee backgrounds. In Canadian high schools, this population of students enter school with varying levels of literacy in their first language(s), as well as potentially difficult experiences due to their forced migration. For many, learning English, may become a formidable challenge. A growing corpus of case studies is beginning to show how pedagogies that draw on youths’ everyday meaning making, including their digital literacies, can effectively engage English learners in academic learning. In this qualitative, ethnographic case study involving nine youth in an English language learning classroom, we addressed the question: What is the potential for digital storytelling to draw from the fuller context of the lives and literacies of youth from refugee backgrounds to enable more autonomous language learning and identity affirmation? Our study is informed by interrelated conceptual frameworks: learner autonomy; investment in language and literacy learning; and digital literacies. Using thematic and multimodal/visual analysis, data were collaboratively coded to identify four interweaving themes: 1) use of multimodal meaning making to communicate complex, critical understandings; 2) emergence of digital literacies; 3) challenges of communicating in digital spaces; and 4) investment in identity affirmation in language learning. Implications focus on how digital storytelling as an innovative pedagogy has the potential to create space within the curriculum for stories that have deep meaning for learners.
... Recent years have seen a significant increase in the use of ABR methods to generate qualitative insights (Emert, 2013;Chamberlain et al., 2018). These methods are often intended to surface and amplify the complex, and sometimes difficult, realities of life around the globe (Woodgate et al., 2017), linking individuals, environment, relationships and socio-economic circumstances (Power et al., 2014). ...
Article
Purpose-In this paper the authors share, and reflect critically on, the experience of using digital storytelling (DS) methods in a South African township. We interrogate the innovations prompted as we operationalized DS in a context that has historically prized collectivist values and that experiences chronic resource constraints. Design/methodology/approach-The authors ask: How can DS be optimally used to understand youth resilience in a collectivist, developing context? The authors worked with 18 older adolescents (aged 18-24) during two day-long events. The authors provide detailed descriptions of the method used, and offer reflections focusing on narrative, visuals and technology-mediation. Findings-This study concludes by sharing four key lessons learned during the project. First, revisit the definition of "story" for your context, participant group and time. Second, a slower process yields more meaningful product. Third, facilitator competence matters. Finally, advance and deeper thinking about the ways in which technology will be used leads to richer research outcomes. Originality/value-The paper reflects on the interplay between the transactional nature of contemporary digitally-mediated methods in a low-resource setting and with a seldom-heard population, and it's relationship with the ancient local traditions of story-making and audiencing.
... While they accept that English is the medium of instruction, this does not mean that an English-only classroom environment is the most conducive to their learning. Rather, there is evidence from the research literature that a climate of open acceptance of translingual learning can bring students into higher levels of engagement and cogniton (Emert 2013;Fra'nquiz & Salinas 2011;Ntelioglou et al 2014). Allowing peer talk in L1 while undertaking tasks is a positive start and not uncommon. ...
Research
Language and Learning Transitions of New Arrival Youth was a project conducted in several secondary schools with students who had recently arrived in Australia following non-voluntary relocation. Employing an interactive focus group approach with visual methods, the project elicited refugee youth perspectives on their educational experiences prior to and following transition to Australian schooling, as well as the multiple contexts within which their languages are deployed. The report concludes that the students demonstrate qualities of translingual habitus and makes recommendations for schools and teachers.
... Importantly, fotonovela offers multiple means through which children might share their stories. Emert (2013) similarly supports refugee youth by using digital storytelling as a form of visual literacy that emphasises the importance of listening, telling, and teaching. Adolescents begin by producing autobiographical poems; they then translate their poems into short digital films using online software. ...
