Curriculum Research

21 st Century Literacies

Research and development of a 'cloud curriculum'

The Project

Advances in technologies and new media are revolutionizing how educators and students participate in education. According to Industry Canada, “talented, skilled, creative people are the most critical element of a successful national economy over the long term,” and we need to make better use of the “skills, talent and knowledge of our graduates” through public-private collaboration that seeks to mobilize effective innovation and make a difference in people’s lives. The Partnership for 21 st Century Skills (P21) was established in 2009 in the US to "position 21 st century readiness at the centre of US K12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders.” [1] The framework that emerged articulated the desired 21 st century student outcomes and the interconnected learning support systemsnecessary to produce results.

In 2012, Canada followed with its own initiative, Canadians for 21 st Century Learning and Innovation to lay the foundation for action. They asked,

What if we could create a learning model that naturally and authentically improves student achievement in literacy, numeracy and science, and provides our youth with modern competencies and life skills needed to succeed in a future we can only imagine? What if we could offer learning experiences to our youth that ignites their creativity and engages them in their own learning? What if we could harness the digital tools of today's world to provide higher quality learning experiences and opportunities for our children, in a more cost effective and efficient manner? And what if we could create a learning model that positions our youth for success in a global environment, while imparting within them the traditions and values we Canadians take pride in. (2012, p. 3)

This research, awarded Social Science and Humanities Research Council of CanadaPartnership Development Grant funding for 2015-2018, takes this call to action seriously. Our private partner, QWILL Media & Education, Inc. has developed a collection of rich, digital teaching and learning materials based on the worldwide success of the Shakespeare Can Be Fun ( SCBF) children’s book series and instructional seminars created by Lois Burdett. QWILL has generously made these resources available to the research team as a "digital sandbox" for research purposes.

The Research

School and Classroom Level

We are currently conducting research in multiple classrooms across a number of boards in North America. Our goal is to explore the ways in which learners and communities in different contexts, with distinct needs and access to technologies interact and engage with existing materials, modify and adapt materials and produce new materials.

Community Level Research

We are conducting research with a Pathways version of the program to special interest groups like seniors, new immigrants, and marginalized youth at locations such as community centres and public libraries. 

International Research

We are conducting research with international partners in policy development, and digital literacies to better understand the affordances of a 'cloud curriculum' framework across cultures. 

Multiliteracies Research

We are doing in-depth, focused research on the experiences of those engaging with the materials through a multiliteracies lens, paying specific attention to digital forms of assessment. This work is led by doctoral students Mary Ott and Lin Sun. 


The Partners

QWILL Media & Education, Inc.

QWILL Media & Education, Inc., (Quality Writing Improves Lifelong Learning) is an integrated online education publishing and new media startup focused on expanding the worldwide success of the Shakespeare Can Be Fun children’s book series and instructional seminars created by Ms. Burdett. Email Lois

Lois Burdett

Lois Burdett is a world-renowned elementary school teacher, award-winning Canadian author, and international guest lecturer. Over the past 30 years she has established a language arts curriculum that has received international acclaim for its promotion of listening, speaking, reading, self-confidence, self-esteem, and quality writing from her continuing classes of elementary and middle school students. Lois is a proud Western alumnus.

Andrew Lester

Andrew Lester brings over 25 years of experience as a marketing, media, and entertainment executive in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. He has been involved in the creation, development, strategic planning and sales of all aspects of programming and media. He is also a proud Western alumnus. Email Andrew

Research Team: 

Dr. Kathy Hibbert, the priniciple investigator, is a multiliteracies researcher and interdisciplinary scholar. She is Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Research in Curriclum as a Social Practice, at Western University's Faculty of Education. Her research interests include the 'scholarship of teaching and learning', the pedagogy of multiliteracies, communities of professional practice, and the pedagogic potential of e-learning and mobile technologies. She is the creator of The Salty Chip: A Canadian Multiliteracies Collaborative ( Email Kathy

Dr. Bill Cope and Dr. Mary Kalantzis, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; pre-eminent scholars on multiliteracies theories; Dr. Cope is Research Professor, Policy, Organization and Leadership, and Adjunct Professor in the Globalism Institute at RMIT University, Melbourne and Director of Common Ground Publishing. Dr. Kalantzis is the former Dean of UofI, U-C. Their website “New Learning: Transformational Designs for Pedagogy and Assessment” ( documents an evolving body of research and thinking in the field of literacy, pedagogy and educational technologies.

