viernes, 31 de marzo de 2017

The role of the mediator in an online literary discussion with Spanish and Mexican students





Edgar Armando Córdova García specialised in teaching Spanish as a native language at the Universidad Virtual del ITESM and has a Masters in Children’s and Young Adult Literature from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Currently he coordinates the Programme for the Mediation of Reading and Writing for the Department of Education of Durango state (Mexico).

Research question

The aim of this study was to describe the functions of the mediator in an online literary discussion with young people from Spain and Mexico. Hence, the following question was raised: What actions does the mediator of an online literary discussion display that facilitate the making of inferences by participants with regards to a text?

Context

This study adheres to the works surrounding the literary discourse of the past decade (Fittipaldi, 2008; Cuperman, 2010; Colomer and Fittipaldi et. al, 2012). It starts from the premise that, in school: “literary discussion is a didactic instrument for the comprehension of texts and the creation of reading habits” (Colomer and Fittipaldi 2012, 87).

The literary discussion was carried out on the LEOTECA[1] platform, between the 1st and 16th of March 2016. The participants were 23 students who attend secondary school in Mexico and Spain. The students from Mexico belong to the Telesecundaria[2] “Mano Amiga” of the city of Durango and the young people from Spain study at the Instituto Escuela Secundaria “Diego Jesús Jiménez” in the Province of Cuenca.

The selected text is called “En un Latido” (In a Heartbeat) and is part of the anthology by Montse Ganges (2016). The story is narrated by the Chac Mool[3]. It is about Balam[4], a farmer who is enslaved by the Mayans, and Canek, a young prince from Chicén Itzá and champion of the Ball Game[5]. Canek chooses Balam as his companion, and together they win many battles and are praised by their people. One day, however, Canek decides not to fight and they lose the game. As a result, both are sacrificed.


Methodology and design

As part of the research, the readers’ responses were analysed using a qualitative approach based on the categories of literary responses outlined in the Visual Journeys project (Fittipaldi, 2012), and the functions of the mediators were classified (Munita and Manresa, 2012). The resulting data was analysed by means of graphs or figures. The figures are segments of the tree (literary discussion) that describe the interactions between the participants. This allows the identification of the reader response paths and the construction of inferences.


LEVELS
LITERAL STATEMENTS
Emphasis on the content of the illustrations. Identification, enumeration, description and the establishment of simple connections.
INFERENTIAL STATEMENTS
Search for the meaning of the illustrations. Speculation, prediction, inference, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and critical thinking. Use of reasoning and proposal for interpretation.
Referential
(Narration)
Identification and description of the elements of the narrative: characters, actions, and framework.
Interpretation of the elements that construct the narrative: the character’s motivations, inferences stemming from the actions, relationship between the frame and the story, etc.
Why?
Compositional
(The book as a material and artistic object)
Who? What? Where?
Identification and description of the book as an object, of the paratext and other visual elements, of the communication situation (author, readers, edition, etc.), and of the concept of reading.
Interpretation of the diverse visual elements that are typical of the communication situation proposed by the text.
Awareness of the artistic intentions of the author and the role of the implicit reader.



Intertextual and intercultural (The cultural and intercultural connections of the text)
Identification and allusion to Intertextual, metaphorical, and symbolic references of cultural representations.
Establish the relations between the text and the intertextual, metaphorical, and symbolic representations previously mentioned.
Use of  Intertextual knowledge as a tool for interpreting the story and negotiating meaning.
Personal experience
Establish simple connections between the text and the life experience of the readers.
Establish thoughtful connections between the text and the life experience of the readers.
Table 1 Categorization model of reader’s responses from Visual Journeys’ project.
Source: Fittipaldi (2012)


It was thought that the qualitative paradigm from Discourse Analysis could constrain and explain the object of the study through the use of a priori categories, thus viewing the readers’ responses as a web of discourse. Rapley (2007) states that the analysis of conversation focuses on how speakers interact to achieve their goals. In this case, the mediator’s questions are prompts to speak and the readers’ responses are a bridge between literal meaning and inference based on the narration.

