The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

From one literacy, to many, to one

There is no question that for students in the K-12 system in North America the ‘new’ literacies afforded by digital technologies play an integral role in their lives.  The question is what role they should play in schools.  Most of these students have never known a time without the Internet and have not had to do research when Google (circa 1998) and Wikipedia (2001) were not options.  The question of whether these new tools for finding information and the skills required to use them1 are literacy is moot for these students.  It is a question posed by those attempting to make sense of a rapid change in the learning styles and methods of their students—and in that sense it is necessary and useful.  However, any consideration of new literacies as ‘lesser’ literacies entirely misses the point.  The new literacies of what Bolter (2001) repeatedly terms “the late age of print” are additive in nature.  That is, though there is much debate about the relative merits of various forms of representation, the effect is evolutionary and cumulative rather than revolutionary and exclusionary.  Many literacies co-exist, supplement one another, extend into one another, and borrow and trade metaphors.  As Dobson and Willinsky (2009) note, “…the paradox [is] that while digital literacy constitutes an entirely new medium for reading and writing, it is but a further extension of what writing first made of language” (p. 1).  Certainly, for K-12 students, ‘new’ literacies are not new, they are simply literacy.  Thus, multiliteracy, new literacy, digital literacy and information literacy, while useful concepts in the effort to problematize and deconstruct the changes, are all facets of one, evolving and growing literacy.  Writing in 1996, the year many students currently in the eighth grade were born, the New London Group argued that “…literacy pedagogy now must account for the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies” (p. 2).  Whether accounted for or not, those forms and technologies are taken for granted by most students.  It seems likely that ignoring this results in a type of cognitive dissonance for students which may make it more difficult for them to learn in classrooms in which print literacy is still the dominant, if not the only, mode.  A danger, however, as Dobson and Willinsky (2009) note, is the tendency to assume that “…adolescents’ competence with new technologies—is often inappropriately reconstrued as incompetence with print-based literacies” (p. 11).  Some technology enthusiasts, notable among them Marc Prensky, call for a wholesale shift from print to digital literacy.

Marc Prensky speaks in 2008.

Marc Prensky speaks in 2008.

Prensky has gone so far as to claim that “…it is very likely that our students’ brains have physically changed—and are different from ours—as a result of how they grew up” (Prensky, 2001, p. 1) and their immersion in digital technologies.  While there has been some interesting research in recent years on brain plasticity, particularly with reference to interactions with technology, Prensky is justly criticized for going beyond the scientific evidence (McKenzie, 2007).  Yet he does highlight important characteristics of the way students now learn and socialize2 using technology.  Similarly, Prensky’s classification of parents and teachers as Digital Immigrants, and their children and students as Digital Natives, though overly simplistic is not entirely unhelpful in conceptualizing the current situation in classrooms.  As with other immigrants, some adults have a more difficult time adapting to a new culture than do their children who have been raised in that culture.  Of course, the situation is not as black and white as Prensky would have us believe.  It is also sometimes true that adults who have made the choice to emigrate, and have done the research and made the sacrifices necessary to act on that choice, are more knowledgeable and participate to a higher degree than do their children who take the advantages and freedoms of the new country for granted.  It is normal to find students today who have high

Ubiquitous texting teenager.

Ubiquitous texting teenager.

 speed Internet access at home, access to a family desktop computer or a desktop, laptop or netbook computer of their own, a cellular telephone (capable of texting and taking photos and short movies), and an iPod or other MP3 player.  In fact, the preceding is almost a list of standard equipment for a teenager in early 21st Century North America.  And while it is still true that many schools do not encourage the use of most of these technologies in the classroom, an interesting phenomenon can be observed when teachers make an attempt to do so.  The teacher, likely a Digital Immigrant in Prensky’s terms, has made some study of the technology to determine the ways in which it can be most usefully employed in pursuit of particular curricular objectives.  What often becomes clear is that many of the Digital Native students, who appear quite facile with technology to the casual observer, are both a.) using only limited aspects of technology primarily for social purposes (MSN, Facebook, Twitter, etc.); and, b.) not fully comprehending the implications of the uses they do make of the technology.  This is particularly evident with regard to services such as Facebook where it is not uncommon to find that students rely on default privacy settings, do not read the contract they agree to when opening an account which states that all material posted to the site becomes the property of Facebook, and do not consider the potential long-term consequences of statements or images they post.  In short, students are not only taking the technologies and literacies for granted, they have little or no explicit understanding of them. What this argues for is again something that was anticipated by the New London Group thirteen years ago:  the need for teachers and students to come together in a learning community to which both parties bring their knowledge, experience, learning styles and literacies.

