Best Practices in Teaching Digital Literacies: Volume 9

Cover of Best Practices in Teaching Digital Literacies

Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to understand how disruptive innovations related to digital literacy can improve traditional approaches of teacher education.

Approach – First, the evolution of teacher education from tradition to the digital era is discussed, highlighting the evolution of various traditions, theories and models of teacher education. The authors then ask the questions, “Why do teacher education programs continue to lag in the creation of a true alignment with the current needs of modern students?” and “How can this be done and where should we begin?”

Findings – The authors believe that professional growth is the key to teacher success. Reformed teacher education programs where digital literacy is grounded in relevant contexts, collaboration, and multimodal designs will promote collective collaboration among students and teachers. Digital literacies curriculum should draw on multimodalities and position students as producers of knowledge for a public audience. These disruptive forces function to improve traditional notions of teacher education, providing a catalyst to the democratization of knowledge for teacher development.

Practical Implications – Collaboration across digital platforms promotes learning through crowd-accelerated learning, rhizomatic learning, citizen inquiry, massive open social learning, maker cultures, and blockchain platforms. These approaches can foster genuine and relevant learning in teacher education programs, modernizing and matching instructional techniques with the teacher preparation demands of today and tomorrow.


Purpose – Teachers should plan instruction that integrates digital tools into instruction in meaningful ways to promote students’ use of multimodalities. Therefore, it is useful for teacher educators to expose pre-service teachers (PSTs) to a systematic approach to integrating a variety of digital tools into their instruction. In this chapter, the authors discuss on the Technology Integration Planning Cycle (TIPC; Hutchison & Woodward, 2014a, 2014b) as one systematic approach for teachers and teacher educators to consider.

Design – This chapter describes the promise of using the TIPC with PSTs to demonstrate and practice how to plan effective literacy instruction to support students’ use of multimodalities. The chapter includes a rich description of how the use of the TIPC might take shape in a literacy methods course based on a composite of courses, students, and activities that the authors have experimented with over time.

Findings – Using the TIPC with PSTs requires a structured approach (Hutchison & Colwell, 2016) that includes modeling and scaffolding of PSTs’ knowledge of technology and pedagogy (Beschorner & Kruse, 2016). Therefore, the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) might be valuable to consider as a guiding framework for planning course activities and assignments that utilize the TIPC. This chapter provides an example of this type of instruction.

Practical Implications – There is a significant need to prepare twenty-first century learners to read and write multimodal text. Thus, supporting PSTs to increase their self-efficacy in using technology for instruction and providing the conditions necessary to develop pedagogical beliefs that make it likely for them to be able to integrate technology in meaningful ways is vital (Ertmer, 2005). Using the TIPC in a literacy methods course in the ways that model and scaffold its use, might be one approach to creating these conditions.


Purpose – The purpose of the study was to understand if / how making e-books can facilitate digital literacy skills among teacher candidates.

Design – The research design was a qualitative case study. Data were collected from the student’s e-book, student’s e-book reflective commentary, and questionnaire as well as course reflection. Multimodality and the technological, pedagogical content knowledge (CK) provided the theoretical framework.

Findings – The findings of this qualitative case study indicate that making e-books do facilitate the acquisition of digital literacy and technological pedagogical content knowledge among teacher candidates. In addition, the project promoted transmediation and differentiation of instruction. It facilitated divergent thinking and knowledge of instructional design as well as the affordances and constraints of multimodal tools.

Practical Implications – This study contributes to the literature on e-books and their role in digital literacy development among teacher candidates. The study supports the need to provide teachers with the opportunity for inquiry-oriented and design-based projects that enable them to be knowledge generators. Teachers should be allowed to experiment with digital and multimodal tools, and in the process, create opportunities for transmediation and differentiation of instruction for their students.


Purpose – To offer teacher educators a multi-modal approach to include teaching digital literacy practices to pre-service teachers in order to meet the diverse needs of elementary students.

