Centre for Educational Multimedia
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Digital Newsletters

This Digistory focuses on the development and distribution of a digital newsletter at the Cairns School of Distance Education. The digital newsletter plays an important part in building community relationships.

While many school newsletters are paper based, Cairns School of Distance Education (CSDE) has developed a digital school newsletter. The digitisation of this newsletter is part of a wider shift in this school community in moving from print to digitally mediated communication between students and teachers. Most schools have newsletters as a way of communicating important school events to the wider school community.

An important context of this school is the remote audience of this newsletter. The school newsletter is sent to parents all over far North Queensland in remote rural and urban home environments. The digitisation of the newsletter is a way of facilitating the flow of information while developing new relationships in the school community.

To understand the practices behind the production of this newsletter, it is worth exploring some ideas of multimodality. Kress & Van Leeuwen (2001) suggest multimodal texts have elements of discourse, design, production and distribution. Each of these elements will be introduced and explored using evidence from CSDE in this digistory.

The Discourse

When the unpacking the Discourse of this digital newsletter notions of ‘discourse’ and ‘Discourse’ are worth exploring. Gee (1996) suggests there is a ‘discourse’ which involves the ‘connected stretches of language that make sense’ (p.127). There is also a ‘Discourse’ that is ‘ways of displaying membership in a particular social group’ (Gee, 1996, p.128).

The ‘discourse’ of the digital school newsletter involves integrating multimedia and print elements on a web page. The identities or memberships that underpin this particular newsletter, the ‘Discourse’, are worth exploring as these could be critical to the success of the digital product.

Underpinning the innovation is a belief by the principal that technologies are changing and teachers and parents should be embracing that change to support the social futures of the students.

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The digitisation of the school newsletter can be seen as a tangible move to support students’ future literacies. In promoting a multimodal newsletter, the principal is also promoting a community membership. The digitisation of newsletter was part of a broader move by the school community to integrate new technologies into everyday teaching and learning.

When reading the school newsletter there is also a strong sense that the membership of this text includes a space for reinhabiting a student voice. Many paper based newsletters are colonised by principals' messages and used to inform parents of upcoming events. While there is a comment by the principal and a calendar in this newsletter, there are also other elements that provide a strong student voice in the newsletter (See Case Study).


Case study: The Student Voice

Each newsletter has a section that focuses on a different family each month. This provides an opportunity for students to showcase the work that they have been doing which often involves places of interest to the student.

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The ‘Discourse’ of this digital school newsletter is different to many other paper based newsletters in that the principal’s message competes for audience attention with interactive student texts.

The multimodal Discourse provides opportunities to engage student membership with the texts in ways that printed newsletters would not achieve. An example of a part of a powerpoint linked to the newsletter is discussed below.

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The Discourse of the multimodal text provides the reader with an awareness of the changing literacy practices promoted by the school in everyday learning.

The above example shows how a digital newsletter has the capacity to showcase places of interest to the students.

Using interactive stories constructed by the students based on their places of interest in the school newsletter is an effective way of grounding pedagogy in everyday social practices.

This digistory also has highlighted the merits of aligning a digital school newsletter to improved student voice and futures pedagogies, rather than a narrow focus of the mechanics of constructing the digital ‘discourse’.

The opportunities to reinhabit a newsletter with multimodal images of children is something worth considering before embarking on the logistics of digitising a school newsletter.

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