Integrating literacy, technology and disciplined inquiry in social studies: The development and application of a conceptual model
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James Damico (Indiana University, Bloomington)
Mark Baildon (Taipei American School)
Gerald Campano (Indiana University, Bloomington)

This article traces the development of a model designed to guide teachers and students as they confront the challenges of working with Web-based texts.


Like many educators, parents and policy makers, we are invested in discovering ways to guide young readers to engage critically with Internet texts and technologies. In our work we have been developing a conceptual model to support teachers and students as they transact with Web sites. This model integrates literacy with technology and disciplined inquiry in social studies. Based on the work of Green (1988) and Durant and Green (2001), the model consists of three interlocking and equally significant dimensions: operational, academic, and critical. (Green uses the term "cultural" rather than "academic" but for our purposes we believe the term academic is clearer and more useful). In this article, we highlight the development of our use of this model. After situating this model among other resources offered on the Web, we trace the theoretical influences from which the model is derived before sharing an application of it in which we use the three dimensions to analyze a selected Web site. This illumines some challenges and possibilities with Web-based reading, and we conclude with some of our current thinking and plans for future work.

Guiding Readers on the Web

There is no shortage of resources on the Web aimed at guiding readers to interact with Internet texts. In our review of these resources, we discerned three categories: (1) lists of overarching questions and suggestions offered by college or university libraries; (2) guides specific to the disciplines of the social studies, especially history, and (3) tools that K-12 practitioners (and parents) can use with children.

The college and university resources lay out useful criteria for Web reading. Cornell University, for example, offers a set of five criteria (accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency and coverage) as a general guiding framework where the goal is to help readers (undergraduate and graduate students) evaluate and "interpret the basics." The University of Maryland offers similar criteria, yet includes more extensive descriptions of approaches to Web site evaluation and also includes a checklist for readers to work through. Similar to these two Web sites, The Johns Hopkins University site on evaluating information found on the Internet is intended to guide their students in doing research. Applying a set of criteria similar to that of the Cornell and Maryland sites, this site describes how it builds on the criteria that many scholars across disciplines use to evaluate print information and it applies this set of criteria to information on the Internet, noting the heightened challenges of evaluating issues of authorship and verifiability with Web texts.

While these resources offer useful, general guides for Web readers, the guides specific to the social studies and history in particular frame working with Internet information from a disciplinary perspective. The National History Project, for example, offers "Historical Thinking and Analysis Guides" which are framed by four disciplinary heuristics: sourcing, corroboration, contextualization, comparison. With a focus on working with primary sources, there are guides for evaluating print documents and photographs/images. Perhaps the most comprehensive site with a discipline of history perspective is History Matters, especially the section entitled "Making Sense of Evidence". Intended for high school and college teachers and students, this site contains comprehensive guides for reading a range of primary sources, including maps, films, diaries, oral histories, songs, and photographs. The guides include interview segments with skilled historians responding to a set of question prompts as each discusses her or his interpretive and analytical work with one specific historical text.

While the intended audience for the History Matters site includes high school teachers and students, a third category of resources have K-12 teachers and students in mind. Among these resources, teachers we work with note the following as especially helpful: Noodletools, Big6, and tools designed by Kathy Schrock. Noodletools is a set of interactive tools designed to support students in doing online research. This site includes a description of the "building blocks of research" and ways of cultivating information literacy within a framework that lays out students' skills, strategies and learning outcomes as well as implications for curricular and instructional design issues. Big6 is a model for information literacy with six stages: task definition, information seeking strategies, location and access, use of information, synthesis, and evaluation. This model is designed to guide students through an entire process of "information problem solving" -- from identifying needed information to presenting (and judging) what one has learned. Kathy Schrock offers another set of resources that focus more explicitly on guiding readers to evaluate Web pages including a set of "critical evaluation surveys" for elementary, middle and secondary school students. The survey for secondary school students contains three sections -- 1. technical and visual aspects of the page; 2. content; and 3. authority -- and asks students to answer a series of 'yes-no' questions as well as write a narrative evaluation of the site.


