Helene Blowers inspired me to think about a greater focus on content creation by patrons (in my case, students) at this summer’s GALILEO Gold Conference. As an English teacher for our district’s summer school program in June 2008, I enjoyed implementing a multigenre research project in which students created alternative learning artifacts in conjunction with a traditional paper to represent their key insights and ideas learned through their research experience.    You can read more about my initial efforts in these posts from 2008 (post 1, post 2,).   This past summer, I worked in our summer school program as one of the school librarians and was struck by how many of my previous students came by to say hello and to share how much they had enjoyed the multigenre aspect of the reserach project a year earlier—no small feat, obviously, for a learning experience to impress a teen to that degree!  I knew then that this multigenre work would need to resurface in the  fall as an integral part of my Media 21 project.  To learn more about the multigenre concept, please see my resource page I created earlier this year.

As part of their research and learning portfolios for their Issues in Africa research project, Ms. Lester and I asked students to create five multigenre learning artifacts that reflected a representation of information that stood out to them from either the reading of their book or their actual research.   The options included:

Here are some student reactions and thoughts on the multigenre aspect of the research experience:

from Maida:

I think that I learned more through multigenre projects compared to others.

from Danielle:

I have truly enjoyed the multi-genre project that we recently started. I think it is a good project because it forces me to look at the book from yet another point of view. It is almost as if I am putting myself in the characters’ shoes and telling their story.

from Zach:

The multigenre part of our research project has been my favorite activity from this year so far.  These multigenre elements have given me a new perspective of the events that are described in the book such as genocide and the lost boys.  I love being able to show my creativity while telling the story of the lost boys.

from Alex:

To be honest, I think that I am enjoying the multigenre projects for my research portfolio web site more than anything else.  I think that this portion of the project is my favorite because I could choose from a large list of projects.  I feel like I am more in charge of the multigenre aspect of this project than any other part that I have done.  I really enjoy the fact that I get to be more creative and let my personality come out in the multigenre project.  I like that artistic people can benefit from some of the multigenre elements, and people that like to write can also benefit from some of the multigenre elements.  Personally, I am enjoying both the writing part and the artistic part of this project.

We have seen some terrific representations of students’ interpretations of information and understandings, include original artwork, Glogsters, videos, poems, creative forms of writing, and even bulletin boards.  One artifact, though, that has really stood out to me is Betty’s “two voice poem” based on her reading of the novel Chanda’s Secrets and her research on AIDS.  Betty, who has given me permission to post her two voice poem here, has created a powerful snapshot of her thinking:

This kind of work has me thinking about several ideas and areas of inquiry:

  • What are ways to help students promote and publish their work outside of their Google Site and Slideshare portfolios?  Or to somehow catalog and promote their portfolios through our virtual and physical library space? How might student work become a new part of the library collection? How would this move fit into my framework of participatory librarianship?  Right now I’m thinking about ways to build a virtual student collection of work that could integrated into my catalog—suggestions are welcomed!—and ways to also promote this new part of our collection.
  • What are other possibilities for the multigenre menu that would speak to my efforts to posit transliteracy as a mainstream literacy?
  • How might a greater emphasis on content creation engage students in research and information fluency?