Tag: new literacies (page 1 of 2)

Announcing my new e-book: ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ (#digilit)

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
I’m excited to announce that I’ve decided to start writing another e-book. I want to communicate what I’ve learned during my doctoral studies in a way free from academic constraints. I want to empower educators.

The e-book is going to be called The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies and I shall be employing the OpenBeta publishing model I pioneered a couple of years ago with #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity.

 


 

 

Invest now for £1 and get each chapter as it is completed FREE!

 


Can’t see anything above? Click here!

What are ‘digital literacies’? Why are they important? How can I develop them both personally and in other people? These are some of the questions that ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies by Doug Belshaw seeks to address. Informed by his doctoral thesis and experience as an educator, ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ Doug is producing a timely resource for those who are interested in both the theory and the practice of digital literacies!

FAQ:

When are you going to finish this?

It depends on many things, but here’s my proposed timescale:

  • v0.2 – April 2012
  • v0.4 – June 2012
  • v0.6 – August 2012
  • v0.8 – October 2012
  • v1.0 – December 2012

I’m erring on the conservative side here. I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver!

In what formats will the book be available?

The OpenBeta version will be available in iPad-friendly (and reasonably Kindle-friendly) PDF format. The finished version will be available in the following forms:

  • PDF
  • Kindle
  • ePub
  • (Paperback/Hardback depending on demand)

How much will the final version be?

£10 – around $15/16 at the current exchange rate

(this is subject to change without notice)

I still don’t understand the OpenBeta process?

More here, but this should help:

OpenBeta publishing model

How long will the book be altogether?

I’m envisaging each chapter being about 1,000 words, so about 11,000 in total. This is subject to change when I start writing but it will be at least 10,000 words.

Are there any refunds? How do I know you will complete it?

No refunds, but I have managed to write several e-books before and have much more free time now I have completed my thesis! You can always wait until it’s finished, but that will cost more…

Image in book cover CC BY { pranav }

Got a different question? Ask it in the comments below!

Read the first complete draft of my doctoral thesis on digital literacies.

Update: I’ve now submitted my thesis and it’s available at neverendingthesis.com!

Doug's Ed.D. thesis

In 2006 George Siemens asked a bunch of people (including me) to proofread his book, Knowing Knowledge which he – innovatively for the time – released as a book, PDF and wiki. I happily did so and was credited along with many others who had been following George’s work in progress.

I know that many people reading this blog have followed my doctoral studies which has lasted about the same time as I’ve been blogging – six years. I’m delighted to say that yesterday I sent a complete draft of my Ed.D. thesis to my supervisor at Durham University. It may be a bit rough around the edges and there’ll be some inconsistencies, but it’s a huge relief to me.

Whilst my thesis – entitled What is digital literacy? A Pragmatic investigation – has been online since I started writing it in 2007, I thought I’d take this milestone as an opportunity to point people towards it and ask for some feedback. The major new update is Chapter 9 where I propose an ‘essential core’ of eight elements which make up an overlapping matrix of digital literacies.

I’ve had some great input and made connections with people all across the world during the last few years as a result of sharing my work. It’s a bit like pregnancy: the expectation during gestation is very different from the reality of delivering it. But now’s not a time to become coy and overly-protective about something I’ve been nurturing for so long; it’s time to, as with all my work, share it for the good of mankind. Ideas should be free.

And hopefully, just like a baby, people will admire and smile at it.

From my research: New Literacies around the world

In case you’ve not subscribed to the RSS feed yet, I’m updating my new blog literaci.es regularly with the outputs from my ongoing Ed.D. work:

‘Digital literacy’ in Norway?

The history and status of digital literacy in Norway is complex. The term is presumed by English-speaking researchers and educators to mean, in a straightforward way, the same in Norwegian as it does in English. However, given the difficulty in translating words such as ‘literacy’ into Norwegian, and words such as ‘kompetanse’ from Norwegian, ‘media literacy’ is a term preferred increasingly to ‘digital literacy’.

 

New literacies (or the lack of them) in Singapore

In this standards-based, heavily-pressured educational culture – a society where, anecdotally, painkillers are stocked alongside exam-preparation books (Bracey, 2008) – it is unsurprising to find the dominant ‘new literacy’ to be Media Literacy. In addition, much of the available research literature into new literacies comes from, or through the lens of, Singapore’s National Institute of Education.

 

Digital Media Literacy in Australia

The seeming Australia-wide agreement on Digital Media Literacy as the accepted form of New Literacies is explained in part by Gibson (2008). He gives an overview of the ‘literacy wars’ in Australia, quoting Ilyana Snyder on how the press and professional journals keep alive the debates between conservatives and progressives (Snyder, 2008). The battleground over different forms and manifestations of traditional (print) literacy allows, suggests Gibson, Digital Media Literacy to show “some promise of a revival of educational optimism” (Gibson, 2008, p.74).