These three sets of resources -- questions and suggestions from university libraries, guides with a history emphasis, and tools for K-12 classrooms -- support readers in managing the complexity of the Web. These resources also inform the development of our conceptual model, as we draw upon similar overarching questions offered by college or university libraries, foreground a disciplinary perspective in history, and have an audience of K-12 teachers and students in mind. In this sense, our model aims to synthesize core elements of these existing resources with the goal of offering a concise user-friendly and theoretically rich framework for readers. We believe our model also goes beyond this synthesis work to more directly address several issues. While the other resources support readers to conduct efficient search strategies to locate information as well as consider issues such as authorship (e.g., who is the author/creator of this information source) and currency (e.g., when was this site created?), our model focuses more specifically on guiding readers in the analysis, interpretation and evaluation of information. This includes an emphasis on the examination of claims and evidence as well as the need for readers to activate and draw on prior knowledge and look across Web sites to support this analytical, interpretive, and evaluative work. We also guide readers to evaluate the techniques (such as loaded words, use of provocative images, links to highly reputable Web sites, etc.) that Web site authors/creators use to try to influence readers. Also, unlike the aforementioned resources, we give priority to the need for readers to consider how their own beliefs, values, perspectives, or biases shape their reading of texts. In the following sections we describe our model in greater detail, beginning with the theoretical foundations upon which it rests.

Theoretical Foundations

We understand our work as nested in three overlapping sets of perspectives: literacy as socially situated practices; disciplined inquiry in social studies; and new literacies.

Literacy as Socially Situated Practices

Willinsky conceptualizes literacy as "a social process, a form of life that connects community and school, history and biography" (1990, p. x) where students and teachers enter classrooms with diverse personal experiences or "funds of knowledge" (Moll, 1994), share a space in a particular sociohistorical context, and create unique discourses and communities of meaning (Bakhtin, 1981; Gee, 1992). Literacy practices, then, are fundamentally relational, best understood "as existing in the relations between people, within groups and communities, rather than as a set of properties residing in individuals" (Barton & Hamilton, 2000, p. 8). This places an emphasis on sociological rather than psychological perspectives of reading (Luke & Freebody, 1997) and also reflects a need to conceptualize literacy as a range of practices that are embedded in larger societal contexts (Barton, Hamilton, & Ivanic, 2000; Street, 1984).

An understanding of literacy as socially situated practices also aligns with sociocultural perspectives of learning (Moll, 1994; Vygotsky, 1978) as well as dialogic inquiry (Wells, 1999). Building on the work of Halliday and Vygotsky, Wells (1999) argues that language encodes a theory of experience established at the level of culture and this is an essential condition of learning and knowing. According to such a sociocultural theory of knowing, knowledge and ways of knowing are constructed in the context of significant problems through a dialectical process in which certain tools or practices are used to solve problems. Those tools or practices are adapted and extended by participants to meet particular needs in specific situations In the context of our project, we understand this to mean that literacy and inquiry practices develop to address new problems and issues that have emerged as part of the new global information society in which we live.

Disciplined Inquiry in Social Studies

Levstik and Barton define disciplined inquiry in social studies as the purposeful act of seeking information or knowledge, investigating important questions, and building knowledge "within a community that establishes the goals, standards, and procedures of study" (2001, p. 13). In the context of classrooms, teachers guide students as they "work with various forms of evidence, deal with issues of interpretation, ask and adjudicate questions about the relative significance of events and the nature of historical agency, and cultivate a thoughtful, context-sensitive imagination to fill gaps in evidence trails when they arise" (VanSledright, 2002b, p. 1092). In doing this work, students learn how to classify and categorize evidence in many ways and how to check and cross-check evidence for building contextualized interpretations. Teachers also help students to make informed judgments about authorship, perspective, and the validity and reliability of evidence. This enables students to "fill in the blanks" by providing important contextual information that helps one make sense of evidence.

In this sense, students practice "doing history" (Levstik & Barton, 2001) as they learn the strategies and skills that historians use. Historians and others working in disciplinary communities of practice develop understandings by identifying problems or "gaps" in their own understanding and using a range of disciplinary strategies to address these problems. "This involves building up factual knowledge from primary and secondary sources, sifting and synthesizing it, identifying key elements, considering provenance and purpose, discriminating between the essential and peripheral, and structuring material in a systematic and logical fashion" (Booth, 2003, p. 25).

