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.
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.
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).