To be relevant, learning processes need to recruit, rather than attempt to ignore and erase, the different subjectivities, interests, intentions, commitments, and purposes that students bring to learning.  Curriculum now needs to mesh with different subjectivities, and with their attendant languages, discourses and registers, and use these as a resource for learning. (New London Group, 1996, p. 11)

Dobson and Willinsky (2009) hit exactly the right “Whiggish” note in the closing remarks to their draft chapter on digital literacy: “We must attend to where exactly and by what means digital literacy can be said to be furthering, or impeding, educational and democratic, as well as creative and literary, ends” (Dobson and Willinsky, 2009, p. 22).  It is clear that the result of this attention must be an expansion of the definition of literacy to include many aspects made possible by its digital evolution. 

Notes

up1 Dobson and Willinsky (2009) point out that literacy in the digital age includes the skills, often defined as information literacy, “… not just for decoding text, but for locating texts and establishing the relationship among them” (p. 19).

up2 “Social software constitutes a fairly substantial answer to the question of how digital literacy differs from and extends the work of print literacy” (Dobson and Willinsky, 2009, p. 21).

References

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dobson, T. and Willinsky, J. (2009). Digital Literacy.  From draft version of a chapter for The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy.

McKenzie, J. (2007).  Digital Nativism, Digital Delusions, and Digital Deprivation.  From Now On, 17(2).  Available: http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html

Prensky, M. (2001).  Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.  On the Horizon.  NCB University Press, 9(5).

November 29, 2009   1 Comment

Multi-literacy and assessment

Commentary # 3, Cecilia Tagliapietra

Along this course, we’ve discussed the “creation” or discovery of text and how it has transformed throughout the ages; providing mankind a way of expressing thoughts and feelings. In this third and last commentary, I’d like to discuss how we’ve become literate in different areas and how literacy, as text, has also been transformed to fit new manifestations of text. I’d also like to touch upon the challenges we face as teachers, to assess and impulse the development of these competencies or literacies.

As text has transformed spaces and human consciousness (Ong, 1982, p. 78), we’ve also changed the meaning of the term literacy, integrating not only the focus on text as the main aspect of it, but also the representations, and methods in which text is manifests, as well as the meaning given or understood according to different contexts. The New London Group (1996) has introduced the term “multiliteracies” for the “burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies” (p. 60). From this understanding and meaning, we can identify different literacy abilities or competencies. The two most important types of literacies we’ll narrow down to are: digital literacy and information literacy.

Dobson and Willinsky (2009) assertively express that “digital literacy constitutes an entirely new medium for reading and writing, it is but a further extension of what writing first made of language” (referring to the transformation of human consciousness, (Ong, 1982, p. 78)). These authors consider digital literacy an evolution that integrates and expands on previous literacy concepts and processes, as Bolter expresses “Each medium seems to follow this pattern of borrowing and refashioning other media” (Bolter, 2001, pg. 25). With digital literacy, we can clearly identify previous structures and elements shaping into new, globalized and closely related contexts.

Digital technologies have recently forced us to change and expand what we understand as literacy. Being digitally literate is being able to look for, understand, evaluate and create information within the different manifestations of text in non-physical or digital media. Information literacy is also closely linked to the concept of digital literacy. According to the American Association of School Librarians (1998), an information literate, should: access information efficiently and effectively, evaluate information critically and competently, use the information accurately and creatively. We can clearly see an interrelationship between the concepts of these literacies; they both rely on an interpretation of text and an effective use of this interpretation. The development of critical thinking skills is also closely related to these concepts and the ability to use information (and text) creatively and accurately.