While social studies remains an eclectic field, drawing on a range of disciplines, and there are competing ideas about how social studies curricula, teaching and learning should be enacted in classrooms (Stanley, 2001), our model is framed by the understanding that a primary goal of social studies education, and history in particular, is for students to become careful, critical readers of all texts, from textbooks, trade books, magazines and newspapers to maps, videos, and architecture (Segall, 1999; Werner, 2002). By considering the construction, interpretation, and uses of a variety of texts, teachers and students can learn to "critically read and re-write" a range of historical or social studies texts (Segall, 1999, p. 369).

New Literacies

Living in an increasingly global information society is radically changing the workplace (Bruce, 1997; Mikulecky & Kirkley, 1998), pointing to the need for workers to be proficient in the areas of "problem solving, information access, evaluation of information resources, and communication" (Leu & Kinzer, 2000, p. 113). These larger economic and social transformations with the development of new technologies are also shifting our understandings of literacy and literacy instruction in schools (Leu & Kinzer, 2000; Reinking, McKenna, Labbo, & Kieffer, 1998) and have spawned a field of scholarship called "The New Literacy Studies." With a new literacies focus, traditional conceptions of reading and writing must be re-examined in light of the accelerated growth of networked information and communication technologies (ICT), especially the Internet with its varied text structures and formats, including non-linear hypertext, multimedia texts, and interactive texts (Coiro, 2003).

New literacies, then, are social, dynamic, and fluid. They are shaped by participants in varied ways in a range of contexts (Street, 1995), and they are shaped by changes in technology, media, and the economy (Bruce, 1997; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003). Another aspect of the New Literacy Studies (New London Group, 2000) is an emphasis on "multimodal literacy", a meaning-making emphasis that integrates textual, visual, spatial, audio, and gestural modes (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000, p. 5).

A Comprehensive Model of Literacy, Technology, and Social Studies

These three perspectives -- literacy as socially situated practices, disciplined inquiry in social studies, and new literacies -- guide our adaptation of a conceptual model (Green, 1988) with its three dimensions: the operational, academic, and critical. The operational dimension places an emphasis on the literacy skills and strategies that students need to cultivate "in order to operate effectively in specific contexts" (Green, 1988, p. 160). The primary context for our project is the Internet and Web-based reading. The academic dimension focuses on the ways that readers create meanings that are appropriate and relevant to subject-specific literacy practices. In other words, not only are literacy acts and events "context specific [they] also "entail a specific content" (p. 160). For our purposes, the content and corresponding disciplinary practices focus on social studies. The critical dimension emphasizes how readers develop an awareness of the ways that texts function ideologically; that is, how texts reflect the values, perspectives and interests of particular groups. Iser's (1974) concept of an "implied reader" is helpful here. The implied reader is construed as "a role a text implies and invites a reader to take on" (Nodelman & Reimer, 2003). In other words, texts do two things: they embody certain assumptions about who readers are, and they also serve to constitute readers who react in certain ways -- whether it be to buy products, adopt political positions, valorize particular body images, criminalize a minority population, etc. Because all texts are mediated by and embedded in ideologies (Althusser, 1971; Eagleton, 1994), readers need to cultivate understandings of "how, why, and in whose interests particular texts might work" (Luke & Freebody, 1997, p. 218). This dimension also emphasizes the need for readers to consider how their own experiences, biases and preconceptions shape the ways they read and make meanings with texts. Our model is summarized in Figure 1.

a) Identifying and sorting the components of the Web page (e.g., an initial descriptive reading of the range of texts and links contained on the site);
b) Locating key information on the site by scanning for headings and topic sentences;
c) Determining credibility of author(s) or creator(s) of site (e.g., Who are they? What are their educational, political, commercial affiliations?); and considering the intended audience;
d) Choosing whether to examine the site more closely or to move on to another site.
a) Identifying and drawing upon relevant prior knowledge;
b) Evaluating claims and evidence within the site; and
c) Checking and cross-checking claims and evidence from other Web sites and sources to build contextualized interpretations.
a) Determining perspectives included and omitted in the site;
b) Identifying techniques (such as loaded words, use of provocative images, links to highly reputable Web sites, etc.) that author/creator uses to try to influence readers;
c) Considering how one's own beliefs, values, perspectives, prejudices, etc. shape one's reading.

