Posts Tagged 'cultureShift'

From analog girl to “digimom”

My mother thinks I should hang a calendar in the kitchen so my son can learn his days of the weeks and months of the year.

He is two years old.

“Well, maybe not now, but in the next few years you should consider it,” she said.

I told her that in the next few years, I fully expect my son to be able to turn on a computer and launch an Internet browser, much in the same way he can now turn on the TV and even navigate TiVo. At that point, what’s to stop him from accessing the web-based calendar my husband and I currently use to organize work, church, and household events?

“Well, it’s still an analog world,” she said.

No. It isn’t, I say.

I am about to be graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a master’s degree in instructional technology. Had the above conversation occurred at another time and place, it likely would have ended differently, with me earnestly shopping for the perfect calendar per Mom’s suggestion.

The 2008 Land of Liberty calendar by Thomas Kincaid looks nice, with the added benefit of exposing my first-born to a bygone era when subtle Christian imagery and blatant patriotism intermingled to form resplendent, light-filled tableaux.


If I were going to buy a wall calendar to support my child’s intellectual and cognitive development, I would choose one with more transparent instructional value. How about a calendar that not only reinforces concepts like time management and days of the week but also promotes responsible citizenship, the democratic process, and important mathematical problem-solving strategies, like counting down? A civics lesson on every page!

It is an election year, after all.

The point is, my child is not developmentally ready for a calendar, and in the next few years when he is, paper-based calendars will be even more irrelevant than they are today. I haven’t owned a calendar or date book in close to ten years since the acquisition of my first handheld PDA, and I don’t expect my son will ever have use for one.

Although, I suppose that even by 2010 when he starts Kindergarten, I can count on him seeing and using plenty of analog calendars — at school.

I joke about being “an analog girl in a digital world,” in part because I love the Guy Clark song, but I am serious when it comes to the “unfolding ‘literacy dialectic'” described by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel in New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning, 2nd edition.

I read New Literacies this spring as part of a semester-long seminar on redefining literacy. The book is largely framed by a “tension” caused by the rapid onset of digital and mobile technologies in daily life and the complex demands this places on teachers and students to merge “old” and “new” literacies — the “dialectic.”

At stake are two divergent worldviews about the role of 21st century information and communication technologies (ICTs) in contemporary culture. Lankshear and Knobel label these worldviews as “mindsets.”

The “newcomer,” or “outsider,” mindset values digital technology for the way it supports old business models and conventional, print-based literacy practices. The “insider” mindset sees opportunity in technology to radically innovate and abandon the business-as-usual approach. The bulk of New Literacies examines insider practices, giving readers a glimpse into the worlds of fanfiction, anime, memes, blogs, podcasts, and mobile computing.

Educators, school leaders, and instructional technologists are struggling to respond to all this change as it relates to the effective integration of technology into classroom learning. More often than not, they “simply end up reproducing familiar conventional literacies through their uses of new technologies” (p. 30).

New Literacies concludes with a challenge to teachers, administrators, and policymakers. Lankshear and Knobel do not advocate unflagging allegiance to wholesale technology adoption that does not honor “insider” sensibilities, nor do they believe schools should be left behind as the exclusive domain of print-based, conventional literacies (p. 259).

Rather, the authors encouraged their readers to just “take a look and see,” to try out the new technologies and experience the new literacies and social practices for ourselves. In doing so, we will begin to understand the implications for teaching and learning. These insights will guide the integration of 21st century ICTs into instruction in a manner that compromises neither the integrity of the cultural practices nor our educational aims (pp. 246-247).

This is my biggest take-away from New Literacies: I don’t have to be a practicing classroom teacher to feel the tension of the mindsets. (Note above conversation between dear, ol’ Mom and me.) The shifts are playing out all around me as I perform in roles as student, parent, and citizen, and I have an obligation to respond.

It’s why I still can’t stop thinking about the Rolling Stone March 20 cover story on Barack Obama’s campaign strategy. It’s a strategy in which the field operations consist of voters organizing themselves with web-based technologies, particularly social networking tools: “In the process, the Obama campaign has shattered the top-down, command-and-control, broadcast-TV model that has dominated American politics since the early 1960s.”

It’s why I helped my babysitter set up a Gmail account and MySpace page so she could stay in contact with her many geographically dispersed cousins. The babysitter, by the way, is a 44-year-old grandmother of three.

It’s why I keep needling my local school board representative to take steps toward re-visioning our school system’s outdated appropriate use and web publishing policies.

It’s why I am determined to master the text-message function on my cell phone. One of these days.