The use of these new literacies has also changed (and continues to do so) the way we communicate and learn; we constantly interact with multimedia and rapidly changing information. Even relationships and authority “positions” are restructured, as consumers also become producers of knowledge and text.  With the introduction and use of these new literacies, education has somehow been “forced” to integrate these competencies into the curriculum and, most importantly, into the daily teaching and learning phenomena.

As teachers, we are not only required to facilitate learning in math, science, etc.; we are also required to facilitate and encourage the development of these literacies as well as critical thinking skills. Teaching and assessing these abilities is no easy task, as it’s not always manifested in a concrete product. Calvani and co-authors (Calvani, et.al, 2008), propose an integral assessment for these new competencies, involving the technological, cognitive and ethical aspects of the literacies (See Figure 1). In order to assess, we must initially transform our daily practices to integrate these abilities for our students and for ourselves. Being literate (in the “normal” concept) is not an option anymore. We are bombarded with and have access to massive amounts of information which we need to disseminate, analyze and choose carefully. Digital and information literacies are needed competencies to successfully understand and interpret the globalized context and be able to integrate ourselves into it.

Learning (ourselves) and teaching others to be literate or multi-literate is an important task at hand. Tapscott (1997) has mentioned that the NET generation is multitasker, digitally competent and a creative learner. As educators and learning facilitators, we also need to integrate and develop these competencies within our contexts.

Literacy has transformed and integrated different concepts and competencies, what it will mean or integrate in five years or a decade?

Figure1

 Figure 1: Digital Competence Framework (Calvani, et.al, 2008, pg. 187)

           

References:

 

American Association of School Librarians/ Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1998) Information literacy standards for student learning. Standards and Indicators. Retrieved November 28, 2009 from: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/informationpower/InformationLiteracyStandards_final.pdf

 

Calvani, A. et. al (2008) Models and Instruments for Assessing Digital Competence at School. Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society. Vol. 4, n. 3, September 2008 (pp. 183 – 193). Retrieved November 28, 2009 from: http://je-lks.maieutiche.economia.unitn.it/en/08_03/ap_calvani.pdf

 

Dobson and Willinsky’s (2009) chapter “Digital Literacy.”  Submitted draft version of a chapter for The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy.

 

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92. Retrieved, November 28, 2009, from http://newlearningonline.com/~newlearn/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/multiliteracies_her_vol_66_1996.pdf

Tapscott, Don. Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, Retrieved November 28, 2009 from: http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/jan98/feat_6/digital.html  

November 29, 2009   1 Comment

Commentary # 2: Multiple Intelligences, Hypertext and Hypermedia: Are They Connected?

Commentary # 2: Multiple Intelligences, Hypertext and Hypermedia: Are they Connected?

by  Delphine Williams Young

ETEC 540       University of British Columbia    November 15, 2009

 

The continuation of the remediation of print in human history as explored by David Bolter (2001) implies that humans are always engaged in the process of configuring ways to improve the transmission of information and ideas. Bolter suggests a tension between visual and print modes that is also continuing in education, despite the unregulated and unstructured journey from medieval iconography to print, then to photographic and electronic visual presentation. “It is interesting to speculate how photography, film, television and multimedia might have been developed and used, if Western cultures could somehow have jumped over the technology of printing and gone directly from iconography to photographic and electronic visual presentation” (Bolter, p.55). According to Bolter, visual technologies had to struggle to highlight themselves within a culture of prose and the earlier verbal rhetoric. (p. 55). Could it be that this recursive pattern somehow connected to the way in which Howard Gardner (1993) represents human intelligence? Could it be the source of this disorganized development of writing technologies?

