This session addresses the conference theme of inclusive practice and examines how comics and infographics can be used within an innovative mobile application (app) as an effective means of teaching writing structure to foreign language students. The session explains the reasons behind the pedagogical design of the learning environment, presents the novel content in the form of comics, discusses how it supports the needs of dyslexic students, and shows the opportunities offered by using visual media, such as comics and infographics, to convey information to learners. Evaluation data from 60 students and 12 teachers is used to reflect on this approach and its generalisability to other learning contexts.
Around 10% of the population have dyslexia (BDA 2020) and this is a challenge for language teachers and for the design of teaching resources that are inclusive for foreign language learners. Comics are used by multinational companies and organizations (United Nations, UNESCO, CISCO) as an alternative communication form because of the power of storytelling. Comics are seen as a very effective pedagogical tool for teaching and learning at any age (Kirtley, Garcia & Carlson 2020).
The pedagogical approach is inclusive as it has been designed so that it is suitable for use by dyslexic students (as well as those without dyslexia) so that it minimises the need for special adjustments to be made in teaching practice. The design is based on principles of universal design for learning (CAST 2018) and so that it is usable “by all people, to the greatest extent possible” (UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, 2006). For example, the multi-modal aspect of the app with visuals, text and audio allows multiple ways of accessing the learning content. An infographic and multiple stories helps memorisation. Our theory of change is that by creating a highly visual and interactive mobile app to teach how to structure an essay, the writing process will be made more attractive to learners (including those with dyslexia) and support them to learn and organize their thinking visually.
The mobile app supports students preparing for the written component of language proficiency exams, such as IELTS and Cambridge (Advanced/Proficiency) English exams. Writing guidelines in the form of infographics and sample essays in the form of comics have been produced for each of the 17 United Nation sustainable development goals for 2030 (UN, 2020) which are used to motivate learners to engage with the app and also think about global issues, for example, gender equality, climate action, homelessness.
By using a design-based research methodology, with 3 iterations of design and evaluation, feedback from 60 students and 12 language teachers was used to refine the design of the app. As an open educational resource, the app can be used for informal learning or to promote peer interaction, collaboration, and discussion in the classroom. Critical digital pedagogy is used to reflect on the transferability of app given a possible mismatch between the pedagogy of the teacher and the pedagogy entrenched in the app (Stommel 2019).
The app has been developed in a collaborative project “Comics for Inclusive English Language Learning”, partially funded by the ERASMUS+ programme of the European Union involving educational researchers, language teachers, a comic artist, and an app designer, from UK, Greece, Germany and Cyprus (CIELL 2020).
British Dyslexia Association (2020). https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/
CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org
CIELL (2020) Comics for Inclusive English Language Learning. http://ciell.eu http://ciell.eu/app
Kirtley, S.E., Garcia, A. & Carlson, P.E. (2020). With Great Power Comes Great Pedagogy: Teaching, Learning, and Comics. University Press of Mississippi. https://www.upress.state.ms.us/Books/W/With-Great-Power-Comes-Great-Pedagogy
Stommel, J. (2019). Critical Pedagogy, Civil Disobedience and Edtech. ALT Conference 2019. https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2019/sessions/altc-keynote-jesse-stommel/
UN (2020) Sustainable Development Goals: 17 Goals to transform our world http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/