 

The USA: a New Literacies desert?

Due to the standards-based, testing culture in US schools, NYC’s approach is understandable. They have adopted the publication of an authoritative body who, in turn, have reacted to an environment created by US educational policy in the wake of NCLB. Such an environment stresses the importance of being ‘information literate’ and focuses on the traditional basics but, perhaps, at the expense of a cohesive programme for New Literacies.

 

The USA: a New Literacies desert?

This is is the very first draft of a section for my Ed.D. thesis; I’ll be returning to this soon.

The bibliography relating to the referenced literature can be found at http://dougbelshaw.com/thesis (I’ve blogged more about my thesis at http://dougbelshaw.com/blog)


The United States of America (USA) is a large and diverse country. Its approach to New Literacies reflects this, with work carrying on apace in almost every area. In a similar way to the ‘literacy wars’ in Australia taking up most of the space for debate, so in the USA almost everything relating to schools has been framed in the past decade by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This was signed in 2001 by then-President George W. Bush and, ostensibly, aimed at setting high standards increasing the number of measurable outcomes for schools. These outcomes are tied to funding.

There have been many outspoken criticisms of NCLB and, indeed, President Obama announced in early 2011 that NCLB shall be replaced (Obama, 2011). Chapter C Part D of the NCLB Act is entitled ‘Enhancing Education Through Technology’ (EETT) and has as its primary goal improving student achievement through the use of technology. A secondary goal is:

To assist every student in crossing the digital divide by ensuring that every student is technologically literate by the time the student finishes the eighth grade, regardless of the student’s race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability. (US Department of Education, 2001)

What is meant by ‘digital divide’ is not made explicit nor what it would mean for students to be ‘technologically literate’.

Given the federal nature of the USA, some states have different policies relating to technology than others. More forward-thinking states such as California have drafted policies dealing explicitly with New Literacies, citing the European Union as a “leader in digital literacy” (CETF, 2008, p.11). California’s ICT Digital Literacy Framework defines ICT Literacy as

using digital technology, communications tools and/or networks, to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information in order to function in a knowledge society. (CETF, 2008, p.5)

The verbs from ‘access’ through to ‘communicate’ form a kind of taxonomy which, the authors of the framework claim, is common to existing national and international frameworks. What the Californian framework certainly does have in common with other countries is a focus upon competition and the economy. The role of individuals in a ‘21st century citizenry’ for example is to “Apply digital literacy skills to access health, e-government, banking and to support healthy environment [sic]” (CETF, 2008, p.14).

Given the federal nature of the education system in the USA there are many and varied definitions New Literacies. President Obama, for example, proclaimed October 2009 to be ‘National Information Literacy Awareness Month’ beginning his proclamation with these words:

Every day, we are inundated with vast amounts of information. A 24-hour news cycle and thousands of global television and radio networks, coupled with an immense array of  online resources, have challenged our long-held perceptions of  information management. Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation. This new type of literacy also requires competency with communication technologies, including computers and mobile devices that can help in our day-to-day decisionmaking. National Information Literacy Awareness Month highlights the need for all Americans to be adept in the skills necessary to effectively navigate the Information Age. (Obama, 2009)

It is clear from this statement that the higher echelons for educational policy-making in the USA believe the use of technology to be only part of a wider ‘information literacy’. Given that Professor Henry Jenkins, John Seeley Brown and other well-known educators and thinkers in the USA are increasingly focusing upon Digital (Media) Literacy, there is seeming a disconnect between research, practice and policy.

Given this vacuum at the national policy level, individuals, groups, and organisations have stepped in to promote various visions of New Literacies. Marc Prensky, promoter of the digital natives/immigrant dichotomy we shall discuss in Chapter 5, has claimed that ‘Programming is the New Literacy’ (Prensky, 2008) whilst the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a corporate responsibility initiative from organisations such as AOL, Cisco, Microsoft and Apple, in partnership with the US Department of Education.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has representatives of everyone from Lego to the American Association of School Librarians on its Strategic Council and sees its mission as serving as “a catalyst to position 21st century readiness at the center of US K12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004). Importantly, the Partnership has ascertained each state’s 21st century ‘readiness’ as well as putting together a cohesive framework, including information literacy, media literacy and ICT literacy, for adoption by educational institutions. However, they also talk of ‘health literacy,’ ‘financial literacy’ and even ‘entrepreneurial literacy’ – without defining any of these terms. It is clear that these terms are being used within a wide context of their ‘four Cs’ of “critical thinking and problem solving; communication, collaboration; and creativity and innovation” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004).