     Gardner’s theory emerged from cognitive research and suggests that there are seven multiple intelligences which can be used to describe the way humans perceive and interact with the world as intelligent beings, which are the: linguistic, logical mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial-visual, interpersonal and intrapersonal ( (Mckenzie, 2005). Despite documenting these seven, Gardner suggests that there are others which he attempts to describe in his later work but these seven have been useful to educators. They help to determine individual differences and have allowed many teachers to target their learners effectively. Could it be that the shifting which has been taking place throughout the ages, which Bolter articulates as “a process of cultural competition between or among technologies” (p.23), be as a result of the various different individuals possessing varied multiple intelligences? Bolter suggests that the shift which occurs as remediation usually takes place when new technology replaces an older one by “borrowing and reorganizing the characteristics of writing in the older medium and reforming its cultural space” (p. 23). The writing done on papyrus remediated oral communication by allowing for the eyes and ears to be involved and so giving the words “a different claim to reality” ( p.23). The persons involved in effecting this remediation all possess a very constant variable, their humanity. With an application of  Gardner’s theory there is a very likely possibility, in addition to the human desire to improve on existing technologies, that many of the inventors and innovators throughout history possessed varied learning styles which propelled them to add and subtract in order to arrive at technologies which seem to address all seven multiple intelligences. Hypertext is one such technology.

     In this century, “hypertext”, according to Bolter, is not without hypermedia which offers so much more to the reader than the printed word. Bolter sees it as offering a “second challenge to the printed book” (p.47).  The current old fashioned print which may seem like simple and natural communication, at this cultural moment, especially to those who are perhaps not digitally literate, in comparison to the electronic hypertext might not seem so in the years to come. It might actually more natural for some information to be represented as hypertext (Bolter, p. 46). An examination of hypertext reveals that all the multiple intelligences are represented in the way the technologies are combined. I say combined whilst Bolter proclaims ‘remediation.’ For linguistic learners which learn through words and language there is text to be read and to be responded to by the user. There are logic and numbers to be manipulated by the logical-mathematical learner. Sound, music and rhythm are available and easily accessed for those who are musically oriented. Images and spaces are varied for spatial learners. According to Sherry Turkle (2004) “[f]or some people cyberspace is a place to act out unresolved conflicts, to pay and replay characterological difficulties on a new and exotic stage” (p. 23). Virtual communities offer opportunities for adolescents and young adults to interact anonymously with different identities in an attempt to concretize their own sense of self. Both the interpersonal and the intrapersonal intelligences are catered for as individuals interact with each other using the above media.  Finally, the bodily-kinesthetic is addressed in two ways. The tools and equipment are handled in the process of using them and there are visual media which portray motion that the user can get involved in. An example of hypertext combined with hypermedia which is can be recognized as the World Wide Web. 

     Whilst Bolter cites several educational theorists who have examined the effectiveness of hypertext and hypermedia as new dialogic forms, he also recognizes that the academic community is showing reluctance to participate in some of the refashioning that writing technologies have undergone. The World Wide Web that I find very useful is sometimes rejected as not having material of high calibre. Bolter also points out that popular culture which includes “the business and entertainment world and most users have shown little interest in a serious critique of digital media, but they are all eager to use digital technology to extend and remake forms of representation and communication” (p.118). If the hypertext and hypermedia have remediated print to the extent that they are capable of addressing all the various multiple intelligences, then educators need to embrace them as they did the multiple intelligences, then the quality of instruction will improve and learning will be maximized. The experience that educators had while learning the original classic works will change, and continue to undergo change, so rather than resist the change educators will have to join in and become digitally literate. A   book though not able to address all human needs will still be easier to carry and handle than an electronic one will. This does not change the idea that educators need to listen to the inner voice of the students like these.

 

References

 

Bolter, D. J. (2001). Writing Space Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbalm Associates.

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of the Mind: The Theory of Multiple of Intelligences. New York : Basic Books.

Mckenzie, W. (2005). Multiple Intelligences and Instructional Technology. Washington: iste Publications.

Turkle, S. (2004). Whither Psychoanalysis in Computer Culture. Psychoanalytic Psychology , 16-30.

