Posts Tagged 'newLiteracies'

What is literacy advocacy?

Photo of child engaged with book

Support the youngest literacy learners

Cross-posted at Media Literacy.

April is Literacy Education Advocacy Month, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English.

What is “literacy advocacy”? Check out NCTE’s advocacy calendar for March and April 2009. I like how it breaks down advocacy into manageable steps for the novice agitator, er, I mean advocate.

Each day on the calendar contains a small, simple act we can perform to gently persuade our colleagues, legislators, and other education stakeholders about the NCTE 2009 legislative platform.

You can start being an advocate by simply reviewing the calendar. Check it out!

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.

Yechhhh.

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.

What is your favorite online “affinity space”?

Cross-posted at the Classroom 2.0 forum.

An affinity space is any place (virtual or physical) that ties people together based on a mutually shared interest or endeavor.

For me, it would have to be the “mommy” blogs that I read daily. I’ve got about four where I lurk and occasionally comment. I am really inspired by the way these women merge their varying interests in politics, civics, and, of course, technology, with the everyday challenge of parenting. I am even thinking of starting my own mommy blog as the birth of my second child is quickly approaching in mid- to late-June. It’s time to start adding my voice to the conversation, and the lazy days of summer seem like a good time to undertake this project!

What is your favorite online affinity space?

My question is inspired by a book I recently finished reading, New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. It was assigned reading for a spring semester seminar on multiliteracies, and it has given me a lot to think about.

The authors’ basic purpose is to shed light on the concept of “new literacies,” and to invite educators into conversation about “how the new might best be brought into a fruitful relationship with the already established.”

The last chapter is a recommendation or challenge of sorts to readers. Lankshear and Knobel think the first step toward merging conventional schooling and the world of new literacies (remix, blogs, podcasts, social networks, mobile technologies, and so on) is for educators to actively pursue firsthand experience with the social practices of digital “affinity spaces,” a term borrowed from James Paul Gee.

I am posing this question to the Classroom 2.0 community as well. Classroom 2.0, an international social network of educators interested in collaborative technologies, certainly is an example of an affinity space. But I was wondering about other virtual “hang outs” enjoyed by CR 2.0 members, places perhaps that are not defined by professional interests and obligations but more by hobbies, passions, or guilty pleasures.

And, if you are an occasional or even accidental reader of this blog, the question probably applies to you, too!

So, reader, where do you participate on the Web when you are not consumed with work, school, business, or other obligations? And do your interactions and exchanges within digital affinity spaces intersect with and inform your views and vision for education?

For more reflections on the challenges and opportunities presented by multiliteracies, read my other posts on New Literacies, mindsets, and mashups.  More to come!

YA Lit 2.0

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Classroom 2.0.

This is the last in a series of posts about things we can do in honor of Support Teen Literature Day 2008, which is today, April 17.

In previous entries, I’ve discussed book talks and read-alouds and blog-based literature discussions. These and many other activities are featured at the official teen lit day wiki presented by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA).

The wiki offers more than 30 things to do in celebration of young-adult (YA) fiction. Additionally, the YALSA homepage links to a wealth of YA booklists and professional development opportunities for teachers and librarians.

As I first perused these resources, I was reminded of just how influential YA has been in my own reading life.

And I was also struck by the utter transformation that has occurred within the YA genre since that summer, more than 25 years ago, when I made the profound and life-changing leap from children’s author Beverly Cleary to Judy Blume, the celebrated YA author who wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

For one, the options, in terms of authors and titles, have increased exponentially. The topics and subject matter are also darker and edgier, with more potential for cross-over appeal among adult audiences.

But without a doubt, the most profound change is technology driven. Digital technologies are transforming the very nature of what teens read as well as how they read. From within computer-mediated environments, youth can discuss, nominate, and vote on their favorite new YA titles, participate in surveys, and even chat in real-time with YA authors and readers from around the country.

I remember reading Judy Blume for the first time. I was maybe 10 years old and felt so privileged and so awakened to the fact that books could serve as more than a pleasant diversion from life. Books could also be topical and relevant to my own life and experiences. Wow!

I devoured Blume before moving on to other authors — Betty Miles, Paula Danziger, S.E. Hinton. My favorite, dog-eared books might have been called “feminist fiction for girls,” with female protagonists in various stages of social, emotional, and physical development — all the typical pubescent pangs.

Good stuff. I was engaged, and I stayed engaged until right around the start of high school when I gave up YA almost entirely to take up the “serious reading” of a college-bound student. I did not resume true pleasure reading again until well after college, in my mid-20s.

How much richer my reading life might have been had I had the opportunities that youth have today to connect, communicate, and form communities around favorite titles and authors, to possibly even interact in real-time or asynchronously with the authors themselves.

In the 2006 article YA Lit 2.0: How Technology is Enhancing Pleasure Reading, author Anita Beaman documents the impact of web-based and interactive technologies on how modern teens read for enjoyment.

Citing the work of Eliza Dresang, who in 1999 wrote Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age, Beaman highlights how books for children and young adults have evolved new formats such as novels in verse, screenplays, multiple narrative perspectives, and graphic novels.

