The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

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.


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:

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

Commentary #2

Commentary #2

Writing Spaces: Hypertext and the Remediation of Print Re-examined

Erin Gillespie

ETEC 540

November 15, 2009


The debate surrounding the future of text is never more exciting than when considering the relationship between print and hypertext.  It is in the middle ground that the debate over what is the future of text, hypertext or print, is nicely packaged and tagged as “both” by Bolter (2001) due to one process: remediation. Bolter (2001) contends that interactivity and the merging of text and graphics are strategies inherent in electronic writing that create a more authentic experience for the reader, yet they are dependent on the knowledge of print. In chapter three of Writing Space, Bolter (2001) presents hypertext as the remediation of print, not as its replacement.

Bolter’s (2001) remediation walks a fine line between enthusiasts of new electronic writing and the old guard of traditional print. He argues soundly that hypertext remediates print because it is historically connected to print, while at the same time the two are easily distinguishable from each other (Bolter, 2001). According to Bolter (2001), electronic writing affords movement amongst visual space and conceptual space, and these spaces are different from the space in a book, yet knowledge of a book helps us recognize these affordances.  To optimize our experience when writing electronically, we depend on our former knowledge of print (Bolter, 2001). In other words, hypertext does not stand alone, uninfluenced by the history of print technology. Bolter (2001) argues that this fact is what makes electronic hypertext, ironically, new: Our dependency on and confrontation with our knowledge of the printed book when processing hypertext.  

Remediation may be difficult to apply to the field of text in a few generations, a possibility Bolter (2001) does not explore in chapter three of Writing Space. It is interesting to consider this extreme, and contrast it with Bolter’s (2001) middle ground theory by examining the field of education from an ecological point of view.  One way to re-examine the argument surrounding print and hypertext is to consider Darwin’s theory of evolution. Complex organisms evolve from simplistic organisms over time in an undirected progression of modification (Futuyma, 2005). Continuing with this theory, Darwin’s  natural selection suggests that a member of a species develops a functional advantage and over time, the advantaged members of the species survive to better compete for resources (Futuyma, 2005).

Consider print the simplistic organism: the reader and writer have one entry and exit point and information is linear and fixed, according to Bolter (2001). Less simplistic is hypertext, which can be read from a variety of entry points, is fluid and associative (Bolter, 2001). If we continue with this metaphor, the advantaged members of the species of text will be hypertext if we evolve to value fluidity and associative characteristics in text. Considering the popularity of hypertext and the flow of microcontent in Web 2.0 applications as described by Alexander (2006) and the speed of Jenkin’s (2004) media convergence, this direction in evolution is not unrealistic. Hypertext may survive in the place of print. However, the survival of a species is still dependent on the balance of its ecosystem, an in this metaphor the ecosystem is the student.

It is not illogical to apply an ecological perspective to the pedagogy of a school when discussing the adaptation hypertext. In an examination of factors that affect the use of technology in schools, Zhao and Frank (2003) used an ecological perspective and found it to be an effective analytical framework.  Zhao and Frank’s (2003) framework considers students as the ecosystem, computers a living species, teachers as members of a keystone (the most important) species and external educational innovations as the invasion of an exotic species. It is fair to consider hypertext an external educational innovation in this framework due to its very recent introduction to the field of education and thus, the student. Print, on the other hand, would be a species comfortably functioning in the ecosystem as a textbook. Consider again Bolter’s (2001) contention that hypertext is distinct from yet dependent on print. As an invading exotic species, hypertext is initially dependent on the pre-existing species of print for survival in the ecosystem. Students need to know how to read and how to write text in order to understand hypertext.

However, Bolter’s (2001) theory of remediation holds true only if the ecosystem, or student, is dependent on the species of printed text prior to the introduction of the exotic species of hypertext. However, Bolter (2001) does not look further ahead than remediation. It is possible that in the future, students will be introduced to hypertext prior to developing a dependency on print knowledge. Currently, hypertext is functioning as the exotic, invading species for Tapscott’s (2004) Net Generation and Prensky’s (2001) Digital Natives. However, these same students will produce the Net Generation 2.0.  As parents of the Net Generation 2.0, they will function as Zhao and Frank’s (2003) keystone species, a species already adapted to survive with hypertext. In chapter three, concerning remediation and hypertext, Bolter (2001) argues that print is the tradition that hypertext depends on. However, Bolter (2001) did not consider hypertext as being dependent on previous versions of hypertext. Bolter’s (2001)remediation does not project far enough into the future. The ecosystem, as Net Generation 2.0 students, will remain balanced as the functional advantages of hypertext ensure survival of this exotic species through displacement of the disadvantaged species, traditional print. Remediation of print may lead to the extinction of a dependency on print itself.



