STEPS to Literacy: A Pilot Project

Jo Anne Kleifgen and Charles Kinzer

Project Team Members: Karen Kaun, Matthew Curinga, Payal Arora, Chia-Yuan Hung, and Abigail Bucuvalas

With funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Professors Jo Anne Kleifgen and Charles Kinzer assembled a group of doctoral students to conduct a pilot project that combined web-based multimodal technologies with a theoretically well-founded curricular approach to support Latino middle school students’ academic literacy. Activities were based on the curricular framework and focused on civil rights, a theme within the middle school social studies curriculum in New York and nationally. One doctoral student built a web-based writing space that offers multimodal resources and tools for writing. Other doctoral students developed curricular materials (documents, videos, photographs) that were made available in both Spanish and English in the writing space. Thus, this pilot space allowed students to draw on a variety of semiotic resources, including their native Spanish, to develop their academic writing in English.

The team worked with the principal and teachers at Middle School 254, where families come from working-class backgrounds and various Spanish-speaking contexts, and all the students are emergent bilinguals. A small group of students participated in six instructional sessions on how to use the software and the curricular framework. This preliminary work demonstrated that the school's teachers saw the practicality of this project, since the web-based software was easy to use and the activities were built on the current curriculum (See the final report in Kleifgen & Kinzer, 2007).

The promising results of this pilot project have led to a second phase in the plan that involves sustained research on technologies that support multimodal literacy practices in schools. Professors Kleifgen and Kinzer have just received funding from the Institute on Educational Sciences to expand the project into a theoretically and empirically based intervention program, a three-year project that will be formatively evaluated and tested for basic feasibility.