And it’s why I won’t be buying any Hallmark calendars for the rest of my natural life.


New Literacies and conflicting “mindsets”

This is the second in a series of reflections based on New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning, 2nd edition by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. Check this post for an overview of New Literacies as presented in Chapter 1 of the book. Here are some thoughts generated from Chapter 2, “New Literacies: Challenge of Mindsets”:

I am very interested in the subject of paradigm shifts and values conflicts in general and the way these play out in relation to technology and education reform, specifically. So, Chapter 2 of New Literacies was a fun read.

This chapter is framed by a tension between two distinct “mindsets” regarding the impact of information and communication technology on the contemporary world. Lankshear and Knobel explain:

The world is being changed in some fairly fundamental ways as a result of people imagining and exploring how using new technologies can become part of making the world (more) different from how it presently is (second mindset), rather than using new technologies to do familiar things in more “technologized” ways (first mindset) (p. 34).

The authors refer to these worldviews as “Newcomer” or “Outsider” (first mindset) and “Insider” (second mindset), with the pedagogy of New Literacies drawing heavily upon the emergence of the second. The distinction might remind you of the “digital natives” versus “digital immigrants” dichotomy popularized in an essay by author and futurist Marc Prensky. These buzz words are commonplace among technology educators today; although, some have since critiqued the concept as polarizing and shortsighted.

Of course, no where is the tension between the two mindsets felt more acutely than in our schools. Last year I witnessed this firsthand when I gave a short presentation to a small group of teachers about social bookmarking services, highly accessible web-based tools that enable groups of individuals (in this case, teachers or students or both) to collect and annotate web resources collaboratively.

Shortly after giving the presentation, I posted a long reflection on the experience; it boils down to the fact that my audience, rather than being receptive to the potential of this new web tool, was largely preoccupied with the fear that somehow students would misappropriate it or abuse it.

This preoccupation with safety, security, and control limits the ability of schools to keep pace with the evolving “Insider” mindset. Lankshear and Knoble write:

Schools are often trapped here and inevitably go for the safe option, because for teachers to play an educative role that truly assists young people to assume moral responsibility for their internet activity, teachers themselves need to “know their internet,” which, to a large extent they still do not (p. 39).

But I would argue that the solution goes beyond teachers merely needing to “know their Internet.” It’s about school systems truly valuing the Internet and participation on the Internet as an educational resource equivalent to traditional, adopted texts and classroom tasks. The need to teach “filtering behaviors” and the rules of engagement in cyberspace has to be viewed through multidisciplinary lenses, rather than relegated to the purview of the media specialist or computer teacher.

One aspect of teaching the “New Literacies” that I am missing in Lankshear and Knobel’s Chapter 2 and hope the authors will address in a subsequent chapters is the need for educators to set up and facilitate opportunities for students to evaluate and judge the merit of all this rapid change. I absolutely embrace the new worlds opened up to me as a teacher/learner via Web 2.0, and I admire and often try to emulate the multitasking abilities of the “Insider” set. But what are the costs? What are the consequences to our identities and relationships in real time and in real space? What about the largely economic divide that prevents “out-of-school access to ‘new’ literacies” for certain groups of learners (p. 30)?

And I bristle just a little at dispassionate assertions about the complete obliteration of the “text paradigm” (p. 52). The authors maintain that “norms” still exist,

but they are less fixed, more fluid, and the sheer proliferation of textual types and spaces means there is always somewhere to “go” where one’s “ways” will be acceptable and there will be freedom to engage them, ad where traditional emphases on “credibility” become utterly subordinated to the pursuit of relationships and the celebration of sociality.

Isn’t it a bit dangerous to accept that all this change is purely inevitable? What are the consequences?

For example, I take exception with the authors’ uncritical take on Google’s “free” search services (pp. 43-44). Yes, I use Google, but I do so with the knowledge that every time I do, I “pay” with bits of information about myself. If you have a Gmail account, then you know exactly what I am talking about with the microadvertising on the right-hand column that is pinpointed to the subject matter of each and every email message that you open and read.

Plus, Google (and other search companies) are constantly experimenting with the promise of optimized personal searches, in which our personal search histories can be mined for data about us, supposedly for the purpose of refining and perfecting our future searches.

As a practice, I don’t trade in conspiracy theories, but as is seen in two spoofs based on Google’s web dominance, Google’s Master Plan and EPIC 2014, there are a lot of issues to consider. These are issues I would love to explore with digital “Insiders” and “Outsiders” alike, but especially with the “Insiders” who don’t necessarily have an alternate context from which to judge.

And that’s what I think.


Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy