Recently I’ve noticed more and more of my students reading graphic novels during their independent reading times, and I have to admit I sometimes think, should I encourage them to read a chapter book instead? However, I then remind myself that I’m just happy they are not only reading, but excited about reading. This week’s Lankshear & Knobel (2011) chapter titled New Literacies and Social Practices of Digital Remixing, along with the interest-driven scholarship I read helped me to explore these thoughts even further.
The first thing that immediately jumped out at me, partly because it was in the first sentence of the chapter was the concept of remixing cultural artifacts. I have to admit I’ve never thought of remix as anything more than a musical term-I love a good remix-but our reading introduced me to a whole new definition of remix, and one I can totally embrace. I realized remixing is happening all around us, in the form of music, art, Photoshopping, fanfiction, online mashups, and movies…really anything that has been produced in our culture can be remixed. Honestly, certain parts of this remixing concept still make me a bit nervous. As a digital storyteller, I’m scared of stealing peoples work. I’m afraid of copyright issues. I’m still curious to understand what is “safe” to remix, and what is not.
One section of the chapter that really struck me was about fanfiction-a concept that was fairly foreign to me. I found it interesting how many people create or read fanfiction, but more than that I was inspired to use the concept of fanfiction as a writing lesson. I have to admit, I think teaching fourth grade students how to write is HARD work. Partly because teaching writing is just plain difficult, and partly because students typically hate writing. Fanfiction could be my answer! My students could build their own stories/create their own pieces of writing by remixing books and movies they already love.
These concepts of fanfiction and remixing led me to my thoughts about my students reading graphic novels, maybe it was the cosplay, or the Star Trek references that helped me make this jump, or the idea of digital remixing as writing…but it led me to scholarship titled Teaching Media Literacy with Graphic Novels. This article encourages the use of graphic novels in K-12 classrooms. Right away the author Dr. Katie Monnin addressed my concerns surrounding students reading graphic novels in the classroom with the question “What is real literature.” She explains, similarly to Lankshear & Knobel (2011), that we need to “…rethink traditional views of literacy, and, in doing so, make a case for teaching graphic novels as media literacy texts in K-12 classrooms.” (Monnin, 2010). Both articles really do encourage me, as an educator, to rethink how I bring literacy into my classroom. Media literacies and digital remixing can only help to make my students more diverse in their skill set, and prepare them for a world filled with new literacies. Plus-let’s be honest-teaching “real” literature, and “real” writing can be boring, for both student and teacher.