Alexander, B (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE, Review, 41(2), 33-44. Retrieved from

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

Futuyma, D. J. (2005). Evolution. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Jenkins, H. (2004) The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(1), 33-43. doi: 10.1177/1367877904040603

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On The Horizion, 9 (5), 1-6. Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Tapscott, D. (2004). The net generation and the school. Custom course materials ETEC 532 (pp. #2). Kelowna, B.C: University of British Columbia Okanagan, Bookstore. (Reprinted from Milken Family Foundation,

Zhao, Y., & Frank, K.A. (2003). Factors affecting technology uses in schools: An ecological perspective. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 807-840. Retrieved from

November 14, 2009   1 Comment

Remix Culture: Fair Use is Your Friend

As many of us have made digital materials, including video for MET courses, this video created by the American University Center for Social Media may be of interest. It describes fair use in the context of creating online videos and offers some best practices that educators can apply to their practice. Though Fair Use relates to American copyright laws, there are guidelines that we can take away and apply to our own contexts in the absence of any other documentation.

For the American University Center for Social Media’s full report see: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

View Remix Culture: Fair Use is Your Friend Video Here

November 14, 2009   No Comments

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

Some of you may have come across this project in your past courses but I thought I would share it here as we enter the RipMixFeed section. RiP: A Remix Manifesto is a documentary film about copyright and remix culture. The neat thing about this project is that it is participatory (I think participation is now closed though). Brett Gaylor, the filmmaker, has encouraged people to remix his work by providing his raw film footage to anyone. Ultimately Brett intends to mashup all the remixes submitted. The film is divided into chapters based on specific copyright issues. Each section is a mashup in its own right – to be remixed by others.

Girl Talk is the first chapter of the film and is about Girl Talk, a musician who mashes up music.

See part of the original film:

Now compare it to an example that has been remixed:

(Note: I have provided the links to the videos insteading of embedding them as they go beyond the parameters of the blog post)

In the past I cleared copyright for educational materials and Girl Talk’s music would be a nightmare to clear permissions for. Some say that the Fair Use (USA) or Fair Dealing (Canada) clauses should cover a lot of Girl Talk’s work, as only snippets of music are used. However the debate often overlooks the length of a clip, to instead look at its value; meaning it could be the ‘essence’ of the entire song, thus royalities should be paid. What do you think? Does this limit artistic interpretation? What does this mean for digital literacy?

November 14, 2009   2 Comments

Map mash up

Already I’m seeing some great products of the Rip.Mix.Feed activity. For mine, I thought I would use a more unexpected tool – Google Maps – in order to create a visual representation. Using the information that was stored in the “Introduction” category of our Community Weblog, I compiled information about where all members of this class (both sections) live and/or work and plotted the names on a Google map. I apologize that some of you are missing – I couldn’t find your information in your introductory post. While this is a simple representation, I think it fits within the overall spirit of the program by showing how the logistics of time and space clearly do not impede on our ability to learn together. Enjoy – the map is public so feel free to make an additions/corrections!

View Rip.Mix.Feed in a larger map

November 14, 2009   9 Comments

Google – digital books

For those of you following the Google project that aims to digitize the largest collection of books, it would appear that they have revised their terms… here is an update!

November 14, 2009   No Comments

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.


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

For the RipMixFeed activity I collected a set of resources using the social bookmarking tool 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 user’s links. As there are so many resources – too many for me to adequately peruse – I have subscribed to the tag ‘digitalliteracy’ in so I connect with others tagging related information. You can find my page at:

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 links let’s connect! My username is nattyg.


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

November 14, 2009   2 Comments

Spelling with Flickr

I love fonts so in the spirit of our RipMixFeed activity, I found this tool for spelling out words using Flickr images. You can change up the images on-the-fly until you get a ‘word image’ that you like. Here is a sample of what I came up with:

typewriter key letter D I wood type letter G letter i T44 A l31

L orange letter I letter T letter E R A C Y

Create your own Flickr words at:

November 14, 2009   3 Comments