Figure 1: Conceptual Model (based on Green, 1988; Durant & Green, 2001)

Applying the Model

Students often struggle with inquiry-based investigative work in social studies (VanSledright, 2002a, Wineburg, 1991, 1999), whereas challenges that teachers face in guiding their students to analyze, interpret, and evaluate texts and different forms of data include the following: (1) vocabulary and sentence structure may be complex and difficult to comprehend; (2) students have insufficient background knowledge necessary to contextualize sources of information;(3) difficulty in determining the significance and credibility of information compared to other texts or sources of information, especially if comparable sources have not already been located and read; and (4) the tendency to read for answers or specific information rather than interrogate the authorship and credibility of sources (Baildon, 2004). To begin addressing these challenges, we offer the example of how we apply our conceptual model to examine one Web site. In highlighting how we evaluated this site, noting our individual and collective sense-making across the operational, academic and critical dimensions, we can purposefully consider the potential usefulness of this model for teachers and students working with Web sites.

The following Web site was chosen for our analysis: http://www.sinica.edu.tw/tit/culture/0795_TribesOfTaiwan.html.

One of us, Mark, chose this site for several reasons. As a ninth-grade social studies teacher working in Taipei, Taiwan, Mark wanted to find a Web site that could be used in his Asian Studies/Humanities curriculum. As he and his colleagues began their unit planning, they also discussed the possibility of incorporating overnight field trips at different locations across Taiwan, which led them to consider including a study of Taiwan's indigenous peoples. Mark also selected this site because it included several different kinds of texts (photos, informational text, and indigenous literature -- a poem), seemed to represent both commercial and academic purposes, was fairly simply constructed, and seemed typical of a site his ninth-grade students might find interesting and readable.

After this Web site was selected, the three of us each read the site independently and composed written responses to each set of questions across the operational, academic and critical dimensions. We then looked across our individual responses, noting similarities and differences in our independent analyses with the aim of collaboratively constructing an understanding of this site.

Operational Dimension

a) Identifying and sorting the components of the Web page (e.g., an initial descriptive reading of the range of texts and links contained in the site).

After skimming the site to glean a quick overview of its content, we noticed that it provides general information about the aboriginal people of Taiwan. It also provides an introductory section, titled "Island of Diversity", then gives a brief description of the nine tribes of Taiwan before concluding with a section called "Taiwan's Aborigines Today." There are several types of texts used in the Web page: artwork and photos with captions, a map of Taiwan's aboriginal groups and their locations in Taiwan, written text that provides historical and anthropological information, and a poem by a member of the Paiwan tribe. The various types of texts are articulated together, with art work, photos, and the map at the top half of the site, with written informational text, the poem, and photos making up the remainder of the site.

There are no links integrated into the text, but at the top and the bottom of the page are two icons with links. One is to Travel Taiwan Monthly, listed as "Taiwan's Number One travel Magazine," with a subheading that it is authorized by the Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, ROC, and published by Vision International Publishing Company. The other link is on the word, "Culture," and it leads to further internal links on Taiwan's culture.

b) Locating key information on the site by scanning for headings and topic sentences.

We were able to locate key information on the site by scanning the headings provided. The title of the Web page is "The Tribes of Taiwan," and it is further divided into subsections. The introductory subsection titled "Island of Diversity" is given in a larger font size than the other subsections. It provides an historical overview of the Taiwanese tribes. Then there is a subsection titled "The nine tribes in Taiwan." The next sections are a description of each of the nine tribes and are titled accordingly: Atayal, Saisiyan, Bunun, Tsou, Paiwan, Rukai, Ami, Puyami, and Yami. The concluding section is titled, "Taiwan's Aborigines Today." Each of the photos (and art work) is captioned, the map is titled, "Map of Taiwan Aborigines," and the topic sentences in each section usually discuss the geographical location of the tribe. The topic sentences near the end of the page inform us that head-hunting is no longer a common practice of the tribes and that the tribes are a minority among the Taiwanese people.

c) determining credibility of author(s) or creator(s) of site (e.g., Who are they? What are their educational, political, commercial affiliations?) and considering the intended audience.

