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Denise Grandits, PhD student, works with her students in class on computers.

Published March 19, 2019

UB doctoral student uses social media apps to improve classroom learning

Media literacy helps students develop critical reading, writing and thinking skills

Denise Grandits, a current doctoral student from the Department of Learning and Instruction, has earned national recognition for her work implementing new media and literacies into her seventh- and eighth-grade literature class at St. Amelia School in Buffalo. Grandits was aware that students were using social media to read and write, so she applied social media platforms in her classroom and worked with one platform each week, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.  

Grandits and her students worked together to create memes, write tweets to demonstrate their understanding of topics, create Facebook pages for characters of readings, produce videos in response to texts and creatively demonstrate the understanding of characterization. She explains that these new literacy activities are aligned with the rigorous Common Core Standards but allow for students to meet those standards from a less intimidating point of view.

“I realized that students were enthusiastic and motivated to work and as time went on, I became more masterful at tying that work into the standards and what needed to be accomplished in the classroom,” said Grandits. “I did a few informal studies and found that when students were motivated to work because the work was more meaningful to them, their confidence grew, their skills increased and they were able to transfer the literacy skills they learned in these various social media platforms to their school literacies.”

As a result of her work, Grandits won the National Council of Teachers of English Media Literacy Award in 2014. That award continues to inspire her to integrate different learning methods into the classroom for her students. “I think it is vital to be a lifelong learner,” said Grandits. “Teachers must keep learning because the world does not stop after we are awarded our degrees and we must take full advantage to seek out professional development through training and our colleagues.”   

David Bruce, associate professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction, helped Grandits infuse the innovative work of new literacies in the classroom. Grandits believes that all teachers can use media literacy to help all students develop critical reading, writing and thinking skills necessary for success on their tests and in their lives.

“If someone told me 10 years ago that I would be teaching English in my dream district, I would have thought they were insane,” Grandits said. “I plan to continue finding ways to make teaching and learning meaningful for my students.”

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