Literacy – Project Framework (part 3)

This is the 3rd part of the Pedagogical Paradigm for our Project Framework (formerly called the Theoretical Model).  Let me know what you think. Agree? Disagree? Questions?



Literacy is at the core of learning and is defined as using tools to consume “texts” and “discussions” and to produce “texts” and “verbal explanations,” in order to learn and communicate one’s understanding and ideas.


One aspect of literacy is learning to put on a specific lens as one consumes and produces domain-specific texts and discussions.  In photography and film, if you want to impact how the audience sees the shot, you use a specific lens.  For example, if a photographer wants to make the shot appear cold, moonlit, or stormy they may use a blue lens.  The shot is still capturing the same elements with the same composition, but the lens influences how we see the elements. This is similar to how learners need to develop their literacy skills.


If I put on the lens of science, I’m still reading the sentences and paragraphs and gleaning information from the graphs and charts, but I think about the ideas through the lens of scientific investigation. I consider the theories that were made and tested, the validity of the testing methodology, the interpretation of the evidence collected, and how this new information has changed a previous model.  Whereas if I’m reading a narrative story like Tom Sawyer, I’m thinking about the words on the page through the lens of character, circumstances that motivated change, the culture where the character was struggling and what the sketch of his raft can help me understand about the kind of boy he was.


Literacy is never outside of a domain-specific context and thus must be accompanied by teaching the influence of the lens on the ideas embedded in texts and discussions.



Domain-Specific Literacy –
Recently, the Common Core was released on a National Level articulating the new expectations for literacy education in America.  This document represents the need for literacy to be taught in domain-specific contexts and calls educators to teach domain-specific lenses with respect to literacy skills.


If a learning environment can bring to consciousness both the literacy skills being developed and how they are similar and different, with respect to the domain-specificity, then learners can begin to see the “lens” and how it can help them better consume and product texts.


This brings us to a deeper issue around literacy education, relevant domain-specific tasks versus out-of-domain tasks like correcting the grammar of a random sentence or spelling words from a list chosen by a spelling book.  Literacy instruction and development needs to be in the context of a domain and thus “affected” by the domain-specific lens.  For example, when producing a science “text,” the vocabulary a learner would use would be different than if they were producing an ICT (Information and Communications Technology) “text;” and the format of an essay “text,” would be different than the format of an engineering design “text.”


Traditionally, texts have been considered any printed material that contains information for a reader to consume. However, as technology has become ubiquitous “texts” have expanded to include any space where ideas and information exist; including mechanics of a game space, on-line tutorials about navigating a virtual world, search engines etc.


Since texts are domain-specific, consuming and producing them requires knowledge of the “rules” of that kind of text.  For example, a quality on-line tutorial about a virtual space includes screen shots as the written or verbal words explain the mechanics or navigation of that space.  Likewise a quality business plan includes a revenue projections section with charts and graphs. Both are very different text forms with different purposes and embedded information/ideas.  The elements of the text form are domain-specific and the ability to produce either requires very different thinking about information and ideas.


This leads us to a need for domain-specific literacy instruction on the consumption and production of domain-specific texts.  The more conscious a learner can be on these domain-specific text rules, the better they can consume and produce these kinds of texts.


The independent consumption of texts traditionally begins at around 1st grade and is primarily narrative.  It has long been said, “First you learn to read, then you read to learn.” The problem is that as texts get more complex, you are constantly learning to read them. Thus, as part of consumption, learners must always consider how to read, from narrative to ICT, and what one can learn from each text.


Consumption needs to be more and more conscious, calling to the attention how the text is organized given the domain-specific context. Tutorials on how to interpret and make meaning in different kinds of texts must be available as learners encounter new texts.  The more learners can understand how different domain-specific texts are organized the better they will get at “reading” them and the more they will be able to learn from them.


The production of texts traditionally begins around Kindergarden as a child writes his first story and draws pictures to illustrate the action, puts together a poster of his/her family heritage, or glues to cardboard all the different leaves collected on a science walk.  Each “text” has information from the learner for another to consume and derive meaning. As children get older the types of texts they create evolve in complexity of ideas represented and typically begin to be more words than illustrations.


With the progress of technology, the kinds of “texts” produced has increased in variation and purpose.  For example, tutorials for everything from how to use a mod in Minecraft to how to cook pasta perfectly use video, screen shots, and voice over.  Numerous pages on Wikipedia have user-input informational texts available on every topic imaginable.



Each program element has some text that is consumed or produced.

  • Episode – Learners consume these animated episodes to better understand how people, engineer or use tools to design solutions to problems.
  • Book – Text form of picture book, song, and live-action segment, all have information and ideas the learner is to consume
  • Fume Clips – Learners consume these animated clips to better understand how tools are used in previous experiments.
  • PP Resources – Learners consume these pages to make meaning for either curiosity or informational need in another program element.
  • Mini-game – Learner consumes symbolic representations and game mechanics.
  • Exploration – The learner consumes the exploration description and any PP resources and produces a journal record of their experience. This “text” includes text blocks, charts/graphs, picture/video, and other illustrations.
  • Simulations – Learners consume the simulation explanation and the choices within the simulation.  The learner produces a results summary including text blocks, pictures, and other features communicating information
  • Tutorials – Learners consume a voice-over with screen shots explaining program element or game mechanics.  Learners can also produce tutorials and post in the MMB virtual world.
  • Create – Learners produce a text of various forms communicating their understanding or design.

At low levels domain-specific literacy skills are embedded in the prompts, introducing the domain-specific organization of texts.  At higher levels, domain-specific texts and understanding of the organization of those texts are introduced as a tool to make meaning.

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