The Salty Chip Blog

A social space to learn more about the Canadian Multiliteracies Collaborative

About The Salty Chip

In 2004, I began working on a ‘financial literacy’ project.  In the beginning, we digitized content inserted the ‘digital interactives’  into online  courses for teachers. At the same time, we were conducting research to determine the effectiveness of the interactives on learning. (see ATM Confessions: A Financial Literacy Resource

Over time, we began to study the context within which teachers and students were engaging with our interactives. By including students and teachers in the research process and positioning them as co-researchers, we have learned more about their multiliteracy practices – both in and out of school.

In brief, a recurring theme from teachers was an expressed lack of time required to stay abreast of constant technological change. At the same time, students expressed frustration with the ‘low tech’ activities that were used in many of their classes. One of the early technology adopters resigned herself to the cliche, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ’em drink’.

However, we can arouse thirst. I began to ask myself what would lead to a ‘thirst’ for working with multiliteracies in schools? Having worked as a teacher and consultant within a school system for sixteen years, I was more than familiar with technological challenges: firewalls, the lag time between new software training and receipt of the software, outdated hardware and limited access to computers.  Our research had indicated that we needed to build something that wasn’t dependent upon particular software, and that drew on teachers’ and students’ strengths.

The Salty Chip was born. The Salty Chip, aptly named because one leads to another, and the more chips you ‘consume’ the greater the thirst! It is a reminder to start small with one ‘chip’ at a time. It is designed to support teachers and students as they plan together, gather feedback and build upon each others’ ideas in ways that reflect the participatory culture of learning in the 21st century. It creates an ‘audience’ for our work that allows us to learn more about our unique cultural identities and ways of engaging with all forms of text.

Some of my greatest learning experiences have been in communities of practice with my colleagues. In the early 90’s, (before software made it a seamless process) I wanted to create a webpage. Three students in Grade Five taught me enough html code (including frames for those who can remember back that far) to write the pages so that we could connect a community of 400 students across a large geographical area. Our collaborative website was the first site to go up when my board eventually launched an official website.

That experience has stayed with me. I have incredible faith in the power of what teachers and students can accomplish when they work together. Time is precious, and with the competing demands facing today’s teachers, we need to look for ways to support each other as we support our students. The Salty Chip allows us to do what all teachers do naturally – think of an idea, (or be inspired by an existing one) try it out, modify it, share it, update it, use it in our particular context. I hope you find it as useful as we have! The learning is in the ‘doing’! Check it out! We are beta testing the functionality throughout the month of February, 2010 and will be adding ‘chips’ that we have gathered or produced to get the ball rolling.

A key idea to keep in mind: One of the overwhelming themes that arose in the research is that many teachers are either unfamiliar with using new technologies that would allow them to engage in new literacies’ practices or they are unsure of how to integrate them into their curriculum in meaningful and purposeful ways. This is one of the strengths that working collaboratively offers the educational community. As teachers, we recognize the power of working from our students’ strengths and building on their ‘funds of knowledge’ (see Moll, L.C., Armanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31 (2), 132-141). We need to apply this thinking to our community of educators. Submitting a ‘chip’ that reflects an individual’s current strengths and watching how others redesign it in ways that engage their particular knowledge and experiences to suit their classroom context, can be highly instructive. As our knowledge and experience of ‘multiliteracies-in-use’ grows, so too will our collective abilities to design relevant, engaging experiences with and for our students.

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