Students’ Semiotic Practices In Project Oriented Teaching and Digital Learning Environments

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftAbstraktForskningpeer review


Departing from an analysis of students’ multimodal production in digital learning environments, this paper discusses the didactic (continental tradition) consequences of the findings. The study is part of the research project “Digital project didactics in liberal schools”, which takes a mixed methods approach in its study of eight Danish schools. The study presents a new concept for project work in digital learning environments. Indeed, we conceptualize the students’ semiotic practices as production competencies alongside of three other core project competences (process-competencies, inquiry based competencies, challenge competencies). The students’ semiotic practices with digital and multimodal resources performing various transformations and transductions inherit a surprising complexity. This complexity seems ignored with regards to the written languages as foreground modalities. The purpose of the study is to gain insight into the complexity of students’ digital and semiotic practices in order to develop didactic recommendations for the course design of project oriented teaching and learning.

Research Question:

What kind of transformations and transductions are produced by students in interdisciplinary and project-oriented work in digital learning environments, and how do these forms of multimodal semiotic practices contribute to our concept of students’ production competencies?

Theoretically, this study draws on a socio-semiotic understanding of multimodal, semiotic practice and semiotic artefacts (Zhao, Djonov. E., van Leeuwen 2014,). Concepts on multimodality are considered. In particular, the core concepts that are of interest are transformation and trandesuction, which describes the change that occurs within the same mode, as well as when change occurs across modes. Indeed, these concepts facilitates an understanding of the shifts in semiotic material from one mode to another, which we understand as transduction (Bezemer, Kress, 2016). Based on the two concepts, we describe transitions and connections in the semiotic practice of students when shifting between modalities and digital and analogue technologies. We also use the terms to analyze multimodal limitations on learning in students semiotic practices. A second point of departure is the development of students’ technological literacy e.g. the use, management, assessment and understanding of technologies (ITEA 2000/2007). Digital technologies are not the only elements added to the teaching in digital environments; rather, you can say that technology creates a new context with new communicative structures and practices (Binkley, 2012, Jewitt 2008, Hasse og Brok 2015).These practices also brings forth a new complexity that is concerned with the use and understanding of technology - a complexity that cannot be seen without reference to the didactic considerations on choice of content, method, activity and feedback mechanisms (Harris et al 2014).

Method The mixed methods study includes data from 8 liberal schools in Denmark. The quantitative part is a base-/endline study based on a survey on teacher’s use of digital tools, knowledge on learning materials and digital course planning as well as highly structured observations of teachings in 4th to 6th grade. Relevant panel data from the quantitative part are included. The qualitative part consists of classroom video-observation, collected student products and interviews with students and teachers who reflect on their understandings of the work flow and the use of semiotic resources when creating products. The data is analyzed in Nvivo by virtue of descriptive coding in order to structure the data. The data analysis is driven by a theoretical approach towards student’s semiotic practices. We compare our data with the results of former student’s semiotic practices, and the usability and the different kind of affordances in digital technologies, which gives us the opportunity to do comparative case studies across classrooms.

Expected Outcomes
When students learn in interdisciplinary and long-term projects in digital environments, their work seems to be more complex than teachers are often aware of. Students must be able to construe meaning across subjects, as well as transform and transduce content elements from one modality to another or from one group of modalities to another. Furthermore, students must be able to use and monitor different kinds of analogue and digital technologies. How can these skills be grasped in their complexity in the concept of students’ production competencies taking into account a set of other project competencies? Amongst other we observe the following challenges: 1) Students’ digital semiotic practices seem to be on a low taxonomical level; 2) Teachers are not aware of the complexity of the affordances of the technology in use and the potential for multimodal transformation and transduction; 3) There is a need for teachers to scaffold students’ acquisition of digital literacy in order to deal with the complexity.
StatusUdgivet - 2018