Given this confusing landscape and the lack of a clear ‘steer’ from national government on New Literacies, states have sought to define their own curricula and assessment tools. New York City’s (NYC) Education Department, for example, have taken the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st Century Learner (AASL, no date) and developed it into an ‘Information Fluency Continuum’. This defines the information literacy standards that students should develop by Grades 2, 5, 8 and 12 and are coupled with information literacy benchmark skills assessments for each Grade level.

Due to the standards-based, testing culture in US schools, NYC’s approach is understandable. They have adopted the publication of an authoritative body who, in turn, have reacted to an environment created by US educational policy in the wake of NCLB. Such an environment stresses the importance of being ‘information literate’ and focuses on the traditional basics but, perhaps, at the expense of a cohesive programme for New Literacies.


Digital Media Literacy in Australia

This is is the draft of a section for my Ed.D. thesis. The bibliography relating to the referenced literature can be found at http://dougbelshaw.com/thesis (I’ve blogged more about my thesis at http://dougbelshaw.com/blog)

Updated and expanded (26 April 2011)


It would be easy to dismiss Australia, a former British colony, as derivative and dependent upon publications, research and policy from the UK, Europe and the USA. Certainly, there is evidence that Australian policy is influenced by outputs from these three. However, Australia has a much more coherent set of policies and strategies relating to New Literacies than other countries.

The dominant form of New Literacy in Australia is ‘Digital Media Literacy’, enshrined in policy documents, strategies and educational frameworks. However, as the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) Digital Media Literacy in Australia: Key Indicators and Research Sources’ document points out, there are many and varied definitions of ‘Digital Media Literacy’. Whilst referencing Ofcom’s (UK) definition – “the ability to use, understand and create digital media and communications” – the ACMA settle upon “the skills and capabilities needed for effective participation in the digital economy” (ACMA, 2009, p.8)

Importantly, resources relating to Digital Media Literacy in Australia are collated, easy-to-find, and demonstrate some coherence of approach. This is possibly due to the structure of government departments: Australia has a Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Interestingly, the focus on the ‘digital economy’ is a result of “a unique opportunity to shrink the distances that have historically dominated our domestic and international relationships” (DBCDE, 2009) using as an example the “remote specialist diagnosis of patients” so important in a land as expansive as Australia. Importantly, there is a growing awareness in Australia of the difference between the so-called ‘digital divide’ (which focuses on access to hardware) and the ‘digital use divide’ (or ‘participation gap’) which involves the Digital Media Literacies necessary for 21st century citizenship.

A 2009 report entitled ‘Australia’s Digital Economy: Future Directions’ highlights Digital Media Literacy alongside other issues such as ‘Consumer Digital Confidence’ in a section focusing on the successful elements of a digital economy. The three main partners in building such a digital economy are seen as the government, industry and ‘community’ with Digital Media Literacy included in the latter section. Being a government document, however, it focuses upon the economy and social cohesion:

Digital media literacy ensures that all Australians are able to enjoy the benefits of the digital economy: it promotes opportunities for social inclusion, creative expression, innovation, collaboration and employment. People in regional, rural and remote areas can also have improved access to these opportunities. Digital media literacy gives children the capability to effectively learn online; consumers the confidence to search for information and transact online; and businesses the ability to become more efficient and compete in a global marketplace. (DBCDE, 2009)

The seeming Australia-wide agreement on Digital Media Literacy as the accepted form of New Literacies is explained in part by Gibson (2008). He gives an overview of the ‘literacy wars’ in Australia, quoting Ilyana Snyder on how the press and professional journals keep alive the debates between conservatives and progressives (Snyder, 2008). The battleground over different forms and manifestations of traditional (print) literacy allows, suggests Gibson, Digital Media Literacy to show “some promise of a revival of educational optimism” (Gibson, 2008, p.74). He sees Digital Media Literacy as a way to transcend entrenched positions, for:

When my critical or media literacy can be your illiteracy, the concept has become emptied of definite meaning. While literacy is still central to most notions of education, it is increasingly unclear what exactly we mean by it. (Gibson, 2008, p.75)

This ‘conceptual fuzziness’ stems from a shift in the media by and with which we read and write – and also by what we mean by ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ in the first place. This shall be explored more fully in Chapter 3, but in the Australian context there is an indication from Gibson that agreement over Digital Media Literacy provides a welcome respite from argument and debate over traditional (print) literacy.