Approach – The chapter is organized by: a) describing inequities and challenges in teacher education regarding teaching digital literacies; b) presenting concrete practices that help foster digital literacy practices in class classrooms; and c) providing resources and reflective opportunities that support pre-service teachers in critically assessing technology’s affordances and constraints for literacy learning.

Findings – Evidence-based multimodal practices and artifacts used in teacher education classrooms are provided to illustrate how they can foster meaningful experiences with all students across all settings. Similarly, educational scholars in the field of incorporating digital literacies are identified.

Practical Implications – This chapter describes practical examples from the everyday literacies of pre-service teachers and elementary students, including apps, websites, tools, and approaches, that foster meaningful experiences with digital literacies. In addition, practical discussions identify strategies that pre-service teachers can use when their internship experience conflicts with methods course content.

Research limitations/implications – The strategies presented in this chapter are based on research and practice, but they focus on elementary pre-service teachers; however, secondary pre-service teacher educators could make adaptations for their learners.

Originality/value of paper – This chapter provides relevant evidence-based information about preparing pre-service teachers to enact digital literacy practices that help K-12 students to think critically, analyze content, and participate fully in 21st century digital cultures.


Purpose – To discuss relevant research and theory that inform literacy development in a digital age.

Design – This chapter weaves together research on K-12 literacy development, metacognition, and new literacies in an effort to build a framework for supporting the literacy development of children and adolescents. Relevant theories and research frame a sociolinguistic approach to literacy development and learning as its relation to engaging with digital text is discussed throughout.

Findings – A framework for supporting literacy development alongside working with developing teachers is offered to support comprehensive literacy development within a digital age.

Practical Implications – A framework is presented that can be used across grade levels. Multiple examples across grade levels and within teacher education are offered to support the model that is proposed.


Purpose – The purpose of this study was to understand how, if at all, backchanneling technology supported an early career English teacher’s facilitation of literary discussions in his 10th grade classroom. Although emerging findings from studies of backchanneling in teaching contexts have illustrated its potential power, little attention has been given to how teachers learn to use the tool or reimagine their pedagogical roles as they use backchanneling for instructional purposes.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Discourse analyses of 16 face-to-face (frontchannel) and online (backchannel) transcripts of discussions exposed how participants used these two venues to interact simultaneously around a literary text. Methods from Nystrand’s (2002) dialogic discourse analysis isolated each teacher interjection in the contexts of each discussion.

Findings – The teacher used the backchannel to probe for elaborated student responses and model dialogic discourse moves. The teacher’s behind-the-scenes support limited his participation during frontchannel discussions, allowing for open discussion among students without the teacher’s consistent interjection, which disrupted the initiation-response-evaluation discourse structure that is pervasive in US schools.

Practical Implications – Although backchanneling technology can be used to archive records of students’ participation that could be useful for assessment purposes, the teacher’s skillful capacity to negotiate two discussions at once reconstituted his role during the discussion from facilitator to a fellow reader with his students as they explored meaningful questions that literature provokes – a less obvious and potentially more powerful affordance of this digital tool for instructional purposes.

Structured Abstract

Purpose – To consider the ways two pre-service teachers evaluated digital information sources about climate change in order to highlight the challenges and possibilities of an instructional approach aimed at cultivating digital literacies about climate change among pre-service teachers.

Design – The qualitative research design focuses on two pre-service teachers’ written reflections and participation during class discussions across two sessions in a content literacy course. The theoretical framework that guided the analysis was civic media literacy.

Findings – Findings of this study highlight conceptions of reliability that two participants held (reliability as relative or as evidentiary support) as they worked with web sources about climate change. These conceptions reflected a denialist orientation to climate change science.

Practical Implications – This study contributes to the literature that considers the ways pre-service teachers work with websites about socioscientific topics. It highlights how an instructional model can help promote digital literacy practices that center on evaluating the reliability of websites about climate change. It also includes a companion framework called fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, cherry picking, and conspiracy theories (FLICC) that can be used to guide students to better understand techniques and practices of science denial.

