kitchen table math, the sequel: Literacy 2.0

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Literacy 2.0

Having just taken a look at the March issue of Educational Leadership, I conclude that the amount of reading students do in K-12 will be dropping even further than it already has, a development that does not bode well for SAT scores.

Apparently, the hive mind has concluded that here in the 21st century "literacy" no longer means "reading:"
New media demand new literacies. Because of inexpensive, easy-to-use, widely distributed new media tools, being literate now means being able to read and write a number of new media forms, including sound, graphics, and moving images in addition to text.

New media coalesce into a collage
. Being literate also means being able to integrate emerging new media forms into a single narrative or "media collage," such as a Web page, blog, or digital story. That is, students need to be able to use new media collectively as well as individually

New media are largely participatory, social media. Digital literacy requires that students have command of the media collage within the context of a social Web, often referred to as Web 2.0. The social Web provides venues for individual and collaborative narrative construction and publication through blogs and such services as MySpace, Google Docs, and YouTube. As student participation goes public, the pressure to produce high-quality work increases.

[snip]

Being able to actively create rather than just passively consume new media is important for the obvious reason that it teaches literacy and job skills that are highly valued in a digital society.

[snip]

A strong case can be made that commanding new media constitutes the current form of general literacy and that adding the modifier digital is simply not necessary anymore. Whether or not this is the case, digital literacy warrants a central focus in K–12 learning communities.

[snip]

1. Shift from text centrism to media collage.

General literacy means being able to read and write the media forms of the day, which currently means being able to construct an articulate, meaningful, navigable media collage. The most common media collage is the Web page, but a number of other media constructs also qualify, including videos, digital stories, mashups, stand-and-deliver PowerPoint presentations, and games and virtual environments, to name a few.

[snip]

Both essay writing and blog writing are important, and for that reason, they should support rather than conflict with each other. Essays, such as the one you are reading right now, are suited for detailed argument development, whereas blog writing helps with prioritization, brevity, and clarity. The underlying shift here is one of audience: Only a small portion of readers read essays, whereas a large portion of the public reads Web material. Thus, the pressure is on for students to think and write clearly and precisely if they are to be effective contributors to the collective narrative of the Web.

[snip]

7. Develop literacy with digital tools and about digital tools.

In practical terms, access to citizenship is largely a function of literacy. This is not a new concept. Jefferson wrote copiously about the need for an educated and literate public if democracy was to succeed.

Topics such as the environmental effects of living a technology-enhanced lifestyle and the social costs of the digital divide provide important subject matter for project-based learning that involves science, social studies, and other curriculum areas. Having students research the personal, local, and global implications of these issues will help them place technology within the larger perspective of community and reevaluate their idea of what it means to be successful. Having them address these issues in school will show them that the goal of education is to produce not only capable workers, but also caring, involved, and informed neighbors and citizens.

[snip]

Although some teachers are genuinely excited about the emerging nature of literacy brought about by powerful digital tools, others feel overwhelmed—some to the point where they are prompted to leave the profession.

Orchestrating the Media Collage
by Jason Ohler
Educational Leadership March 2009 Vol. 66 No. 6


Jayson Ohler is a digital humanist.

communications majors on the rise
Schoolbook Simplification and Its Relation to the Decline in SAT-Verbal Scores
Donald P. Hayes home page
decline in SAT-V scores - chart

11 comments:

Barry Garelick said...

My current ed school foray is a course called "Literacy" and it promotes those very things talked about in the article.

Teachers must find ways to connect with students through their "mediasphere".

And here's a quote from our textbook called "Content Literacy for Today's Adolescents":

"Unfortunately, most of the required reading in middle and secondary schools is with the class textbook. If you spend any time working with textbooks, you will soon notice that invariably the prose is abstract, formal and lifeless. These features of textbook prose are surely contributing to yourths' disaffection with school-based reading. It's critical, therefore, that disciplinary teachers make every effort to get students interested in the textbook topic through the use of alternative texts, such as fictional works and multimedia."

Yes, this works especially well in math. Of course, if the authors have bothered to look at a math textbook, they will have noticed there's no text to read--and if there is, it's buried amongst huge splatters of color photos of kids engaged in all manner of things unrelated to math.

Our textbook is memorable on many counts, not just for the quote above, but for one in that addresses English Language Learners (ELLs). For all you historians in the crowd, I offer you this gem found on p. 9 of the text:

"Although most ELL students acquire English language proficiency at varying levels, many of them have problems with adjustment and identity that may go unaddressed in school. It's critical to point out that immigration issues for people of color have been unfairly and inappropriately compared to those of previous waves of immigrants of European descent. Unlike earlier, largely White immigration, immigrant youth of color are confronted by unfounded social stereotypes and generalizations about achievement and behavior that act as barriers to personal and aademic advancement."

Right; all too easy to think that the Jewish, Irish, German, and Italian immigrants in the early part of the 20th Century were stereotyped and banned from jobs, colleges and mainstream society.

