T he English language arts, often
conceived of as reading, writing,
speaking, listening, performing,
and thinking, are shifting in response
to emerging technologies and the new
literacies they inspire. As everyday literacy practices outside the classroom
change rapidly, students enter the
English language arts classroom literate in multiple ways, yet the curricula
they experience often remain focused
on printed texts.
Students engage in 21st-century
technologies without our guidance
or instruction, and they are reading, writing, and producing dynamic
multimodal and multimedia texts for
a variety of defined audiences, purposes, and contexts that are authentic
to them. They have access to a variety
of tools that allow them to create tangible relevant outcomes.
Emerging technologies and the new
literacies they enable provide new
modes and media for communication
and, likewise, create new opportunities and challenges for teaching the
English language arts today. Digital
video is one particularly dynamic
technology with compelling implications for the English language arts
Although older forms of video have
been used to varying degrees in education, digital video enters the English
language arts classroom as a new
media form and a new tool for multimodal composition. Research still is
emerging when it comes to examining
the role of digital video in the English
language arts classroom, but we know
that students learn best when they use
By Carl Young and Sara Kajder
Digital video is one particularly dynamic technology with compelling
implications for the English language arts classroom.
multiliteracies to read and compose in
In addition, integrating visual images with written text, as done in most
digital stories and multimodal compositions, enhances and accelerates
comprehension. Meaning here is not
necessarily additive but more layered,
interactive, and complex. As such, text
and pictures often convey more meaning when juxtaposed. This effect is
further intensified with digital video,
where motion, design, and interactiv-ity are added to the mix.
Composing with digital video—
creating digital stories, book trailers, music videos, screencasts, and
more—requires us to examine how we
produce, distribute, invent, explore,
persuade, and create impact with texts
written for specific audiences. Doing
so alongside participatory media such
as Web 2.0 tools allows us to leverage audience participation in ways
that yield authentic collaboration and
feedback. Examples might include the
• Students can watch the film version
of Ambrose Bierce’s short story, “An
Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,”
on You Tube and post reflections
there to engage in discussion with
peers from across the state or
around the world.
• Students can analyze peers’ poetry
performances from a distance using streaming digital video coupled
with a blog or wiki for posting feedback, analysis, and evaluation.
• Students can create two- to three-
minute video book trailers that
persuade viewers to read a text.
Students must read and reread a
text, develop a storyboard of images
depicting the content of the book,
and write a script that advances the
message within the trailer.
Students writing with multimodal
tools, such as digital video editors,
should use them selectively, intentionally, and in ways that leverage
the unique capacities of the tools and
media to accomplish a specific goal.
As in print-centric writing tasks, the
principles of choice and form matter,
as does the larger context in which the
writing is situated. To be fully literate,
students must know how to use tools,
but more important, they must also
know which forms of literacy will best
support their purpose for a given audience and a specific context.
—Carl A. Young is an assistant professor of
English and middle grades at North Carolina
State University. He conducts research on Web
2.0, e-portfolio, and other technology applications in English education.
—Sara Kajder is an assistant professor at
Virginia Tech. Her research examines the impact of adolescents’ new literacy practices on
their work as readers and writers in and outside of the secondary English classroom.