Making Connections – The Negotiation Continues

Prior to the course, I already felt strongly about the idea of different communication modes having importance in our society as outlined by the New London Group (1996) which recognized methods of representation as significant and interrelated. Their continued focus on refining this conceptual framework is an important piece in continuing to examine the nature of our communications which is still rapidly changing, so we can continue to renegotiate what it means to be literate today. I am still convinced that literacy is far more encompassing than textual communication, including oral, visual, spatial, and gestural meaning; however, I cannot deny that that I am not concerned about the apparent decline in writing skills that I have witnessed in my 16 year teaching career.

Initially, I had a strong reaction to Postman’s (1992) comments about children not being able to read and/or not being willing to read because he was responding to a real, current concern in society. I struggle with the idea that we are becoming less literate as opposed to the nature of literacy and communication is in transformation.  In trying to renegotiate a balance between text and other modes of representation, on one hand, I think that there is going to be a changed (possibly every-changing) power dynamic between text and visual; but, on the other hand, I feel concerned with the diminished writing ability of students and feel strongly that it’s the main basis for strong communication. Ultimately, though, I think there is greatest communicative power in using them together. In renegotiating modes of communication, it’s not surprising that students have weaker writing skills (for grade level) as compared to the past when text was at the forefront of learning. I believe that ‘weaker’ skills are actually delayed development because we have borrowed time from writing activities and given them to other modes, for example, posters, audio recordings, photo essays, videos, etc.  Instead of seeing skills as deficient, could we not possible see them as different? Digital storytelling and podcasting are meaningful modern modes of representation that are a part of the new technological literacy that is arguably equal in importance to textual literacy (Chu & Graves, 2013). Film is a significant visual form that has built upon our rich history of narrative and resulted in highly evocative products as narrative is combined with spectacle (Aubanel, Dickens & Wagner, 2013). According to Chenoa Dirks (2013, Final Project), digital writing forms have multiplied and become more social in nature: blogging, texting, email, social positing, and collaborative writing. People are actually writing more than ever before but are not concerned with formal grammar and spelling. There is an increased focus on keeping it short and ‘to the point.’

I struggle with the idea of this situation being a concern or not as the world is quite different since modern communications, digital technologies, and mass media have developed; however, in higher learning, writing skills are still at the forefront being highly important to the learning and research process. Not everyone is destined for higher learning; thus, we all have different literacy needs. I was guilty of simplifying the issue which is multi-faceted and complex.

Rebecca Harrison (2013) makes the statement, “There have always been changes in literacy when new technologies are introduced, many people will fear and question these changes, but we may not know the impacts of them until after they have changed us (demonstrated through our research projects posted on the Weblog and through our readings)” (Making Connections). The ongoing remediation between text and other mediums as a result of technology is uncertain and presents questions that we should actively address during this ongoing cycle of change, so we can best understand the change and impact on society. Aristotle’s distrust of the written word in favour of oration is comparable to our discomfort with new ways of communicating today (Seventh Letter). The old, traditional form holds power in its current position and the new is viewed as threatening. Renegotiation – or change – is always uncomfortable and uncertain. I look to the future with optimism as we seek to redefine what it means to be literate in our time (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009; New London Group, 1996), and as we remediate this change by determining how we can better use new communication forms.


Aubanel, M., Dickens, J. & Wagner, K. (2013). Cinematic Impact on Literacy and Education.  ETEC 540: Text Technologies [blog].  Retrieved November 25, 2013, from

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009).  “Multiliteracies”: New Literacies, New Learning.  Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4(3), 164-195.

Dickens, J., Dirks, J., Gill, K., & Quigley, S. (2013).  Writing and Typing in the Modern Classroom.  ETEC 540: Text Technologies [blog].  Retrieved November 25, 2013, from

Harrison, R. (2013).  Making Connections:  An Overview of Literacy and Technology.  ETEC 540: Text Technologies [blog].  Retrieved November 25, 2013, from

New London Group. (1996).   A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures.    Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

Plato.  (360 B.C.).  The Seventh Letter. Retrieved November 25, 2013, from

Postman, N.  (1999).  Technopoly:  The surrender of culture to technology.  New York: Vintage Books.

About Kim Wagner

Kimberly Wagner is the College Link program teacher for District School Board Ontario North East. In addition to teaching English for the last 16 years, she has also coordinated Student Success within her previous high school for a four year period. The student success initiative in which she is currently involved is focused on reengaging students who have left high school at a young age and would now like an opportunity to graduate with their diploma.
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3 Responses to Making Connections – The Negotiation Continues

  1. emonks says:

    I feel the same struggles with the concept of literacy, Kim. Insightful piece. Thanks for sharing.

  2. maubanel says:

    Interesting, I am not sure that being short and to the point is a bad think. I see the science students here at LSU try and put a lot of complex information onto a single poster to get across what their research encompasses. I think as we get access to more and more information there is value in short, succinct. As Einstein said, keep it simple but not too simple. I also think writing is valued in many other non academic fields. I had to get an import visa for my parrot to go from Canada to the US (he is an endangered species). I had to resubmit the paperwork multiple times as the precision in the writing had to be just so. This happens in many facets of life that now there is an expectation of literacy and to get through any roadblocks requires very good communication skills.


    • Kim Wagner says:

      I like the sentiment of the Einstein quote as it suggests the importance of balancing brevity and detail.

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