Worchester. T. (2009). Multiple Intelligences and Technology. Retrieved from http://www.tammyworchester.com/Home/html

November 15, 2009   2 Comments

Commentary 2 – Literacy

Literacy n. 1 the ability to read and write.  2 competence is some field of knowledge, technology, etc.  (computer literacy; economic literacy)  (Oxford Canadian Dictionary, 1998, pg. 836)

Literacy has been discussed and will continue to be a topic of discussion far into the human future.   The need to learn and to facilitate learning and the economic drivers that push technology changes will impact learning and how we view and define literacy.   Ong states that “Literacy began with writing but, at a later stage of course, also involves print”.  (1982, pg. 2)  One would assume that literacy would and should develop to become multifaceted to include all information and communication techniques and the social factors that influence those modes.  As the identified by the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, literacy should imply an understanding, along with the ability to read and write. 

In the article A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures, The New London Group presents the concept of multiliteracies – a redesigned ‘literacy’ with mutual consideration for “the multiplicity of communications channels and media, and the increasing saliency of cultural and linguistic diversity.” (1996, pg. 4)  The new globalization, with ever increasing diversity, has resulted in an encroaching on the workplace, in public spaces and in our personal lives.  These influences are driving a demand for a language “needed to make meaning” (1996, pg. 5) of our economic and cultural exchanges.   How we perceive and how others perceive us is a factor in success.  This success impacts and affects all facts of our lives.   But in a global village, can we ensure that success is attained by all.  It would appear to me that the requirement for multiliteracy is needed mostly in areas of economic disadvantage and disparity.  Where access to even “mere literacy” (New London Group, pg. 4) is limited. 

Cross-cultural communications and the negotiated dialogue of different languages and discourses can be a basis for worker participation, access, and creativity, for the formation of locally sensitive and globally extensive networks that closely relate organizations to their clients or suppliers, and structures of motivation in which people feel that there different backgrounds and experiences are genuinely valued.  (New London Group, 1996, pg. 7)

To increase cross-cultural experiences within the workers’ education, the use of facilitated online study circles are excellent venues to create a dialogue for success and facilitate the “making of meaning” in workers’ participation.  The International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) employs study circles to attempt to close the gap in both worker education and multiliteracy in disadvantaged groups.  These educational events provide an opportunity for Study Circle members to engage in the four elements of pedagogy as described including: Situated Practice; Overt Instruction; Critical Framing; and Transformed Practice.  (New London Group, pg. 5) 

The division of pedagogy into “the how”, places a new role and responsibility on the teacher and the school.  In the articles, the teacher is described as a facilitator of cultural differences, and a developer of critical thinkers.  This individual must navigate not only the knowledge of required instructional content, but also the technical and the cultural.   The school, as the organization tasked to make differences out of homogeneity (The New London Group, pg. 11) must now reconfigure the classroom to include both global and local content and relationships, flavoured by diverse cultural distinctions.   “Local diversity and global connectedness mean not only that there can be no standard; they also mean that the most important skill students need to learn is to negotiate regional, ethnic, or class-based dialects”.  (The New London Group, pg. 8

While the New London Group article was written in 1996, it was bold to address some of the utopian ideals within education and literacy; individualized education at both a local and global level, with no standards and a high regard for cultural and linguistic differences in the classroom.   Sadly, literacy is influenced by the very diversity and globalization that is forcing most of our social changes.  These changes can be best described using the very words of described by the authors; “Fast Capitalism” (pg. 10); “rigorously exclusive” (pg.6); and “market driven” (pg.6).  As Dobson and Willinsky states “a gender gap still persists in many parts of the world, being wider in some countries”.  (2009, pg. 12)  This gap may be an indicator “that in certain respects there has been very little movement in the gender gap in the last two decades”.  (pg. 13)  Perhaps with such disparities in our global context, the goal of our educational organizations and facilitators should be to ensure that a standard is met with regards to information literacy- “ the ability to locate, evaluate,  and use effectively the needed information”  (Dobson & Willinsky, 2009, pg. 18)  This would ensure that a “competence is some field of knowledge, technology, etc.” (Oxford Canadian Dictionary) is achieved.

References:

Dobson, T. & Willinsky, J.  (2009).  Digital Literacy.  Submitted to The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy

International Federation of Workers’ Educational Association.  (unknown).  The international programs.  Retreived online 10 Nov 2009 from the World Wide Web: http://www.wea.org.uk/Education/International/

New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

Ong, Walter (1982). Orality and literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen.