Dr. Jennifer Rowsell, Canada Research Chair in Multiliteracies, Brock University; Dr. Rowsell’s research explores ways of broadening literacy education so that it meets the challenges of multimodal, digital and transcultural environments. As a leader in her institution, Jennifer has enabled a partnership with Brock University, to extend the proposed project’s reach and impact by engaging graduate students at Brock’s Centre for Research in Multiliteracies.

Dr. Sharon Rich, former AVP Research, Dr. Elizabeth Thorn Chair in Literacy and Language Arts, Nipissing University; Dr. Rich brings experience working in educational contexts in multiple provinces in Canada, leading the development and adoption of virtual learning environments for educators in Ontario and liaising with multiple agencies both national and international including unions, Ministries, and Higher Education Networks. She has enabled a partnership with Nipissing’s Schulich School of Education’s iTeach Mobile Learning program.

Ms. Melanie Southern, Director, Partnerships and Communication, Hamilton Public Library; Hamilton Public Library: is internationally recognized as an “innovative leader in adopting new technologies, as well as offering new services and seeking partnerships that help us better serve all our diverse communities” (Giancarlo, 2014, p. 30). In particular, two projects fit well with this: the Digital Media Labs, a creative space where individuals or small groups can use state-of-the-art computers and digital devices to produce and edit music, videos and images; the inclusive Storytelling Project, designed to bring together citizens and community organizations to build multimedia stories and the development of an open media ‘ecosystem’ called a “MakerSpace” reflect shared goals for designing and developing new kinds of curriculum. Hamilton is also a community that reflects the growing diversity and multiculturalism in Canadian schools. 

Dr. Sothy Khieng, Director of Education Unit, Cambodia Development and Resource Institute; As an independent Cambodian development policy research institute, the mission of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) is to contribute to Cambodia’s sustainable development and the well-being of its people through the generation of high quality policy-relevant development research, knowledge dissemination and capacity building.

Dr. Jacqueline Specht, Director of the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education; The Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education is a network of people from a range of stakeholders in education that provides a uniquely Canadian view of inclusive education. The partnership is comprised of people with expertise in leadership, varied research methodologies, and diverse theoretical approaches; experience working with diverse partners and stakeholders; and a range of approaches to and contexts for knowledge mobilization.

Dr. Luigi Iannacci, Trent University; Dr. Iannacci teaches courses that focus on language and literacy, special needs learners and drama. He has taught mainstream and special education in a range of elementary grades in Ontario. Dr. Iannacci is a long-time collaborator, but his areas of research complement those of the applicant. They include first and second language and literacy learning and acquisition, early childhood education, critical multiculturalism, dis/ability studies, literacy leadership, and critical narrative and ethnographic research methodologies. 

Dr. Robyn Henderson, School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood, University of South Queensland, Australia. Dr. Henderson’s work focuses on literacy pedagogy from early childhood to middle years, and researches digital literacies, computer games and digital culture working primarily through Critical Discourse Analysis and attending to diversity, social justice and disadvantage. 

Dr. Tara-Lynn Scheffel, Nipissing University: Dr. Scheffel teaches courses in Language & Literacies and Educating Young Children. Her research focuses on student engagement, in particular teacher and student perceptions of engagement during literacy-related events. Related research areas include community-based literacy initiatives, children’s literature book clubs and early childhood education.