Following Munita and Manresa (2012), the functions of the mediator used in this study are to:

  a.     Help search for textual evidence
  b.     Help in the construction and foundation of arguments
  c.     Relate the discussion to other books and previous knowledge
  d.     Offer a metalanguage with which to talk about books
  e.     Reformulate, synthesise and systematise what is said in order to progress the discussion and establish concepts and content



Analysis

In this research, the functions of the mediator were analysed based on the literary planning achievements (Chambers, 2007), through three figures that represent the interactions of the network of literary discussion.

One of the functions of mediation is to help in the search for textual indices or clues. Likewise, the mediator should try to get the text to leave “something,” intimate, personal and mysterious that is never fully defined by the reader or the text. For this reason, the mediator asked: “When you came to the character Canek, what stories did you see in your head while reading?” Carolinapc visualizes Canek entrusting his life to Balam. Meanwhile, Marisolpc mentally recreates the scene where Balam is intentionally losing. In both cases the theme of the discussion is the binary of life and death.


Figure 1. Textual clues on the binary of life and death




The child Dsd8 states: "I imagined bloodthirsty people waiting for some to die, fearful yet courageous players, who at the time of dying thought about their loved ones, and those who were winning, the seconds seeming endless to them, and those who were losing, hoping for them to become eternal." In this statement the word blood emerges as a symbol of both life and death. The words courage and fear also appear, allusions to Eros and Thanatos. Therefore, this segment of the conversational network was titled: Figure 1. Textual clues on the binary of life and death.

Another duty of the mediator, similar to that of the philosopher, is to situate themselves in the question rather than in the answer. That is, to never affirm that a question is completely defined and thus to place themselves in a synthetic perspective between the reader-text and search for dialectic thought.

For this reason, the mediator selects a question whose answer can have two simultaneous strands. The question is: “In the end, the Chac Mool says ‘but do not feel sorry for me, because I was once someone very important: I was the Balam, the noblest and bravest’ Why does he say this? Was he the same character or were they different? What do you think?”

Most reader responses insist that Balam and Chac Mool were the same character (Figure 2. To read is to find a blind spot). However, there are not sufficient textual clues to confirm either this reply or the reply that Chac Mool was simply a witness who contemplated the life of Balam and thought that at some point he was Balam. This was confirmed by the author on the discussion thread that she participated in with the students[1]. Therefore, the mediator qualifies the students' assertions, asking them to provide arguments to be discussed by the literary community. To read is to try to answer the question that has no single answer or that leads to a blind spot (Figure 2).


Figure 2. To read is to find a blind spot

Since it is evident that the readers had understood that Balam, the main character, was a hero, the mediator decided to ask questions regarding Canek. Canek is a secondary character whose voice is hardly heard and who is known only by the actions described by the Chac Mool.

Consequently, the mediator opted for the following prompt: “I propose that we think of Canek: how does Canek value the attitude of Balam? And what do you think of Canek's attitude towards his partner and what is happening in his village?” The responses of the students were: selfish, very selfish and only thinks of himself. However, there is a response by ChicodelAtun that goes beyond the positioning of the main character by the author of the story: "I think he is a bit selfish, but it is also understandable that he is this way because in the Mayan culture the game was very important" (Figure 3, To understand is to take ownership of the secondary character).

This response infers the motives and feelings of Canek that determine his actions, that is, it refers to context of the Mayan culture. This is a product of the function of the mediator: to help the reader in the construction and foundation of his or her arguments.

 Figure 3. To understand is to take ownership of the secondary character



Conclusions

     1. The procedure of analysing the data through graphs of the conversational network facilitates the processing of the interactions between the participants of an online literary discussion, given that:

a.     The mediator's instructions and the reading responses form a conversational network
b.  The structure of the network contributes to the description and explanation of the principal and new functions of the mediator
       2. New functions of the mediator are determined:

a.     To help the reader's inner knowledge
b.     To propitiate reading as a contemplative experience
c.     To infer the actions and motivations of the secondary characters
3
      Online discussion, unlike literary discussion within the classroom, is an exercise in self-reflection for the mediating teacher. It becomes a space to professionalize their performance as a mediator, since it brings to light their successes, weaknesses and strengths by allowing them to read themselves. In addition, it is possible to identify who intervened, who replied to whom, the exact sequence of the entries and how they were thought out and written; as well as describing the reading trajectories of the participants, who replied, who assumed mediation roles and who did not participate in the chat. It also allows the participants to state everything they need, think and feel – even regarding the mediator – without any fears.