 Oxford Canadian Dictionary.  (1998).  Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

November 14, 2009   1 Comment

Formal Commentary #2 by Dilip Verma

Hypermedia Literacy and Constructivist Learning Theory

The changing form of representation in modern media, and the changing relationship between reader and author in hypertext both call for a change in the method by which literacy is taught. The way that hypertext, or better still hypermedia, is experienced and produced requires a different set of skills than those taught in the traditional classroom. The fact that some of the changes called for by the New London Group closely mirror practices suggested in constructivist learning theory gives added weight to the impetus for a shift in classroom methodology. In constructivism, learning is student centered, and meaning is personal, being constructed actively by the student within a social context. These teaching techniques are precisely what are required to produce students literate in hypermedia.

Hypermedia incorporates multi-modes of meaning involving design decisions in, at the very least, the linguistic, audio, spatial and visual realms. Education has traditionally focused on the linguistic logical intelligence, but multi-literacy requires designers and viewers to develop multiple intelligences (as defined by Gardner) and multiple grammars for different modes of representation. Though parallel means of representation do exist between grammars (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006 citing Kress, 2000b and Kress and van Leeuwen, 1996), on the whole, different modes of representation present meaning differently. For example, speech, and consequently writing, organizes events temporally, whilst images represent spatially arranged entities (Kress, 2005, p.13). Therefore, language literacy requires a different grammar to visual literacy. Individual students naturally vary in their mastery of these grammars; one may have an instinctive understanding of spatial representation, while another is more aware of linguistic meaning. Traditionally, literacy has been taught mono grammatically, whereas constructivism embraces the idea of individual perspectives in a classroom that work collectively to create meaning.

The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies (The New London Group, 1996) calls for the active construction of meaning and teaches learners how to be “active designers of meaning” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p10). In the traditional classroom, learners are encouraged to repeat modes of representation in the production or consumption of media rather than construct new, personalized designs influenced by their own perspective, a perspective influenced by cultural mediation based on Vygotsky’s Cultural Historical Activity Theory. In the “Multiliterate” classroom, students become constructors of meaning and are transformed in the process. “Meaning makers remake themselves” (The New London Group, 1996, p15). The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies is a student centered, active process that furthers a Constructivist agenda.

In the traditional text, as in the traditional classroom, the author offered a single vision or mode of representation to which the student adapted herself and “followed the strict order established by the writer while needing to interpret the word signifiers, turning them into his or her signs” (Kress, 2005, p.9). In hypermedia, it is the visitor, not the author, who determines the path (Kress, 2005) and students are “agents” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 7) of their own knowledge path. Rather than being passive, hypermedia readers are “meaning makers (that) don’t simply use what they have been given; they are fully makers and remakers of signs and transformers of meaning” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p.10). The fluid nature of meaning suggests a constructivist epistemology and a shift from the author or teacher as authority. The New London Group does not see meaning as a concept external to the learner, but rather as internal. Traditional teachers, just like authors, were authorities, establishing a path through their text, which the reader or student followed diligently. Digital authors and teachers are no longer mappers of knowledge; they are not sources of knowledge, just sources of information. If the students of today are to be “actors rather than audiences” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 8), a student-centered focus for education is called for.

Finally, digital literacy requires a “more holistic approach to pedagogy” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p.3). The interconnected modes of representation suggest a classroom where the focus is on ways of knowing rather than the division of knowledge into isolated areas. Modern literacy requires a knowledge of multiple grammars, those of linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial and representation (The New London Group, 1996, p. 17). Moreover, an understanding of how these modes combine synaesthetically is a separate grammar all together. This last form, the multimodal representation of meaning, is special in that it represents the way the other modes play off each other to create interconnected patterns of meaning (The New London Group, 1996, p. 17). This multimodal grammar is important for digital literacy as children are naturally synaesthetic, in the way they combine their modes of representation, and “much of our everyday representational experience is intrinsically multimodal” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 13). If literacy is to be relevant to learners, then pedagogical activities must be authentic and related to students’ experience in a world of multimodal communication. Hence it is counterproductive and unnatural to compartmentalize modes of meaning as traditional pedagogy has done.

