Thinking about literacy

Bill Boyd over at The Literacy Advisor has an interesting post on Reading in the Digital Age.  In it he says:

In other words, while as language and literacy teachers we have always felt uncomfortable about separating listening and talking, preferring to think of them as part and parcel of the same interactive process, it may be that moving into the age of the internet, and particularly with the advent of Web 2.0, we will have to think of reading and writing, not as two discrete activities, one active and the other passive, but as two elements of the same creative process.

His first comment, about reading and writing not being discrete activities, is maybe not such a new idea.  But when he goes on to talk about reading, it gets interesting.  He continues:

Not only that, but the development of reading itself takes on a whole new, non-linear meaning, as the learner moves back and forth through the text, flicking from one text to another making connections, or interacts with several texts simultaneously.

I agree, of course.  Anyone who has followed links back three or four  “generations” knows all too well how easy it is to get lost in reading.  But I wonder why Bill didn’t talk about writing also not being linear.  If I am writing a post with links, I am having to move backwards and forwards and sideways to complete my post.

Bill also links to a video by Michael Wesch, The Machine is Us/ing Us.  It is definitely worth the four minutes it takes to watch it – and whole lot more.

I am working now on designing a course for summer in which students will do all their work on a blog.  It will involve them looking at a lot of images in addition to a bunch of text.   It is going to be heavy on connections and linking.  I think it has potential.  At this point in the process, I always think a course is going to be great.  And sometimes it is.

One thing I need to really concentrate on is trying to help my students think about what they are  reading and seeing.  That kind of critical thinking is a part of digital literacy, as far as I am concerned.  It is a very difficult task for my students, though.  Part of it is a language issue.  Another part is cultural.   Yet another part is attitudinal; they don’t see a need to exert themselves. So fat this year I have not been very successful in getting students to do this.

That takes me back to Marian’s post about Stephen Downes’ video on personal learning networks.  She said,

One issue that I have not resolved, though is that all of this only works for the very motivated learner. … But what about that learner who isn’t so motivated, who has some learning challenges, for whom school was more of a misery than a joy? Those people, and there are many in adult education, may not experience the personal learning network concept the same way.

Literacy for these people may not be what it is for me, either.  It may still be linear.   How can I help them move to a kind of digital litercy?   How can I help to motivate them?


2 thoughts on “Thinking about literacy

  1. Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for the comments. I don’t know either why I didn’t make the connection with writing being a non-linear activity, but I suppose I was caught up in the notion that in terms of reading this is such a significant change that we had better come to terms with it pretty quickly or else…..!


    1. I am always amazed by the connections I make and don’t make as I am reading and writing. The really interesting thing is to read someone else’s take on something and then re-evaluate my own. Thanks for your comment!

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