Structured Abstract

Purpose – To explicate how to design a digital internship that encourages both the teacher candidate and the K-12 student to participate in problem-based learning. Framed by the theories of academic motivation and new literacies, this chapter presents templates to demonstrate how a digital internship can be designed that results in the learning goals of both the students and the teacher candidates being met.

Design – Digital internships provide teacher candidates with the opportunity to teach K-12 students online, observe licensed teachers design and employ lessons, and analyze this pedagogical learning space, yet education preparation programs (EPPs) fail to harness this rich learning experience. This chapter makes a case for why EPPs benefit from participating in digital internships, how they can become involved, and results from this learning experience.

Findings – Findings from digital internship research studies indicate that despite frustrations, online mentoring opportunities give teacher candidates a chance to reflect on the work needed to create relationships necessary to instruct effectively. Through them, candidates can also develop dispositions of new literacies and bridge theory and practice in EPPs. Furthermore, digital internships may serve to empower teacher candidates and support them in being successful in teacher preparation coursework.

Practical Implications – Digital internships contribute to best practices in teaching digital literacies by providing examples of how EPPs can design curriculum that situates teacher candidates to observe pedagogy in online environments. These internships provide candidates the opportunity to mentor K-12 students in these spaces and provide teacher candidates time to process how they can best motivate students and give specific feedback to encourage learning. Furthermore, digital internships can include primary resources to enrich units of instruction across content areas and grade levels.

Structured Abstract

Purpose – To help teacher educators understand how to more fully prepare pre-service teachers (PSTs) for meaningful and effective instruction with multimodal texts and the underlying technologies.

Design – This mixed methods investigation employed designed-based research in that as the authors observed and gathered data on PSTs’ outcomes within the context of a literacy methods course, the authors also engaged in an iterative process of collaborative design to develop a sustainable instructional model across three academic semesters with three cohorts of PSTs. The authors analyzed pre- and post-PST surveys measuring their knowledge of, disposition toward, and self-efficacy with technology and technology in teaching as well their intent to use technology in their future teaching. The authors also coded and analyzed PST lesson plans completed across each semester for instances of meaningful integration of multimodal texts and the underlying technology, and sound literacy instruction. Finally, the authors closely examined differences in how the course was shaped and “reshaped” across all three iterations and noted any differences in PST outcomes related to these shifts.

Findings – Overall findings suggest that enrollment in the literacy methods course improved both PSTs’ self-efficacy and knowledge about teaching with technology while also supporting PSTs’ ability to develop sound literacy instructional plans. Moreover, strategic positioning of multimodal texts and technology, in which integration is seamless, can help PSTs meaningfully and effectively weave multimodal text sets into their literacy lesson plans.

Practical Implications – This chapter contributes to the literature on integrating multimodal texts and the underlying technologies into PST programs by providing explicit, research-based recommendations for how teacher educators can meaningfully and seamlessly infuse multimodal text sets into core curricula and instructional practices.

Structured Abstract

Purpose – To examine the results of requiring a book review podcast project within an Adolescent and Young Adult Literature (YAL) course in a teacher education program. This inquiry pays special attention to the ways in which sound can be used to elicit and evoke listener emotion, and enrich and expand pre-service teachers’ (PSTs) technological repertoires as they move forward as teachers in this digital era.

Design – This inquiry into PSTs’ experiences creating and publishing a book review podcast as an explicit part of their teacher preparation program draws on critical literacy traditions and critical inquiry-based pedagogies. The research design included collection of book review podcasts, written reflections from PSTs after completing the podcasts, written peer feedback, and ethnographic field notes. The author uses qualitative methods including critical incident and descriptive review analyses to gain insight into how PSTs engaged an invitation to write, record, and publish a book review podcast. The work is grounded in a conceptual framework around socio-cultural constructions of literacy, new media ecologies, and arts-based literacies.

