Listen: Kathy Mills in Conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
Photo Credit: Big Picture Industries.
Classroom research involving more than 200 primary school students across three low socioeconomic Queensland schools has used smart phones, animation, photography and videos to rapidly increase the students’ use and command of the English language. Apart from having a lot of fun, the children did make great leaps in their literacy. That is important because improved literacy is in a very real sense, life-changing. Strong literacy skills are associated with stronger employment opportunities, wages, social participation, health outcomes and longevity.
Uses technology to express emotion
The research, known as the SELFIE (Strengthening Effective Language of Feelings In Education) Project, was led by Australian Catholic University’s Professor Kathy Mills. It ran for 2.5 years, to teach participating primary school students how to express emotional language through the use of digital technology.
Conducted in the classroom of three low socioeconomic Queensland schools, the research involved more than 200 primary school students. The research used smart phones, animation, photography and videos to investigate if the technology could increase the students’ use and command of the English language. In other words, to improve their literacy.
The children drew animations to express emotions
Posters, animations and films
The SELFIE project ran for two and a half years, to teach participating primary school students how to express emotional language through the use of digital technology.Working closely with teachers, principals, and the not-for-profit Big Picture Industries media company, young project participants were taught how to produce their own digital images, as well as posters, animations and films.
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Professor Mills said the outcomes of the SELFIE Project were very positive. “The participating Years 4 to 6 students went from using quite basic and simplistic emotional language to then being able to describe emotions in very sophisticated terms,” says Professor Mills.
Some not interested in books
“Typically we think of books as a way to increase literacy but not all young people are motivated to learn in this way.”
Professor Mills added that young people today showed emotion by liking a post, or by posting selfies, emojis, gifs, and memes.
“Using digital technologies as the key, the SELFIE Project unlocked children’s fascination with technology to increase their use and understanding of the English language,” says Dr Millls.
A lifelong benefit
Professor Mills said the SELFIE project may appear to be just all fun and games but had a real educational benefit.
“The ability to express emotions, attitudes and judgements is a large and important grammatical system in language. Ability in these areas is associated with higher academic achievement, well-being and long-term social health. Learning to accurately describe this emotional expression is highly educational for young people.” says Dr Mills.
Critical skills for life
“With the proliferation of fake news and a deluge of information compared to previous generations, students today need critical literacy skills more than ever. There are many ways that education can channel young people’s everyday literacy practices with mobile phones and computer games to inspire learning, and to not only play games for learning, but also to learn how to build the games themselves.” she says.
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