References

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2006). ‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4(3), 164-195.

Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition, 22(1), 5-22.

The New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

November 14, 2009   1 Comment

RipMixFeed using del.icio.us

For the RipMixFeed activity I collected a set of resources using the social bookmarking tool del.icio.us. Many of us have already used this application in other courses to create a class repository of resources or to keep track of links relevant to our research projects. What I like about this tool is that the user can collect all of their favourite links, annotate them and then easily search them according to the tagged words that they created. This truly goes beyond the limitations of web browser links.

For this activity I focused on finding resources specifically related to digital and visual literacy and multiliteracies. To do this I conducted web searches as well as searches of other del.icio.us user’s links. As there are so many resources – too many for me to adequately peruse – I have subscribed to the tag ‘digitalliteracy’ in del.icio.us so I connect with others tagging related information. You can find my del.icio.us page at: http://delicious.com/nattyg

Use the tags ‘Module4’ and ‘ETEC540’ to find the selected links or just search using ETEC540 to find all on my links related to this course.

A couple of resources that I want to highlight are:

  1. Roland Barthes: Understanding Text (Learning Object)
    Essentially this is a self-directed learning module on Roland Barthes ideas on semiotics. The section on Readerly and Writerly Texts is particularly relevant to our discussions on printed and electronic texts.

  2. Howard Rheingold on Digital Literacies
    Rheingold states that a lot people are not aware of what digital literacy is. He briefly discusses five different literacies needed today. Many of these skills are not taught in schools so he poses the question how do we teach these skills?

  3. New Literacy: Document Design & Visual Literacy for the Digital Age Videos
    University of Maryland University College faculty, David Taylor created a five part video series on digital literacy. For convenience sake here is one Part II where he discusses the shift to the ‘new literacy’. Toward the end of the video, Taylor (2008) makes an interesting statement that “today’s literacy means being capable of producing fewer words, not more”. This made me think of Bolter’s (2001) notion of the “breakout of the visual” and the shift from textual to visual ways of knowing.

Alexander (2006) suggests that social bookmarking can work to support “collaborative information discovery” (p. 36). I have no people in my Network as of yet. I think it would be valuable to connect with some of my MET colleagues so if you would like share del.icio.us links let’s connect! My username is nattyg.

References

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave for teaching and learning? Educause Review, Mar/Apr, 33-44.

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext and the remediation of print. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Taylor, D. (2008). The new literacy: document design and visual literacy for the digital age: Part II. Retrieved November 13, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmEoRislkFc

November 14, 2009   2 Comments

Orality, Literacy, Multiliteracy and K-12 Education in B.C.

Try to imagine a culture where no one has ever ‘looked up’ anything.  In a primary oral culture, the expression ‘to look up something’ is an empty phrase: it would have no conceivable meaning.  Without writing, words as such have no visual presence, even when the objects they represent are visual.  They are sounds…they are occurrences, events (Ong, 1982, p.31).

In inviting us to imagine one of the characteristics of a primary oral culture, Ong introduces his chapter on the psychodynamics of orality, describing the characteristics of thought and expression in oral culture.  For members of fully-literate cultures, it is difficult to imagine a context in which people have not had access to the written word whether for purposes of personal organization, expression or enlightenment.  Similarly, it would be difficult, I suspect, for a member of a fully digitally-literate culture to imagine a culture where no one has ever “Googled” something.

Ong’s presentation of the characteristics of orally based thought indeed draws attention to the patterns and generalities which differ from the characteristics of literate thought.  For example, Ong (p.45) suggests that Oral culture is “empathetic and participatory” in the case of learning information; to acquire knowledge in oral culture is to become empathetic and close to it, while in so-called literate culture, the act of writing causes a separation, a distancing between the knower and the known.  Moving further still, in the case of digital literacy, I wonder whether or not a written word transmitted via the Internet might be yet another degree of separation between the knower and the known.