      It is advisable for teachers, librarians or promoters of reading to implement online literary discussions supervised by specialists, to bring an awareness to their mediation process and thus become better mediators.


References

Chambers, A. (2007). Dime. Los niños, la lectura y la conversación. México: FCE.

Colomer and Fittipaldi et al (2012).  La literatura que acoge: Inmigración y lectura de   álbumes. Barcelona: Banco del Libro-Gretel/SM.

Cuperman, R. C. (2010). Las respuestas lectoras en niños preadolescentes: espejo de la agresión. Bellaterra: journal of teaching and learning language and literature, 2(2), 123-137. Seen the 20th of March 2016 on http://www.raco.cat/index.php/Bellaterra/article/viewArticle/194352/0


Fittipaldi M. (2008). Travesías textuales: inmigración y lectura de imágenes. Trabajo final de investigación del Master en Didactica Lengua y Literatura. Dirección de T. Colomer, Departament de Didáctica de la Llengua, de la Literatura i les CCSS. Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.

Fittipaldi M. (2012). Categorización de las respuestas infantiles ante los textos literarios. In Colomer y Fittipaldi La literatura que acoge: inmigración y lectura de álbumes (pp.69-86). Barcelona: Banco del Libro- Gretel/SM.

Ganges M. (2016). Lo que cuentan las estatuas del mundo. Ediciones Ekare

Munita y Manresa (2012). La categorización de las respuestas infantiles ante los textos literarios. Análisis de algunos modelos y propuestas de clasificación. In Colomer y Fittipaldi (ed)  La literatura que acoge: Inmigración y lectura de álbumes, pp.119-143. Barcelona: Banco del Libro-Gretel.

Rapley, T. (2014). Los análisis de la conversación, del discurso y de documentos en Investigación Cualitativa. Morata.









[1] See www.leoteca.es for information on the conversation thread the author had with the students.




[1] LEOTECA is an online community for children and adults with a shared interest in children’s and young adult literature.
[2] Telesecundaria is a system of distance education programs via satellites for secondary and high school students created by the government of Mexico.
[3] The Chac Mool refers to a Mayan sculpture depicting a reclining figure with its head facing 90 degrees from the front, supporting a bowl upon its stomach used to hold sacrificial offerings.
[4] Balam means jaguar in Mayan.
[5] The Ball Game was a sport played in Mesoamerica that had important ritual aspects and sacred ends. Played in a rectangular field, players could only hit the ball with their hips, knees and forearms. Penalties were given to the team who touched the ball with their hands or lost the ball more than once; the winning team was the one with the least number of faults or that scored the most points. 

viernes, 17 de febrero de 2017

Mediating digital narratives: An analysis of the animated short The Memory of Fountain.



   Image: Earth Design Works. https://vimeo.com/66372995.


Carmen Rosas Franco is a graphic designer and has a Master’s degree in Art Studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana (Mexico), with focus on Arts and Education. She writes for blogs and magazines on art and literature, teaches courses in Communications, Graphic Design and Animation and has collaborated with public and private institutions in the management of cultural, educational and scientific projects. Currently, Carmen conducts research on digital narratives in children’s and young adult fiction from the perspective of visual studies, reception theories and transtextuality. She has given lectures on digital narratives in congresses in Mexico, Cuba and Argentina.  The following article is part of Carmen’s thesis for the Masters in Art Studies entitled “The digital image in relation to the development of imagination and creativity. Analysis of the animated short The Man of Water[1],”  Mexico: UIA, 2016.


