Assessment Item 4: Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences

What makes a good digital text

Despite Goodreads’ narrow interpretation of a book as being something with an ISBN number, “the book as a physical object with paper pages is now only one version of what a book might be” (Hancox, 2013, para. 7). As many have discussed before, a digital text can take many formats and permutations (James & de Kock, 2013; Parker, 2013; Sadokierski, 2013b; Walsh, 2013).

Various criteria exist as to what constitutes a good digital text.  Its ability to engage, enhance, experience, elucidate, explain and entertain (James & de Kock, 2013; Miller, 2011); the use of multiple media and a single unified story without redundancy between media (Phillips, 2012; Walker et al., 2010); a linear yet enhanced reading experience, engaging multiple literacy and learning styles with intelligent, flexible and intuitive design with longevity (Parrott, 2011). To this can be added the potential to cater for different ability and facility with language and technology and preferred multi-sensory behaviour while bridging participatory skills and social needs with academic skills (Anstey & Bull, 2012; Roskos, Burstein, Shang, & Gray, 2014; Walker et al., 2010). Finally a good text, digital or otherwise will immerse and absorb the reader while allowing them to interact with the world and others, or an alternate reality, vicariously and integrate new knowledge and understanding into their existing schema or worldview (Fuhler, 2010; Ryan & Ryan, n.d.).

Compare experience digital versus print

In any comparison of the print / digital experience it should be emphasized that neither has moral nor educational superiority, but rather fulfil different functions and meet different literary, literacy and learning needs.

The most obvious difference is the format, though the non-linear nature of digital media is often commented on with its potential to disrupt the reading process and the need to have a strategy to stay on track and the necessity of learning and incorporating new conventions and practices in experiencing digital literature (Anstey & Bull, 2012; Chuk, Hoetzlein, Kim, & Panko, 2012; Francus, 2013; James & de Kock, 2013; Roskos et al., 2014; Skains, 2010). Digital features can create an enticement to buy, assist with the appreciation of literature, facilitate interpretation and understanding or motivate adjunct composition (Unsworth, 2006).

Experimentation with digital literature will, after a while, create a sense of discomfort in a self-aware educator as it becomes obvious that “their” pedagogical functions of elucidation and enhancing understanding of literature are usurped by the medium which can offer these benefits in a manner that fits with a learners’ preferred learning style and mode at a personalized pace. However, one’s role as a curator, guide and co-collaborator in all literary and literacy aspects of learning is enhanced (Lamb, 2011; Leu et al., 2011; Mills & Levido, 2011). Finally, the teacher can use the digital affordances to enhance student’s 21st century literacy skills as they come to grips with understanding the codes and conventions, functions and aspects of all semiotic systems (Anstey & Bull, 2012; Bowler, Morris, Cheng, Al-Issa, & Leiberling, 2012; Malita & Martin, 2010; Walker et al., 2010).

Incorporation of a text into a learning program

One of the digital texts I most enjoyed was First World War: the story of a global conflict‘ (Panetta, 2014a).

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 1.16.57 pm

The scope of this interactive documentary is such that it could be used in a variety of classroom settings, however the one I would choose would be the unit on “Memoir writing” in the Grade 7 English Unit where students are encouraged to explore a variety of compelling narratives and to create their own story (UWCSEA-East Campus, 2013). The students are from many different countries and cultures, including around one third from India, and the documentary, in particular the “Empire” chapter could form the basis for curating works of literature, poetry, music and art created in times of conflict and war. Students could bring examples of narratives and art forms from their own cultures that either relates to World War 1 or other conflicts to supplement material introduced by the teacher such as examples from the “The Disasters of War, 1800-2014,” show (Rubin, 2014). This would align with the concept of the teacher being a facilitator and curator who shares and highlights aspects of the curriculum in a multi-modal and social context allowing students to extrapolate to their own learning and literacy (Fuhler, 2010; Mitra, 2013; Serafini & Youngs, 2013) and ties in with the concepts of design thinking in education where “The focus is on processes – producing, assessing, developing, creating, revisiting,  revising. Learning content becomes secondary to developing the how-to skills for how to be a learner in the 21st century” (Gerstein, 2014).


Anstey, M., & Bull, G. (2012). Using multimodal factual texts during the inquiry process. PETAA, 184, 1–12. Retrieved from

Bowler, L., Morris, R., Cheng, I.-L., Al-Issa, R., & Leiberling, L. (2012). Multimodal stories: LIS students explore reading, literacy, and library service through the lens of “The 39 Clues.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 53(1), 32–48.

Chuk, E., Hoetzlein, R., Kim, D., & Panko, J. (2012). Creating socially networked knowledge through interdisciplinary collaboration. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 11(1-2), 93–108. doi:10.1177/1474022211426906

Francus, M. (2013, October 22). Pride and Prejudice Goes Interactive: “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Video presented at the Pride and Prejudice: The Bicentennial, Paper 5. Retrieved from

Fuhler, C. J. (2010). Using primary-source documents and digital storytelling as a catalyst for writing historical fiction in the fourth grade. In B. Moss & D. Lapp (Eds.), Teaching new literacies in grades 4-6: Resources for 21st-century classrooms (pp. 136–150). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Gerstein, J. (2014, August 27). The Educator as a Design Thinker [Web log post]. Retrieved August 30, 2014, from

