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10 — Examining online informative text

In this sequence the students continue to study the multimodal aspects of text by examining online texts (websites). The activities provide opportunities to discuss the point of view and perspective of texts. The whole-class discussion in the first activity orients the students explicitly to the features of online text, and these texts are studied more closely in the second activity. However, before students can examine the features of the text it is important that they recognise and understand the meanings.

Activity 1: Examining online texts

In this activity the students examine the layout and appearance of a number of websites that present the history of Australia. The TV series First Australians, which documents the history of contemporary Australia from 1788 from an Indigenous perspective, can be found on the SBS website. The Content section of this website has a timeline view and small video clips relevant to the period. You should check the ‘comment’ section that appears on the right-hand side of the website before viewing. This section can be collapsed.

Inform the students that they are going to view a number of different websites that have information about Australian history. They will continue to examine the different semiotic systems, particularly spatial, visual and audio. They will explore how the choices made by the creators of the sites indicate particular points of view. Open up the First Australians website on the interactive whiteboard or using a projector. Play can be paused to discuss the semiotic systems.

Spatial features

(Layout and landscape, how things are organised, how things are placed on a page, setting and props.)

How does the way things are organised and placed on the page support Indigenous peoples’ points of view?

Audio features

(Pitch, volume, expression, pacing, voice, silence, sound effects, music.)

What are the audio features that support the Indigenous peoples’ point of view?

Visual features

(Frame/shot, angle, colour, lighting, intertextuality, objects as symbols.)

How has the creator of the website used visuals to support Indigenous peoples’ points of view?

Move your mouse across the timeline. What happens? Discuss the navigation of this website.

Compare these features to some other websites that can be opened up in other windows, for example, European Discovery and the Colonisation of Australia from the Australian Government Australian Stories series and the Australian History Timeline from the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA). Are these websites constructed from the same perspective? How do they differ? ACELA1793ACELA1496ACHASSK086ACHASSI077 ACHASSI082

Note: In this activity the students examine different features of online texts, such as navigation, links, layout and graphics. They do not evaluate the websites for currency, authenticity, bias or accuracy. Evaluation of websites is a critical information literacy skill that students need to acquire, but is not part of this sequence or unit. Information and activities, including links to bogus sites, can be found in the Information literacy, evaluation of websites guide from Iowa University. Comprehensive information, ideas and resources are also available from Kathy Schrock, including ‘The 5Ws of Web Site Evaluation’ and tools to help teachers select appropriate websites for their students.

Activity 2: Close examination of an online text

The students work in pairs or small groups and examine the timeline up to and including 1792 on the Content section of the First Australians section of the SBS website. They will view the short videos and can use the Semiotic systems worksheet to identify the different semiotic systems that work to create meaning for the viewer. Regroup the class and have different groups present their findings. ACELA1793ACELA1496ACELY1690

Note: Rather than having the whole class study the one website, you may wish to allocate different groups to examine the other two websites that have been briefly viewed, and then discussion can include a comparison of the information (video content, graphics, links, points of view and so on) and how it is presented on each of the sites. First model the task for the class using one of the websites.