At the top of the Web page, we noted that the author of the site is identified as Cliff Vost, with photos by Sung Chih-hsiung and that the site is affiliated with the Academia Sinica, a large university in Taiwan. There are no 'about the author' links or search features within the site to find out more about where he lives, how long he has 'studied' Taiwan to write and create the texts for this Web site, or any information about his academic, professional or personal credentials qualifying him as an authority on Taiwan. In the absence of any institutional affiliation or credentials identified with the author, we conducted a Google search which yielded several links associated with his name leading to similar sites on Taiwan's aborigines or Taiwan travel, most of which were also affiliated with Travel in Taiwan Monthly. On the basis of our cursory investigation, we can speculate that the author is a travel writer specializing in the indigenous people of Taiwan, perhaps a paid staff member of Travel in Taiwan Monthly, or the site's sponsor, Vision International Company, which claims to be Taiwan's leading travel information publisher.

It would appear that the intended audience is tourists and others traveling to Taiwan who are interested in the island's past and its native peoples. Although the site, as a travel magazine co-sponsored by a university, seems to appeal to both commercial and academic interests, the absence of references or links to other sites providing further information means the site has little to offer in the way of scholarly interests.

d) Choosing whether to examine the site more closely or to move on to another site.

Choosing whether to examine the site more closely or move on to another site depends on our purposes. If we were to use this site with Mark's ninth-grade students as part of a study of Taiwan's indigenous peoples, we might only use it as a beginning site to read for very general, background information. It provides some basic information about their location and some aspects of culture, such as family structure, social system, festivals, and their arts, but offers little in the way of in-depth information about the various tribes or specific issues they may have faced in the past or in present-day Taiwan.

Academic Dimension

a) Identifying and drawing upon relevant prior knowledge.

Here we relied mostly on Mark's background knowledge about the history of Taiwan and the plight of its indigenous groups. This helped us make sense of the introductory section, which describes where the original people came from and some of the controversies about origins. It also allowed us to note some "absences" or omissions on the Web page, particularly concerning the socio-political history of their treatment on the island.

b) Evaluating claims and evidence within the site.

We found the main claims and evidence within the site consistent with what we knew about the island's history and its native peoples, though we noted that some of its claims were "hedged" or equivocal. For example, the Web site's author employs such formulations as "some scholars suggest" or "aborigines are believed," without identifying the scholars propounding these perspectives or beliefs. In other instances, assertions were made in the concluding section of "Taiwan's Aborigines Today"), with little supporting evidence. We were particularly intrigued and puzzled by the following which appears in the last paragraph:

As Taiwan is undergoing rapid democratization and the emphasis on human rights is becoming more prevalent all over the world, Taiwan's aborigines are being more assertive on their well-being. They have become more aware of the need to preserve their culture and maintain their identity. Some are beginning to forsake their compulsory Han Chinese names...

In this section, the author doesn't support the claim that Taiwan's aborigines are "more assertive"; nor does he provide evidence that demonstrates increased awareness of the need to preserve aboriginal culture.

In the above quote, there is also an implicit claim about how the Taiwanese Aborigines have been inhumanely treated by the Han Chinese. Some information is presented earlier on the site about the impact of the Han Chinese immigrants, and this might count as evidence, but this seems to require a significant inferential leap for readers. While there is mention of the "melding of the two ethnic groups" through intermarriage, there is no discussion of the large Han migrations to Taiwan in the 18th and 19th centuries which resulted in the Sinicization of Taiwan (the assimilation of non-Han Chinese peoples into Chinese culture and identity) and frequent clashes between Han immigrants and Taiwan's indigenous peoples. Nor is there any discussion of the role of the KMT (Kuomintang), also called the Nationalist Chinese government, who, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled from mainland China and settled in Taiwan during the Communist Revolution. The KMT played a part in promoting Mandarin and emphasizing Chinese history and citizenship to encourage nationhood after the KMT left mainland China. As a result, readers are unable to recognize the ways Taiwan's aboriginal cultures were influenced or dominated by Han Chinese culture; nor do they learn about aboriginal forms of resistance to assimilation and acculturation.