     In the digital universe there circulates content in which the concept of narrative can be recognised as both literary and artistic, changing its traditional form and structure. These works have surpassed the book as receptacles of narrative , adjusting to the mediums that young readers are accustomed to.
     Stories that are based not only on the written word present new ways of “reading” and of “seeing;” they are forms of fiction that integrate into the cultural and communicative paradigm of society today. The analysis of the animated short The Memory of Fountain aims to answer the question: what do digital narratives offer readers in terms of development of perceptive abilities and the creation of a significant aesthetic experience?
    Technology and the emergence of digital mediums at the end of the twentieth century changed the modes of creation and reception of works, shifting them to digital formats that are accessed by means of a screen.
     In cities, children and young adults are immersed in electronic devices through which they have access to an infinity of content and information. These narratives tell stories by combining text, images, movement and sound, elements that come from the visual arts and its technological evolution. A relationship exists between the visual, auditory and textual elements and the narration, which creates an aesthetic and reflective experience in children and young readers.
In contrast to the popular views on the presence of technology - that it distracts children and young adults from reading - this investigation proposes that digital narratives can be used to develop skills for aesthetic appreciation. Furthermore, aesthetic experiences are often tied to museums, galleries, or theatres, venues that have been canonically designated for the enjoyment of the arts. In the 21st century, and despite advances in all areas, there still exists a lack of acknowledgment of the benefits that technology offers in the transmission and enjoyment of cultural manifestations.
     From the comfort of our home, these immersive experiences bring us closer to the arts, including literature.
     Technologies are a new meeting space for the arts (contextually, not physically), where aesthetic experiences are generated that can deepen the reflections of the problems of our surroundings and daily life.
     Access to these new modes of seeing, listening and feeling reinforces the idea that art is not a thing of the last century, is not something that occurs in different epochs, in other places or to other people; we can access art with a single click or the swipe of a finger.
     The short animation The Memory of Fountain was selected out of a corpus of children’s and young adult digital narratives. Its analysis comprised dimensions of both the formal (what is seen) and the conceptual (what is understood) – a methodology used in visual studies to analyse works of art, especially pictorial ones. After a breakdown of all the elements (text, sound, image, movement), a relationship was drawn between these and the narrative.
     Once the analysis was complete, I detected that few methodological frameworks exist that indicate what reader-spectators appreciate in the digital narrative or how they establish links between the elements and their meanings. It is worth noting that frameworks about the meaning of pictures do exist, but these pertain to picturebooks rather than digital contexts.
     Thus, a proposal was created for mediation, a tool that takes key points from arts programs aimed at working with the public, in museums and schools, and that are intended to develop abilities for aesthetic perception.
     From amongst these we took Abigail Housen’s Visual Thinking Strategies (1970), applied in schools and museums across the United States. Other theories used to develop abilities were also consulted, such as those of Parsons (1987), Aguirre (2000) and Bloom (1956). These theories became the backbone of the mediation process with digital narratives, which is roughly comprised of the following steps:
1.    Presentation
2.     Exhibition of the digital narrative
3.     Directed questions[2]: what is seen? What is heard? What is understood? What is felt?
4.     Group discussion
5.     Closure
 
    After carrying out the mediation with a group of children (5, 7 and 14 years old), it is confirmed that these narratives promote learning and reflection. The following are some of the answers that emerged from the discussion.

Question
Answer
Observations (of the mediator)
How did you feel when you watched the story?
-        It saddens you because of the music, the main character’s attitude, apathetic, dejected all the time. He has no expressions.

There is a relationship between the formal elements of the narrative and the feelings of the spectator.

-        The cat is deformed because of its head.

Recognises formal elements and relates them to art models.
Compares size and shape.
There is a deduction arising from prior knowledge: what should the shape of real things be?

-        I think that the man is asexual because you cannot see his parts. He is very long.
Makes a gender difference; compares size and proportion.
What is the story about?
-        It is about a man who is made of water and he is trying to help, but nobody listens to him.
Identifies the plot of the story.

-        People are afraid of him because he is made of water and because he is very big, then the bourgeois gentlemen beat him up
Finds the climax or conflict in the narrative.
Other than the images, what else is in the short?
-        There are sounds of music, wind, and water.
-        People talking.
-        No, they murmur, they don’t speak.
Relates the images to the sounds.
What do you feel when you are watching this short?
-        It makes me uncomfortable.
Expresses feelings.
Why does it make you uncomfortable?
-        Because it makes me sad to see what happens, and I do not like to be sad.
Draws relationship between what is seen and what is felt.

-        I know that it has a deeper meaning, a reflection on death. It is also a symbol of discrimination; because he is different from the others, they treat him badly – the character.
Recognizes implicit meanings.
Develops critical thinking.