Beaman writes, “It was becoming obvious that the mouse-click generation was going to be looking for something new in print.”

She goes on to present evidence that, contrary to conventional wisdom, adolescents are reading, especially when given opportunities to reach out to authors and other teens in media-rich, interactive environments that include email, blogs, iTunes playlists, and MySpace pages.

This is the new playing field — YA 2.0.

Asserting that “YA Lit 2.0 is a sign that books and reading remain relevant to teens in a digital world,” Beaman concludes with advice to librarians who want to develop programs that are relevant to teen readers: download the playlists, read author blogs, create blogs, visit MySpace, and “share the entire reading experience” with teens.

For Beaman, a high school librarian, the implications are clear: if librarians want to be taken seriously, they must revitalize their programs and immerse themselves in these digital environments, right alongside the teens.

Certainly, any literacy educator would do well to heed this advice.

What do you think?

Support Teen Lit Day 2008

YALSA logo

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Fireside Learning.

Support Teen Literature Day, sponsored by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA), is April 17.

From the wiki:

Librarians all across the country are encouraged to participate in Support Teen Literature Day on April 17th, 2008, by hosting events in their library or through their web site on that day. The purpose of this new celebration is to raise awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens.

Although I am not a librarian, I am a lifelong fan of young-adult (YA) fiction, and I was inspired by the more than 30 suggestions for celebrating Teen Lit Day listed at the wiki. So, for the next several days, I will devote space in this blog to thoughts, ideas, and reflections on YA and how it is being repositioned within the realms of multiliteracies and Web 2.0. (See the YALSA site for a variety of booklists, including “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” and “Outstanding Books for the College Bound.”)

One way to celebrate YA — or any book, for that matter — is through a book talk.

A key component of a good book talk is the moment when the presenter reads aloud a passage from the text. In addition to attracting readership in the same way movie trailers attract an audience, read-alouds are a research-based strategy for improving fluency, timing, and expression traditionally used in the primary grades.

In Yellow Brick Roads: Shared and Guided Paths to Reading 4-12, Janet Allen presents an argument for reading aloud to older youth, particularly struggling adolescent readers: “All students, regardless of age, deserve the opportunity to see the story without struggling with the text. . . . For students who struggle with word-by-word reading, experiencing the whole story can finally give them a sense of the wonder and magic of a book.”

YA literature, a genre often credited with capturing the attention of at-risk readers, when coupled with book talks and read-alouds, is a promising avenue by which we might convince youth that print-based texts are as relevant, enjoyable, and interactive as their favorite digital texts and electronic media.

Mr. Swanson, my 4th grade teacher, read to us every day as we ate lunch in the classroom (our school did not have a cafeteria). He read mostly longer selections that would fill the lunch period, and he often read chapter books (a chapter a day). He took student recommendations, too. One kid recommended Harriet the Spy. I ended up checking out that book and The Incredible Journey and reading them on my own after the fact. These experiences fed into a lifelong habit of pleasure reading.

And that’s what I think. What do you think about YA literature, book talks, and read-alouds?

My first lil’ mashup

The assignment seemed a little old-school: simply make a PowerPoint presentation and embed a sound clip. Come on, do I really have time for this?!

But it was a way for our professor to engage us in a rudimentary form of “remix” and “mashup,” common practices among youth that were mostly unfamiliar to us teachers enrolled in this semester’s reading education seminar on multiliteracies at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. For that reason, I could appreciate the professor’s pedagogy: giving a purposely unstructured assignment with minimal parameters and setting us free to playfully explore the potential and pitfalls of computer-mediated content creation.

Still, as you will see, my resulting slideshow (or “screencast”), is decidedly teacher-centered and bears that unmistakable corporate imprint that only PowerPoint software can convey — so clean, so slick, and oh so sterile. (The 2-minute, 30-second presentation is designed to be a conversation starter for teens and teachers about the obstacles and opportunities involved in “growing up digital.” It also ties into a thematic, annotated reading list I compiled on the subject of digital literacy.)

Nonetheless, I am proud of my lil’ mashup for three reasons:

  1. Although I did rely on the ubiquitous and wholly familiar PowerPoint application, I prepared my sound clips using Audacity, a free, open source, cross-platform audio editor. Through trial and error, I learned to import and edit music files, cut and paste sound clips, and export a wav file, essentially creating the “soundtrack” for my slideshow.
  2. To push my content out to the wider Internet audience, I used a free Web 2.0 application called SlideShare. SlideShare enables users to upload PowerPoint slides and create a product that is truly replicable, shareable, embeddable.
  3. Before I could turn my uploaded slideshow into a “screencast” with synchronized music, I had to convert my wav file into an mp3. For this operation, I tried a free demo version of Switch Sound File Conversion Software.

Whew! All this without benefit of teacher, textbook, user manual, or live help desk. Just experimentation with a bit of obsession thrown in.

My biggest take-away? The amount of time and dedication it took for me to undertake this style of self-moderated, trial-and-error learning. These are the new literacy practices that many young people regularly engage in outside the confines of the traditional classroom. Amazing!

Overall, I am pleased with the results. What do you think?

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.


Archives:

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:


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Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy