Dynamic project to create a learning community nets two awards

A project led by York Faculty of Education Professors Heather Lotherington and Jennifer Jenson at Joyce Public School in North York, and funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), has received two awards.

The York University-Joyce Public School Multiliteracies Project involves graduate students and researchers working with teachers at Joyce Public School to develop traditional and digital literacies. It was one of the winners of the Celebrating Excellence in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Awards for 2009-2010. The awards highlight outstanding individuals, projects and programs in TDSB schools. The project’s second award, the Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence, went to the team of teachers from Joyce Public School who are working with Lotherington and Jenson.

Left: Heather Lotherington

Over the past seven years, this school-based initiative has been developed as a result of Lotherington’s SSHRC grants. The most recent grant for Lotherington, on which Jenson is co-researcher, has created a dynamic learning community to research a multiliteracies approach to learning that incorporates traditional literacy, culture and heritage literacies, language literacies and current digital technology literacies. The project has produced a wealth of teacher and student learning projects, such as the multilingual digital video game “Talk Time” designed to help parents teach critical thinking to young children; a series of multilingual creative narratives; video clips such as “Imagine a World”; and student-created public service clips that address issues of social justice. 

“I am delighted with this recognition of our evolving work, which belongs to all participating teachers, staff members, research assistants, researchers and the kids, who have created beautiful stories! We have worked together for many years to develop our learning community,” said Lotherington. “Two regular SSHRC awards and several minor grants later, the York University-Joyce Public School partnership has expanded and evolved into a feature of the school. Our learning community is a model for both in-service professional development through collaborative action research and theory-building by translating cutting-edge theoretical concepts into classroom practice.”

Right: Jennifer Jenson

Also honoured was the team of Joyce Public School teachers and support staff who have been working with Lotherington and Jenson. The group received the 2010 Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence – Team of the Year, given to a team made up of two to 10 individuals who have worked together to achieve a common goal. 

Sixty-five per cent of the children at the school speak English as a second language and 90 per cent of the parents are from outside Canada. The teachers working with Lotherington and Jenson received the Premier’s Award for their work on the multiliteracy projects that use digital technology and feature students and parents using personal experiences and first languages to reimagine popular stories. 

Lotherington’s project "Researching New Literacies in the Multicultural Classroom: Developing a Ludic Approach to Linguistic Challenges in Elementary Education" received $125,788 from SSHRC in the 2007 competition. The research team continues to explore how teachers can teach socially responsive, immersive literacies in the contemporary multicultural, multilingual classroom.

For more information, visit the Emergent Multiliteracies Web site.