The New Literacies: Transformative Practices for a New Age of Learners

What a reading! This week’s reading was not quite what I was expecting. Upon first glance, it appeared as though it was going to be another one of those stuffy articles with a high level of pretension and fancy words full of emptiness. I am glad to report that I was wrong about this first impression. For the first time in a long time, I also found it a lot easier to read an article with this much terminology. I attribute this success to being able to annotate while reading as well as to read my peers’ annotations in real-time.

This reading led me to have quite a few insights and revelations when it comes to literacy. The first is that literacy isn’t just about the ability to read and write. The very opening of the article establishes that literacy comes in all forms such as video games, blogging, fan fiction, and other digital content. To me, it makes sense to lump all of these forms under the title digital storytelling. They all are avenues that people can explore in order to communicate a perspective, tell a story, or share their own insights and research, but I never really made the connection that they were forms of literacy. It makes sense, though, when you change your perspective on what literacy really is. Literacy is not just about being able to read and write. It’s about engaging with it through useful social contexts. It makes sense then that digital story-telling would be considered a literacy. It invites people in to tell their story through ways that are accessible to them. The idea of “digital” gives way to other forms of communicating such as visuals and verbal anecdotes. In this regard, this reading challenged and expanded my definition of literacy as it pertains to digital storytelling.

Another interesting insight that I had while reading this chapter was that knowledge is no longer something acquired and processed in isolation. Through the act of digital storytelling, it has become a social practice. The teachers and preachers of the world are no longer the main portals through which learning occurs – it is instead now up to all of us to bring together our collective knowledge and learn from one another. The practice of digital storytelling allows seamlessly for this practice. As I annotated this chapter and read the annotations of my peers along with it, I realized that this couldn’t be more spot on to the truth. Reading through their annotations, I was able to absorb more information and understand them deeper than had I tried to read the words on my own. This makes me question my own practices as a teacher and ask myself, “Do I give my students enough opportunities to socially engage with the work they do in my math classes?”

Within the reading, I found a few sentences that, when read a few times, really resonated with me in my current position at my school.

if a literacy does not have what we call new ethos stuff we do not regard it as a new literacy, even if it has new technical stuff.Once again, not everyone is going to agree with this view. We adopt it because it is possible to use new technologies (digital electronic technologies) to simply replicate longstanding literacy practices

Having engaged with this reading, I do have one curiosity that I am still pondering over. To quote the article directly, “people should be free to take (with appropriate recognition) “bits” of cultural production that are in circulation and use them to create new ideas, concepts, artifacts and statements, without having to seek permission to re-use, or to be hit with a writ for using particular animation or music sequences as components in “remixes” (Lankshear and Knobel2006, Ch. 4) that make something significantly new out of the remixed components.” This statement both excited me and perplexed me upon reading it. It excited me in that it encapsulated beautifully what it means to socially engage in literacy and digital storytelling – using the inspirations around us to remix and create something new. At the same time, though, it made me wonder how we should teach our students to do this successfully without falling into the realm of plagiarism or copyright infringement. The phrase “without having to seek permission” especially made me nervous. As an artist myself, I would want my work to be an inspiration to others but I don’t want my own work to go unrecognized or to become diminished. How do we show students how to make something significantly new as opposed to something that borders on a blatant copy of someone else’s work? All good answers come with time I suppose, and I look forward to what I find out from my time in this course.

image credit: iStockphoto

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One thought on “The New Literacies: Transformative Practices for a New Age of Learners

  1. I appreciate the thought you gave to the concepts that the authors presented! I agree there is a lot of terminology, but it seems that you captured the main points – and I’m glad to hear you talk about how the reading helped you expand your idea/definition of ‘literacy’ and what it means to be literate. You also articulate thoroughly the importance of the social aspects of literacy and what that means to our learning and understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

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