One of the authors of the book teaches at George Mason where I attend: William G. Brozo. I wrote him an email about the bias contained in the above quoted passage as well as the historical inaccuracy. He must be very busy because I haven't heard back from him. You may wish to drop him a line, however. His email is wbrozo@gmu.edu.

Allison said...

--"Unlike earlier, largely White immigration, immigrant youth of color are confronted by unfounded social stereotypes and generalizations about achievement and behavior that act as barriers to personal and aademic advancement."

Well, Barry, obviously Mr. Brozo hasn't read any books to know about the unfounded social stereotypes that confronted the Irish, the Jews, the Italians, the Poles, etc. He's into digital literacy, remember?

Or maybe he thinks those stereotypes weren't unfounded! :)

Barry Garelick said...

Silly me!

Wait a minute, though. If he's into digital literacy, why hasn't he answered my email? HUH? Riddle me that, Batman!

Allison said...

What, text based email???

Where's your youtube video? your multimedia COLLAGE ?

If ur q were a Ringtone, maybe he'd have answered.

Jean said...

It just seems obvious to me that without a solid foundation in real literacy--being able to read and write fluently and correctly, construct a coherent train of thought and a solid argument, adjust writing for different audiences, etc., none of the digital media is going to matter.

And 'digital literacy' is easy compared to real literacy; images, videos, and mashups (!) are simple to learn to produce and manipulate. The tricky parts, like the ability to evaluate online resources for accuracy and value, all have their basis in reading and thinking clearly.

Which, I guess, is why I have my kids learn and love to read long before I allow them much time at all on the computer (and my software-engineer husband colludes in this terrible holding back of our children!).

I guess I'm preaching to the choir here, but why is it not obvious that digital skills are easy to learn if you can already read and write, and if you can't read and write, your PowerPoint presentation is going to be pretty nonsense?

GoogleMaster said...

Only a small portion of readers read essays, whereas a large portion of the public reads Web material.

I weep for the future. My father taught himself enough German so that he could read the original references in order to complete his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. There may have been a few pictures involved, but you can bet that they involved C, H, N, O, and carbon rings.
.
What passes for journalism these days is astounding. I can't stand it when I click on a "news story" and am presented with a video. I close it immediately. I can read and process a textual story in far less time than it takes to download and watch a video.
.
Not to mention, sometimes I am at work where some video sites are blocked, and I am in a cubicle where noises may disturb others and I may be interrupted at any time.

Cranberry said...

Topics such as the environmental effects of living a technology-enhanced lifestyle and the social costs of the digital divide provide important subject matter for project-based learning that involves science, social studies, and other curriculum areas. Having students research the personal, local, and global implications of these issues will help them place technology within the larger perspective of community and reevaluate their idea of what it means to be successful. Having them address these issues in school will show them that the goal of education is to produce not only capable workers, but also caring, involved, and informed neighbors and citizens.

This topic strikes me as equivalent to navel-gazing. Since when is requiring schoolchildren to sing the praises of technology education? I also disagree that the goal of education is to produce "caring, involved, and informed neighbors and citizens." That's the goal of propaganda.

Notice that the dialogue is being shifted? No longer do they prate about digital tools making it easier to educate children? Now, it's, "We don't need the old stuff." A tool is being transformed into a way of life which supplants the old order.

Needless to say, I don't agree with these values. I agree with GoogleMaster, video is a very inefficient method to present an opinion or an argument.

Anonymous said...

Students of the "old literacy" must produce documents using their own words. They must spell, link words with grammar, and link grammar with logic. If students really studied the "new literacy", they would be screenplay writers and directors of sound and moving images. Alas, in reality they become simply editors and plagiarists, and never really learn to create the things they enjoy.

This kind of "education" only leads to a social boundary between the class of real creators (with million dollar budgets), and spectators who could never imagine themselves having any influence in the ongoing conversation of our culture. Who needs to create a law abridging the freedom of speech when you can convince the average American that persuasive speech is beyond his ability?

--rocky

SteveH said...

"I can't stand it when I click on a 'news story' and am presented with a video. I close it immediately. I can read and process a textual story in far less time than it takes to download and watch a video."

I do the same thing.

Tracy W said...

Ditto on the video story. It's slow. And generally just a talking head too.

SteveH said...

My son's school will help break the connection between reading and good SAT scores. The students have to do a LOT of reading, but it can be almost anything. Second, it's all about New Media when it comes to what you do afterwards. My son has done a video about a book and has done a web page. Last night, he wrote some HTML code to customize his blog. Very 21st century, but he isn't learning how to write.

The school probably read the same reports about reading and thought that everything else will take care of itself. Then again, they probably think it works because many parents make up the difference. My parents didn't help with my homework or education. Now, it's mandatory.

There was a certain amount of sink or swim philosophy when I was growing up, but now it requires parental involvement.