Yet, what does it mean to be ‘literate’? Ong discusses orality in detail, frequently contrasting it to literacy by means of discussing the features of oral-based thought.  Although he does not provide us with a single, salient definition of literacy, in his distinction between the characteristics of oral and literate culture, Ong provides details that suggest that the meaningful use of reading and writing indicates literacy.  This can be illustrated by the above epigraph.  When Ong poses the contrast of ‘looking up’ information, he is specifically alluding to the ability to read and write information for the purpose of preserving and transmitting said information; a categorical feature of literacy.  At the time that Ong’s work was first published, I would argue that the definition of literacy would not have been disputed a great deal, and that when one talked about literate people, one meant people who could read and write.  In fact, Merriam-Webster (2009) simply characterizes literacy as having the ability to read and write.  It becomes clear through Ong’s analysis that without this ability, oral cultures are unable to produce a language that is as grammatically complex, analytic, or novel as that of literate cultures.

Are oral cultures at a disadvantage in a world driven by digital (and literate) technologies? British Columbia is a cultural milieu; our schools have any number of cultures represented in them—both from oral and literate traditions.  By Canadian common definition, literacy is “the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities at home, at work and in the community – to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential” (Canadian Education Association, 2009).  This definition goes beyond the simplicity of the previous, but still leaves the question: What is ‘printed information’ and does an ‘illiterate’ (or oral) person require this information in order to acquire knowledge and realize potential? UNESCO (2003) proposes that literacy is:

[T]he ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.

This definition, in contrast to the others presented previously, acknowledges a plurality in the concept of literacy; it allows for various forms of viewing and representing of written materials to be incorporated into literate society, allowing for the proposition of multiple literacies.

Cazden, Cope, Fairclough, Gee, et al (1996) argue that the diversity and multiplicity of communication and culture in today’s world calls for a much more extensive view of literacy than past classifications based solely on familiarity of the written word.  They propose that today’s globalized society does not fit the traditional view of literacy, and that technology-based and multimedia texts must also be accounted for as a part of literacy, or multiliteracy.  Eshet-Alkalai (2004) broadens the idea of multiliteracy and extends it to digital literacy by naming five distinct literacies present among digital literates, including photo-visual literacy.

The concept of literacy has changed since Ong first presented the characteristics of oral culture. In keeping with UNSECO and the Canadian Education Association, for students in B.C., literacy education now includes four categories, rather than the traditional two: reading, writing, viewing and representing (B.C. Ministry of Education, 2006, 2007), including specific learning outcomes for oral literacy, and allowing for greater participation from students of many cultural backgrounds, not just Ong’s ‘literates’.  Are oral cultures at disadvantage when it comes to literacy education?  Since Canadian society relies so heavily on the written word—be it by hand or machine—I would argue that yes, oral cultures are still at a disadvantage.  This is especially pertinent as scholars such as Ong have historically devalued and dismissed oral culture as primitive or homeostatic (p. 46).  Times are changing, however, and with the proliferation of digital communication and multimedia in the 21st century, multiliteracy, rather than monoliteracy appears to fit best.

References

B.C. Ministry of Education. (2007). English language arts 8-12. Integrated Resource Packages. Retrieved October 1 2009 from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/ela_8_12_2007.pdf

B.C. Ministry of Education. (2006). English language arts K-7. Integrated Resource Packages. Retrieved October 1 2009 from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/ela_k7_2006.pdf

Cazden, C., Cope, B., Fairclough, N., Gee, J., et al. (1996). A pedagogy of mulitiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review 66(1).

Canadian Education Association. (2009). Some international and national definitions of literacy. Retrieved October 1 2009 from http://www.cea-ace.ca/foo.cfm?subsection=lit&page=fra&subpage=wha&subsubpage=som.

Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2004). Digital literacy: A conceptual framework for survival skills in the digital era. Journal of Educational Media and Hypermedia 13(1) p. 93-106.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (2009). Literate. Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved October 1 2009 from
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literate

Ong, W.J. (1982). Orality and Literacy. New York: Routledge.

UNESCO. (2003). The plurality of literacy and its implications for policies and programmes. UNESCO Education Sector. Retrieved October 1 2009 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001362/136246e.pdf.

October 4, 2009   1 Comment