Overall, the site does not present a cogent historical exposition. Rather, it appears to be recounting basic, factual information in an encyclopedic form. This made it difficult to evaluate both the claims promoted by the site and the evidence adduced in support of them. The author elected to focus primarily on a 'snapshots' approach, providing brief accounts of each of the tribes rather than focusing more on discerning similarities and differences and possibly larger patterns of constancy and change across the tribes (e.g., considering in more depth the causes and consequences of how, why, and in what ways tribal life has changed). As a result, we found ourselves primarily wondering about what the author excluded.

c) Checking and cross-checking claims and evidence from other Web sites and sources to build contextualized interpretations.

Because the links on this Web site are internal (and link to other internal links), we opened a new Web browser and conducted a preliminary search with "tribal life + Taiwan" which, for the most part, yielded other tourist information.

Critical Dimension

a) Determining perspectives included and omitted in the site.

While the site provided general, descriptive information about the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan from the vantage point of a putatively neutral observer of indigenous cultures, what are egregiously omitted are perspectives of the native peoples themselves. The site does not provide much information about the culture of the indigenous peoples, such as native beliefs and values, nor information concerning the economic, social, and political dimensions of their lives, nor the historical context in which the indigenous populations of Taiwan were affected by external incursions (settlers from the Chinese mainland or Japanese invasions) or modern governments. A more critical perspective could describe, for example, indigenous acculturation and the social and economic conditions and historical factors that contributed to the dislocation and marginalization of Taiwan's native peoples, as well as accounts of aboriginal resistance.

b) Identifying techniques (such as loaded words, use of provocative images, links to highly reputable Web sites, etc.) that author/creator uses to try to influence opinion.

We found the images (e.g. dancing women, skulls, or tribal artifacts identified as intended to scare off evil spirits) to quite provocatively draw from standard orientalist tropes of "timeless" native culture (an effect enhanced by the grainy quality of a number of the images). These representations, within a reified museum-like context in which the images are on display, also served to reinforce a number of highly questionable binary dichotomies such as modern/primitive, nurture/nature, progress/timelessness, and other related distinctions (see Said, 1979). Both images and accompanying texts seem to portend the endangered status (and perhaps implicitly endorse the demise) of the native cultures of Taiwan : "Head-hunting is long gone, tattooing is fading away, and pantheism and shamanism have largely given way to Christianity. Young people are leaving their traditional occupations and habitats and are taking up jobs in the cities." Images serving to offer a glimpse of a dying past are not counterbalanced by alternative images of, for example, aboriginal people wearing "Western clothes," and thus run the risk of misrepresenting native people as a monolithic group.

The notion that native peoples should not partake in the diverse range of cultural expressions found in much of the rest of the world, lest they lose their collective identity, potentially serves an insidious, ulterior purpose. In this case, given that the Web site has a link to Travel Taiwan Monthly that has been authorized by the tourism bureau we speculate that there may be an attraction and indeed commercial incentive to representing the native people in Taiwan in this manner. Traveling to Taiwan is thus presented as affording a unique -- and perhaps increasingly rare -- opportunity to witness what is presented as an exotically remote place, time and way of life.

c) Considering how one's own beliefs, values, perspectives, prejudices, etc. shape one's reading.

As we intrinsically value the culture of "native" peoples and their ways of being and knowing in the world, we are interested in learning about the historical backgrounds and contemporary experiences of indigenous populations around the world. Consequently, in interacting with this Web site, we were expecting more information along this line, but we found that this wasn't addressed in any meaningful way.

Summary and Implications

Our sense-making across the operational, academic and critical dimensions yields some key insights and elucidates some core challenges. Overall, we found the operational dimension useful in guiding our Web reading. It was effective in encouraging us to get a "lay of the land" or general sense of the varied texts within the site. This dimension also helped us refrain from quickly jumping from general observations to interpretations -- that is, moving from what can be directly seen and read on the Web site to considering what the information found on the site might mean. Although there is an overlap between initial descriptions and interpretations of what is there and why it is there, we believe the operational dimension guided us to focus on carefully observing and describing key elements of the site.