Findings – In order to create an engaging book review podcast, PSTs must be supported to think about the value and purpose of the sonic as part of the whole composition and provided challenging, sustained opportunities to experiment with different sonic elements as part of their composing processes. Although used in different ways, sound was a critical variable in podcast production. Sound played a vital role in engaging listeners by drawing on and manipulating elements such as pausing, voice inflection, intonation, and music that are not characteristic of the typical book reviews. Despite PSTs’ engagement with and interest in learning how to use and compose with these additional elements, many found this activity to be time consuming and difficult; having no previous exposure to this technology. The nature of this assignment and the novelty of the podcasting platform also shifted some of the typical discourse patterns in online discussion boards from that of academic dialogue, to a heightened sense of encouragement and commendation.

Practical Implications – This inquiry contributes to the literature on teacher education, especially literacy education and English education, and has implications for understanding the unique opportunities and challenges of entering the teaching profession in this digital era. For teacher educators willing to commit to supporting and extending PSTs’ digital literacies, including podcasts in particular, a number of recommendations on designing a similar project are included, with a focus on inquiry-based, student-centered pedagogies.

Structured Abstract

Purpose – To describe the use of the software platform, TechScaffold, for use in teacher education to provide pre-service and in-service teachers with decision-making heuristics to select apps based on formulation of their instructional purposes for using those apps; participate in a community designed to foster knowledge and experience about effective, purposeful uses of apps; and share project reports to illustrate the use of apps to achieve certain learning objectives.

Design – The authors draw on research related to decision-making associated with purposeful uses of apps as well as analysis of the limitations of similar instructional design tools to develop features for TechScaffold. They sought to scaffold teachers’ decision-making through users formulating open-ended responses to queries with responses matched against a database of apps identified according to platform, purpose, grade level, difficulty, and cost, as well as ways for users to participate as members of a community to share projects illustrating uses of apps. The authors also obtained feedback regarding the potential usability and value of TechScaffold.

Findings – Given research indicating the importance of scaffolding decision-making processes regarding uses of apps, feedback from users indicated that they perceive TechScaffold as a useful tool within the context of teacher education as well as for professional development in schools to foster effective decision-making associated with purposeful uses of apps.

Practical Implications – Teacher educators can employ scaffolding activities to help pre-service and in-service teachers make decisions regarding productive uses of apps through their open-ended formulation of certain purposes through use of a tool such as TechScaffold.

Structured Abstract

Purpose – To examine the potential social media has for increasing pre-service English language arts (ELA) teachers’ language interest, awareness, and content knowledge by engaging them in an ongoing collaborative effort to seek out, make observation about, and highlight contemporary examples of language, literacy, and culture in action in global media using Twitter as a platform.

Design – The research design was qualitative and included a thematic analysis of Twitter posts from the pre-service teacher participants during the semester, informal feedback about the experience during the semester, and written reflections at the end of the semester. Students worked independently on the assignment throughout the semester, outside of a few brief, and informal check-ins during class by the instructor. At the end of the semester, students completed an open-ended survey to reflect on their experiences with and takeaways from participating in this Twitter-based language exploration activity. The theoretical frameworks that were foundational to the study included the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (TPACK) framework (Koehler & Mishra, 2008) and Andrews’ (2006) criteria for language exploration and awareness.

Findings – The findings of this qualitative study indicate that engaging pre-service teachers in an ongoing collaborative effort to promote language, literacy, and culture via social media has great potential in terms of students increasing not only their knowledge of language and language awareness, but also their TPACK overall. Specific examples of how participants responded to the experience are provided.

Practical Implications – This study contributes to the literature on the potential impact of social media on content area learning and teacher preparation by providing concrete, research-based suggestions for how both English teacher educators and middle and secondary ELA teachers can engage in collaborative efforts to learn more about, expand definitions of, and promote aspects related to ELA content, like language awareness, variety, and dialect. It includes recommendations for both teacher educators and middle and secondary ELA teachers to expand their notions for defining and teaching aspects of language that go beyond a narrow focus on grammar and to consider ways that social media and digital literacies can enhance these efforts.


