The activity started for my students with discussions in our classroom Ning about what “the act of reading” really means and what a “text” really is, and through these discussions, we redefined and expanded “reading” as an act of interpretation and “text” as anything that can be interpreted. “Reading” for my students became the act of interpreting and understanding (accurately or not) such things as another person’s facial expressions and gestures, traffic symbols and signs, or even the weather. And “texts” became all those things that were interpreted. To read, then, meant more than looking at print on a page; it meant understanding the ideas and images that print was designed to convey. For those of us who consider ourselves as readers, this may seem self-evident; for a good number of my students, it was a revelation and an important step toward reading for comprehension.
As my freshmen discussed the concepts online and reflected on the videos they and their peers had created, pre-service teachers observed (and sometimes participated) in the conversations. They had their own separate course online forum and noted their observations and discussed them with each other in it.
Pre-service teachers created their own individual “Literacy in Our Lives” multimodal projects. They were able to choose any form desired to convey to my freshmen their identities as a readers and writers of texts; these products weren’t graded and didn’t count toward their methods class requirements; they were designed solely to be presented to my class, and each pre-service teacher (there were 15) had between 5 and 7 minutes to share his or her artifact with my freshmen. The products were amazing—they were thoughtful, personal, and creative. One pre-service teacher wrote a song; one created a beautiful bound book, several made PowerPoint presentations or short movies. All had invested time and care into the creation of their products. My students were polite and attentive during the presentations and enjoyed them very much. Then I.U. pre-service teachers invited my students to create short movies about their teen identities as readers and writers of texts. They told my freshmen that since they were soon to be teachers, they wanted a better understanding of the literacies teens cared about. The movies would be loaded to our classroom Ning where IU pre-service teachers could look at them and provide feedback and comments. My students would also look at each others’ movies and provide peer reviews.