The academic dimension guided us to consider the relevant prior knowledge that we brought to the Web site. We relied heavily on the knowledge that Mark brought to our reading, which illustrates to us that the more diverse the personal experiences, histories and knowledge of readers, the greater the likelihood that diverse perspectives will be brought to bear in the meaning-making process. The academic dimension also helped us identify and evaluate claims and evidence, a core disciplinary practice of historians and social scientists. In our experience reading this one Web site, we wrestled with the best way to evaluate the author's claims. We determined that he only provides independent "snapshots" of the different tribes and does not offer a comparative view of the tribes that would enable him to make claims about similarities and differences; nor does he provide many explicit claims supported by evidence within the site. As a result, there were few opportunities to consider the internal consistency of the account (which is one way to examine if the evidence supports the claims). This placed a burden on our ability as readers to evaluate claims and evidence by drawing on our prior knowledge and/or by checking and cross-checking information with other texts.

This points to a central challenge we found with the academic dimension -- the importance of checking claims and evidence with other texts. Because historical understanding requires comparing and contrasting different interpretations on a topic or issue as well as being able to view the topic or issue from different perspectives (Booth, 2003), developing more contextualized interpretations and understandings of a topic requires crosschecking, contextualizing, and evaluating claims and evidence in a source by drawing on other texts and sources of information. While we did not engage in this work in any systematic way, limiting our reading, for the most part, to this one Web site, the significance of this line of thinking and analysis can be readily seen.

It also bears noting that our work with the academic dimension depended partly on our prior knowledge about content (Taiwan and its aboriginal peoples) as well as our knowledge of how texts work (i.e., noting that some claims were "hedged," omissions, etc.). This highlights the complementarity of the academic and the critical dimensions. We noted inclusions and omissions (e.g., the perspective of the aboriginal peoples) and considered how the texts on the site presuppose a certain category of readers (e.g., tourists).

Another challenge that surfaced during our reading and analysis of this Web site concerns how some texts, depending on their structure and content, lend themselves to different kinds of analyses and interpretations. This points to the need for a meta-knowledge of how different texts are structured, the sociocultural contexts in which they are produced, and the strategies that different media and genre use (Luke, 2000). The critical dimension helped us begin to address these issues. We were able to identify omissions, techniques we believed the author was using, and how different textual features, and the inclusion of photos, functioned ideologically to constitute certain understandings and perhaps reinforce certain stereotypes of indigenous people. We noted that while the site provided some basic or general information about Taiwan's aboriginals from the perspective of a "disinterested" observer, other compelling information and perspectives were not provided. While the print-based claims and evidence are presented as basic, neutral, factual information, the photos, especially, prompted some speculation about how native people were portrayed, how the photos worked within the text, and how they stimulated our connections to other texts and narratives. This seems especially significant and worthy of further investigation. As Kress (2003) suggests, readers must learn how to read the visual grammar of texts, the mixed genres and new forms of multimedia that are increasingly used to communicate meanings as we move from a "centuries-long dominance of writing to the new dominance of the image" (p. 1).

Concluding Thoughts

We began this article with the goal to test a developing model, using several sets of questions across three dimensions to consider how social studies and language arts teachers and students might more skillfully and strategically engage with Web sites. This model integrates understandings of literacy as socially situated, disciplined inquiry and new literacies where the literacy and inquiry practices are fluid, dynamic, and shaped by the ways participants engage with each other and texts in specific contexts. We found the model and its three dimensions a useful tool, especially its application within a sociocultural framework that emphasizes conversation and the participation of diverse learners in a community of practice where learners are provided "situated opportunities...for the improvisational development of new practice" (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 97). In such communities in classrooms, students and teachers would have opportunities to use, develop and refine important literacy and inquiry practices.

We do recognize that there are multiple ways to read and engage with Web sites with multiple frames and heuristics to guide readers in meaningful ways. The frames and heuristics to be developed and selected for use will likely depend on the needs and purposes of readers, the types of texts they encounter, and the contexts in which their reading and inquiries take place. As new technologies and varied text structures and formats continue to develop, we believe it is important to explore, develop and refine new conceptual models and tools that can integrate as well as extend understandings of literacy as socially situated practices, disciplined inquiry, and new literacies. In our current work, for example, we are considering ways to revise or expand the academic dimension to support more interdisciplinary perspectives (e.g., history, anthropology, geography, statistics, etc.) Our goal is to continue searching for ways to help readers engage flexibly with a variety of texts in multiple ways for a number of different purposes within specific contexts, guiding them as they traverse the "new mediascapes" (Dimitriadis & McCarthy, 2001, p. 1).


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