... Ayrıca dil eğitimi alanında yapılan bilimsel çalışmalar incelendiğinde "göz ardı edilmiş" ya da "ihmal edilmiş" bir alan olarak nitelendirilen dinleme becerileri dünyada ve Türkiye'de üzerinde en az durulan beceri alanı olarak değerlendirilmektedir (Melanlıoğlu, 2011 Etkili bir biçimde hazırlanıp izleyiciye sunulacak dijital hikâyelerin birbirlerine bağlı ve kendi içerisinde dinamik olan yedi ögesi bulunmaktadır (Bull ve Kajder, 2004;Bumgarner, 2012;Fields ve Diaz, 2008;Lambert, 2010;Jakes and Brennan, 2005;Robin, 2006;Satterfield, 2007 (Bozdoğan, 2012), şiirlerden oluşan dijital hikâyelerle kişisel yaşantıların aktarılmasında (Emert, 2013), göçmenlerin kültürel kimlikleri konusunda bilgi verilmesinde (Honeyford, 2013), tiyatro alanında insanların yaşam deneyimlerinin aktarılmasında (Alrutz, 2013), hayalet hikâyelerinin (Jacobs, 2010), halk hikâyelerinin (Nakagawa, 2004) ve mit ya da efsanelerin (Ohler, 2008) ...
... There are diverse DST models (Botfield et al., 2017;de Jager, Fogarty, Tewson, Lenette, & Boydell, 2017) serving different purposes, but a common characteristic of many DST activities is their social advocacy mission. This is partly because of the powerful distribution capability of the internet: many education practitioners and human service practitioners have become aware of the potential of using DST to enable marginalized groups such as ethnic minorities, patients, refugees, and people with HIV to have their voices heard (Chan, in press;Chan & Holosko, 2019;Emert, 2013;Guse et al., 2013;Mnisi, 2015;Stacey & Hardy, 2011;Stenhouse, Tait, Hardy, & Sumner, 2013;Teti, Conserve, Zhang, & Gerkovich, 2016). However, most DST practices focus on helping protagonists (storytellers) gain insights and self-confidence, and it is not clear how these stories can equally impact their audiences. ...
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Purpose: Digital storytelling (DST), broadly speaking, is a storytelling method that is interwoven with digital media. It is commonly used in educational settings or human services to support various sorts of social advocacy. While many of these DST practices have devised methods to engage marginalized groups to express their voices, they lack parallel initiatives to enable audiences to understand those voices. This study examined a story-retelling workshop model called StoryAd, which utilizes productions from DST activities to facilitate face-to-face contact. The workshop itself is also a lite version of DST activity. Method: A pilot study was conducted in Hong Kong in 2019. Participants enrolled online, met offline, and their advertisement ideas might go online and contribute back to the stories. The workshop model was evaluated using a one-group pretest-posttest design. The participants were 45 Hong Kong Chinese, aged 18-60. Results: Participants' critical thinking disposition, self-esteem, perspective-taking, and curiosity toward new information increased, while their need for cognitive-closure decreased. Discussion and conclusion: This study has proved the feasibility and acceptability of the workshop model. It also opens the discussion about extending DST pedagogy to engage and influence story-readers.
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Literary critics value the process of “close reading” which involves focused word-by-word and line-by-line reading of a literary work to derive meaning from the entire corpus and establish the role of different aspects of text in this process. As this strategy may yield previously unnoticed connotations, it is rarely performed using computer software. Although this is a widely established view, in this paper, we posit that “distant reading” using an appropriate combination of automatic/computer-assisted analytical methods can still achieve this purpose. While we do not undermine the value of the traditional process, we demonstrate that a detailed visualization of the literary work in focus (in our case a poem by William Wordsworth) through digital tools like “transpoemation” could augment the literary analysis process.
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Gunther Kress is professor of education/English in the Institute of Education at University of London. His interests focus on the (English) curriculum, multiliteracies, and multimodality, that is, the developing forms of representation and their implications for the futures of education in school and out of school. His forthcoming publications include Multimodal Teaching and Learning (Continuum) and Multimodality (Edward Arnold).
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Putting the Chairs in Place: Lina de Guevara and Transformative Theatre
  • Cameron Culhamoo
Culhamoo, Cameron. 2005. "Putting the Chairs in Place: Lina de Guevara and Transformative Theatre." In The Arts, Education, and Social Change: Little Signs of Hope, edited by Mary C. Powell and Vivien M. Speiser, 159-167. New York: Peter Lang.