In this show: Imagining Literacy Instruction for the 21st Century
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iPods, Puppy Dogs, and Podcasts
This episode focuses on imagining literacy instruction for the 21st Century.
Two-year-old Siena was in the playground at her sister Gabriela’s pre-school. As she climbed into a red and yellow ride-on car she turned around, looked at her mother and said, “keys”, at which time her mother handed her a set of toy keys. Siena then put her hand out once more in the direction of her mother and said “phone”.
My five-year old son TJ, was asked to draw a picture of his family by his pre-school teacher. The image he created, which I will include in the shownotes is of three people of varying heights, representing my husband, TJ and me. People who know us would likely be able to identify each of us in his drawing. My husband is drawn with a long ponytail, I am the figure with dark hair and TJ is the one with the baseball cap. In TJ’s image of our family he has represented each of us with an iPod Touch™ (portable media player and digital assistant) in our hand. Important to note is that each one has a different combination of colored dots. This is because each dot repre-sents a particular iPod Touch™ application or “app” that he knows we either have on our Touches or that he thinks we should have on our Touches. For instance, on his iPod™, TJ has various game apps like Rolando2™ and drawing apps like iDoodle2™.
It is clear from these literacy stories that children today are born and inducted into a world in which new technologies and new forms of communication are widespread. Young children, like Siena and TJ, participate in the world with new mindsets, identities and practices. Lucy Gray (2009), in “Stu-dents and Teachers Learning Together in the 21st Century”, does a good job of describing the web 2.0 world in which these new forms of participation unfold .
Socially Situated Practices
Siena’s contextual use of language as a toddler is an example of Street’s (1984) notion of language development as a socially situated practice, whereby, from a very young age, she makes use of the language resources available to her. Similarly the literacy act of TJ exemplifies Gee’s (2004) notion of Discourse (with a capital D) in which people use “a compi-lation of semiotic material, and expressive resources as an ‘identity kit’ ” allowing them “to be recognized as certain kinds of people within a given context” (Black, 2006, p.70). This was evident in TJ’s use of the iPod Touch™ in his drawing as a symbol representing membership in a certain community. Naming ourselves into existence is part of building an identity which, according to Wenger (1998), “…consists of negotiating the meanings of our experiences of membership, in social communities” (p.145). There are larger forces at play here that can be thought of as social practices with a capital S (Harste, 2009).
Getting Beyond Technologizing the Work We Do
The biggest problem in schools with regards to technology is no longer the lack of hardware or software. The problem is that teachers often get trained in how to technologize school-work. For instance, in conversation with educators at a recent literacy conference, they shared that they were taught how to put their worksheets online so that children could fill in the blanks electronically. What we need is not to technologize our existing practice but to imagine, as Lankshear and Knobel (2003) encourage, what the technology affords the work we do. Said differently, what sorts of new ways of engaging as literate learners do new technologies offer, including connectivity (being able to connect with others locally and globally), acces-sibility to information, and diverse ways of understanding and participating in the world for the 21st century.
For instance in Carol Felderman’s second grade class-room, in Falls Church, Virginia, children used podcasting as a way to share with others projects dealing with issues such as global warming and animal rights along with the steps they took to raise funds allowing all the second graders to go an a particular school trip. You can listen to their podcast called 100 Percent Kids. I’ll add a link in the shownotes. In Kent England, the children of Selsted Primary School, which was earmarked for closure, worked with a local musician to write, record and release a song which they sold online to raise enough funds to keep their school open. Their song can be heard online and I’ll add a link in the shownotes for this also. Fortunately, there are more and more examples like these of what using technology in new ways might look and sound like in the classroom (Evans, 2004; Marsh, 2005), however, much more needs to be done. Comber, Nixon, and Reid (2007) note that in the teach-ing of literacy, our role as teachers includes extending the repertoires of literacy and communications practices available to our students. They ask how technology, such as sending a message or text using a cell phone, creating a video, podcast-ing, and participating in online spaces such as electronic art galleries for children, provide new and interesting ways for them to communicate their ideas, questions, and understanding about the world around them.
For the children I describe earlier, new technologies became tools used for thinking about, representing, interacting, learning and communicating in the world. According to Merchant (2005), “Digital media and new forms of communication pro-vide rich possibilities for redefining interaction and establish-ing kinds of participation and production that reach out beyond classroom spaces” (p.73). What might you do in your setting as a way of imagining literacy instruction for the 21st century?
Black, R. (2006). “Language, Culture, and Identity in Online Fanfiction”. E-Learning. (3)2. Pp.170-183.
Comber, B., Nixon H., and Reid J. (Eds.) (2007). Litera-cies in Place: Teaching Environmental Communication. New-town, NSW, Australia: Primary English Teachers Association.
Evans, J. (Ed.) (2004). Literacy Moves On: Using popular culture, new technologies and critical literacy in the primary classroom. London, UK: David Fulton Publishers.
Gee, J.P. (1999). An Introduction to Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge.
Gee, J.P. (2004). Situated Language and Learning: a cri-tique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge.
Gray, L.(2009). “Students and Teachers Learning To-gether in the 21st Century”. School Talk. Urbana, IL: NCTE. Pp.1-2.
Harste, J.C. (2009). Presentation given at the 2009 Litera-cies and Differences Institute. Mississauga,ON, Canada: Stagewest Hotel. July 20, 2009.
Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2003). New Literacies: changing knowledge and classroom learning. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Marsh, J. (Ed.) (2005). Popular Culture, New Media and Digital Literacy in Early Childhood. New York, NY: Rout-ledge Falmer.
Merchant, G.(2004). “The Dagger of Doom and the Mighty Handbag”. In Evans, J. Literacy Moves On: Using popular culture, new technologies and critical literacy in the primary classroom. London, UK: David Fulton Publishers. Pp.49-59.
New London Group (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: designing social futures, Harvard Educational Review, 66, pp. 60-92.
Street, B. (1984). Literacy in Theory and Practice. Cam-bridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vasquez, V. (2010). Getting Beyond I Like the Book… Newark, DE: International Reading Association Publishers.