Hancox, D. (2013, December 13). When books go digital: The Kills and the future of the novel. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from

James, R., & de Kock, L. (2013). The Digital David and the Gutenberg Goliath: The Rise of the “Enhanced” e-book. English Academy Review, 30(1), 107–123. doi:10.1080/10131752.2013.783394

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12–17. Retrieved from login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Leu, D. J., McVerry, J. G., O’Byrne, W. I., Kiili, C., Zawilinski, L., Everett-Cacopardo, H., … Forzani, E. (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 5–14. doi:10.1598/JAAL.55.1.1

Malita, L., & Martin, C. (2010). Digital Storytelling as web passport to success in the 21st Century. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 3060–3064. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.465

Miller, L. (2011, June 15). “The Waste Land”: T.S. Eliot takes the app store [Review]. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from

Mills, K. A., & Levido, A. (2011). iPed: pedagogy for digital text production. The Reading Teacher, 65(1), 80–91. doi:10.1598/RT.65.1.11

Mitra, S. (2013, February). Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud [Talk Video]. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from

Panetta, F. (2014). A global guide to the First World War [Interactive documentary]. Retrieved from

Parker, J. (2013, December 18). When stories are more than paper: Transmedia trends in Young Adult Literature. Presentation presented at the YALSA 2012 YA Literature Symposium, St. Louis, MO. Retrieved from literature/

Parrott, K. (2011, July 18). 5 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Apps and Ebooks [Web log post]. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from

Phillips, A. (2012). A creator’s guide to transmedia storytelling: how to captivate and engage audiences across multiple platforms. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Roskos, K., Burstein, K., Shang, Y., & Gray, E. (2014). Young Children’s Engagement With E-Books at School: Does Device Matter? SAGE Open, 4(1). doi:10.1177/2158244013517244

Rubin, A. (2014, August 28). Horror Is a Constant, as Artists Depict War [Review]. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from

Ryan, S., & Ryan, D. (n.d.). What is literature? Retrieved August 31, 2014, from

Sadokierski, Z. (2013, November 12). What is a book in the digital age? [Web log post]. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from

Serafini, F., & Youngs, S. (2013). Reading Workshop 2.0. Reading Teacher, 66(5), 401–404. Retrieved from

Skains, R. L. (2010). The Shifting Author–Reader Dynamic: Online Novel Communities as a Bridge from Print to Digital Literature. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16(1), 95–111. doi:10.1177/1354856509347713

Unsworth, L. (2006). Learning through web contexts of book-based literary narratives. In E-literature for children enhancing digital literacy learning (pp. 29–43). London; New York: Routledge. Retrieved from

UWCSEA-East Campus. (2013, August). Program Outline – Middle School English – Grade 7. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from

Walker, S., Jameson, J., & Ryan, M. (2010). Skills and strategies for e-learning in a participatory culture (Ch. 15). In R. Sharpe, H. Beetham, & S. Freitas (Eds.), Rethinking learning for a digital age: How learners are shaping their own experiences (pp. 212–224). New York, NY: Routledge.

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181–194). Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).


One thought on “Assessment Item 4: Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences

  1. Thank you for your blog post Nadine. Your critical analysis of what is and what makes a good digital text is informative and I liked the suggestion for Goodreads to ‘move on’ from books/ ebooks with just ISBN numbers. The criteria for an assessment of digital literature provides several useful frameworks for developing ways to curate these new technological media for the classroom. The most difficult criteria there would be the avoidance of redundancy between platforms/ media because there are rapid changes in technology and it is difficult to be confident in the types of media that will be available for education in the next 5- 10 years. I think the most important criteria for assessing good digital literature is Fuhler’s (2010) integration of the author’s story into the reader’s worldview through the interaction with other people and the use of primary sources. This is the most exciting aspect of the new forms of digital media that can encourage students to make meaning of their environment by interacting with people in potentially educationally structured ways that encourage critical, constructive and positive thinking. This type of classroom activity is going to lead to a revolution in teaching pedagogy and in turn, curriculum design. But how do we measure this development and associated educational achievements when as you correctly point out that we might be usurped by the promises of Web 3.0 technologies that individualise learning on new levels? Brenda Dyck (2010) has authored her own digital text ‘My First Neighborhood” for Geography classrooms that uses primary sources from her past to demonstrate to readers of new digital texts the importance of the creation of cultural artefacts using place-based story telling.
    If Web 3.0 technologies can employ semiotic systems to individualise learning then multimodal texts will be able to adapt to the new platforms and learning environments of future classrooms. This year is the 100th Anniversary of WWI and your multimodal digital text example of Panetta’s (2014) First World War 100 Years incorporates a range of semiotic systems to convey the meaning of the importance of World War One in a digital text format. Of particular interest is that readers of this new format can participate in the text by interacting with other readers and the authors through social media features such as facebook, twitter and google+ sharing, Anstey and Bull (2012) suggest that students who are developing their digital literacies also need to understand how semiotic systems can be used to effectively convey meaning. Dyck’s (2010) My First Neighborhood is another example of a quality digital text that employs the affordances of collaborative technologies to develop digital literacies that effectively use semiotic systems. I look forward to the History classroom of the future that encourages the development of digital literacies and the use of semiotic systems with Web 3.0 technologies so that students can tell their own digital stories about people of the past in a similar way to those seen @ Lives of the First World War.


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