Purpose – The purpose is to expand multimodal composition frameworks and practices to include tactile design and use of maker technologies, situated in a larger context of designing for equity and increasing access to picture books for children with visual impairments.

Design – As part of the Build a Better Book project, we designed workshops to engage students in composing tactile books enhanced with sound and Braille for young children with visual impairments. Education undergraduates in a children’s literature class crafted tactile retellings over a 2-session workshop, and high school students in an ELA class designed and fabricated 3D printed tactile books over several weeks.

Findings – Both pre-service candidates and high school students developed awareness of the importance of inclusive, equity-oriented design of picture books, and especially for children with visual impairments. They collaborated in teams, developing design skills manipulating texture, shape, size and spatial arrangement to express their tactile retellings and enhanced meaning with sound. The high school students had more opportunity to build technical and computational thinking through their use of Makey Makey, Scratch, and TinkerCad.

Practical Implications – Multimodal composition and making can be effectively integrated into pre-service candidates’ literacy education, as well as high school English Language Arts, to develop multimodal communication and inclusive design skills and values. Success depends on interdisciplinary expertise (e.g., children’s books, tactile design, making technologies, etc.), and sufficient access to physical and digital materials and tools.


Purpose – Introduces the beginning, acting, telling (BAT) model, designed for use in the elementary school classroom and based on the findings of research into information-seeking behavior and information literacy. The BAT model, by its use of visual cues and mnemonic to present stages and actions of the research process helps students to better conceptualize the research process. The BAT model’s identification of cognitive and affective behaviors, and depiction of features of information literacy instruction including the preparation of students to begin actual research and make effective use of the retrieved information, can help pre-service and in-service teachers be aware of strategic consideration of information literacy in the English Language Arts.

Design – The research design of the two studies that informed the model, each involving two classes of third-grade elementary school students, was qualitative. Data were collected via participant observation, interviews, artifacts produced by the students, pre- and post-questionnaires, and journals.

Findings – The visual presentation of the BAT model along with its use of mnemonic helped students to more easily conceptualize and remember a holistic research process where concrete actions and abstract concepts are related to and influence one another. Use of the BAT model within a project-based inquiry learning environment to teach content helped to reinforce research skills to form a foundation upon which to build in the future.

Practical Implications – By presenting the key aspects of the research process in one visual, the BAT model can help students in the earliest grades of elementary school and forward into high school to better conceptualize and navigate the often iterative and complex nature of the research process.


Purpose – To examine whether or not exposing novice teachers in a graduate literacy education diversity course to particular texts and activities focused on economic diversity and lifestyle differences among students makes them more likely to positively respond to these lesser understood forms of diversity in their own teaching and if so, in what ways.

Design – The research design was qualitative and included written reflections from the teacher-participants at the beginning, middle and end of the semester, and videotaping and transcribing activities and post-activity discussions. Ethnographic observations and notes were made by the primary investigator (PI). The theoretical frameworks that were foundational to the study were critical literacy and teaching for social justice.

Findings – The findings of this qualitative study indicate that exposing teachers to texts, discussions, and activities that educate them on economic diversity and lifestyle differences among students makes them more likely to positively respond to these forms of diversity in their own teaching. Specific examples of how participants did this are provided.

Practical Implications – This study contributes to the literature on diversity in literacy instruction by providing concrete, research-based suggestions for how both teacher educators and K-12 teachers can expand their definitions of student diversity to include economic disparities and lifestyle differences among students. It includes recommended texts and activities for both teacher educators and K-12 teachers to address less typical forms of diversity, with a focus on economic diversity and lifestyle differences.

Cover of Best Practices in Teaching Digital Literacies
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Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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