-        Well not everyone. The children do not discriminate him, because they are less narrow-minded than the adults, because they [the adults] do not feel comfortable with people who are different from them.
Makes own judgements.
Compares and contrasts ideas.
Has something like this happened to you, or to a friend or someone you know?
-        In my school, to some children.
-        It is a common thing, it happens everywhere.
Relate the story to their own experiences.
Compares the story with facts and problems of everyday life.


     The responses show that, in addition to the recognition of formal elements (color, form, size, sound), young viewers decipher the content and meaning of the story; at the same time, an experience is generated that leads to reflection.
     Abilities of perception and construction of knowledge are developed when the three families of signs are combined: the verbal, visual and auditory (Turrión, 2014).




     Mediation of digital stories nurtures creativity in the sense proposed by Morin (2000), Dewey (2008), Aguirre (2006), and Eisner (2002): as an education for the arts that helps in resolving the problems of everyday life, of critical thinking, and the formation of individuals who are more conscious of their social reality.
     Greene (2005: 42) highlights that “when a person has the imagination to conceive new things, there is an unexpected rise in what is apparently possible”, which is how imagination allows the structuring of possibilities that can become actions and which, in turn, transform the lives of children and young adults.
     Digital narratives, in their varied themes, mirror the differences that exist in the actual world, leading their readers to reflection.
The conclusions of the study are the following:
  • Digital narratives in children’s and young adult literature develop a new interaction between the work and the spectator.
  • They appeal to the senses and previous experiences, which are added to the elements present on screen.
  • They imply a greater effort than simply looking at moving images and hearing sounds.
  • The adaptation to screen transforms a work of literature and activates new aesthetic experiences which are different from those presented in traditional formats such as those of the book.
  • Experience with digital narratives can help develop reflexive and critical thinking in viewers.
  • When approaching digital narratives in children’s and young adult literature from an understanding of art, both are seen as constructing meaning and artistic references, and a bridge is drawn between Arts Studies and Literature.
  • Changes across and between mediums lead to new experiences that help us to learn new things.
  • Each text – be it written, visual, or auditory – increases to a large extent our understanding of stories and our enjoyment of the arts.  



References

Aguirre, Arriaga Imanol. Contenidos y enfoques metodológicos de la educación artística. Conferencia No 4. Universidad Pública de Navarra, España. Consultado en 2016 https://enobserva.wordpress.com/contenidos-y-enfoques-metodologicos-de-la-educacion-artistica/
Dewey, John. El arte como experiencia. Barcelona: Paidós, 2008.
Eisner, W. Elliot. La escuela que necesitamos. Ensayos personales. Madrid: Amorrourtu, 2002.
Greene, Maxine, Liberar la imaginación: ensayos sobre educación, arte y cambio social. Barcelona: Graõ, 2005.
Housen, Abigail. Visual Thinking Strategies, http://www.vtshome.org/research/aesthetic-development. Consultado en enero de 2016.
Morin, E. Introducción al pensamiento complejo, Barcelona, Gedisa, 1997.
Parsons, Michael J. Cómo entendemos el arte. Una perspectiva cognitiva-evolutiva de la experiencia estética. Barcelona: Paidós, 2002 [1987].
Rosati, Ivo, ilust. Pacheco, Gabriel. El hombre de agua, España: Kalandraka, 2009.
Taxonomía de Bloom (2014). Consultado en http://www.eduteka.org/pdfdir/TaxonomiaBloomCuadro.pdf
The Memory of Fountain (L’uomo d’acqua e la sua Fontana). Dir. Kim, Young-jun. Earth Design Works (2013). Consultado en https://vimeo.com/66372995
Turrión, Celia. “Narrativa infantil y juvenil. ¿Qué ofrecen las nuevas formas al lector literario?”. Tesis de Doctorado. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2014.





[1] The Memory of Fountain was born from the picturebook The Man of Water; in 2013 animator Kim Young-jun translated the work to a digital format using the original illustrations.
[2] To see the mediation questions and their classification in detail, you can consult the “Masters in Art Studies Thesis: The digital image in relation to the development of imagination and creativity. Analysis of the animated short The Man of Water,” Mexico: UIA, 2016.