The operationalising of Digital Media Literacy has led to initiatives such as the ‘Digital Education Revolution’ in New South Wales. The aim is for elements of Digital Media Literacy to be taught across the curriculum meaning, for example, in that in English lessons students work towards a unit entitled ‘When machines go bad…’ where they “examine and explore their own humanity in terms of their relationship with, and dependency on technology” (Digital Education Revolution, no date). Other modules deal with the creation of new media such as podcasts and using a collaborative online whiteboard.

As would be expected, libraries and librarians in Australia have a history of attempting to develop Information Literacy. Definitions of Information Literacy are influenced from work carried out in the USA by the American Library Association:

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information”. (ACRL)

This definition was adopted in 2000 at the Council of Australian University Librarians in Canberra, revised slightly in 2001, with an Information Literacy Framework (Bundy, 2004) developed in 2004 by the Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL). The latter organisation, however, no longer seems to be active with the ‘Information Literacy policy’ of universities such as the University of Sydney referencing 10 year-old standards and documents. Either Information Literacy is so entrenched that it no longer needs developing or, as is more likely the case, the zeitgeist has been captured by Digital Media Literacy.


Literaci.es: Reflecting on New Literacies

Literaci.es

There’s not a lot to see there yet, and I’ve a whole thesis on the matter to complete, but I’ve started a new place to collate thinking and resources about New Literacies.

You can find it at http://literaci.es

I’d love for it to become a collaborative resource along the lines of Smart Mobs, so if you’ve got something to share, a post you’d like to write, or a desire to become a regular contributor, please do get in touch!

Ed.D. thesis restructure

As I mentioned last week in How not to write a thesis, mine isn’t the usual method by which you’d go about writing a doctoral thesis. Normally you’d read books like How to get a PhD and keep your findings to yourself until submission. I, on the other hand, have shared my findings at dougbelshaw.com/thesis since pretty much the beginning and have kept the structure fluid throughout.

Now that I’ve written more than half of it, and given that I’ve got my first Skype meeting with my thesis supervisor in months soon, now’s the time to pin down a title and structure. So here an attempt:

What is ‘digital literacy’? A Pragmatic investigation.

  1. Introduction
  2. Problematising traditional (print) literacy
  3. The history of ‘digital literacy’
  4. The ambiguities of ‘digital literacy’
  5. Methodology
  6. New Literacies: a solution?
  7. But is it ‘literacy’?
  8. Digitality as policy
  9. Conclusion
  10. Bibliography

In a sense, of course, I’ll never be finished with this thesis. There’ll just be a time at which it’s advisable to submit (or they pry it from my RSI-riddled hands…) :-p

The ambiguity of new literacies [mindmap]

The great thing about having a weekly slot for my Ed.D. thesis on this blog is that it forces me to produce things that I would otherwise forget about or not action. One such thing is the above mindmap (click here to enlarge) – which I’ve produced to help me with the section of my thesis I’m currently writing on the ambiguity of new literacies. 🙂

Literacy -> Digital Flow: The Autotelic Self

This continues from my previous posts on Literacy -> Digital Flow. References can be found at http://dougbelshaw.com/wiki

CC BY-NC-SA DareMo Shiranai

Is the word ‘literacy’ useful? Literacy is a state which has traditionally been ascribed (or not) to individuals. Is the state that writers on ‘New Literacies’ espouse simply a case of encoding and decoding texts? It would appear from the above, given the references to ‘identity’ and ‘community’ that perhaps we have moved beyond literacy. An idea to be explored in what follows is that a digital version of the concept of Flow may be a Pragmatically-useful concept to use in place of the seemingly never-ending ‘umbrella terms’ outlined earlier.

In his seminal book of the same name, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced flow as being at the root of true happiness, successful learning experiences and what can loosely be termed ‘intrinsic motivation’. In a state of flow, individuals undergo what Csikszentmihalyi refers to as ‘the autotelic experience’:

The term “autotelic” derives from two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal. It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward… Most things we do are neither purely autotelic nor purely exotelic (as we shall call activities done for external reasons only), but are a combination of the two. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 2008:67)

Focusing on the term ‘literacy’ and attempting to shoehorn 21st-century behaviours, technologies and attitudes into the concept could lead to anachronism. Literacy, as we have seen, is predicated upon technologies used to encode and decode texts. The reason Traditional Literacy was such a stable concept with a definite meaning in the minds of most people was due to it built upon a technology that did not change significantly in hundreds of years. It is the pace of innovation in new technologies that has caused a problem for conceptions of literacy.

If instead of a ‘top-down’ approach to literacy (‘x, y and z consitute literate activities’) a ‘bottom-up’ approach was considered this could potentially side-step the difficulty caused by the pace of technological change. The reason that concepts such as ‘digital literacy’, ‘cyberliteracy’, ‘new literacies’ and the like have been proposed is to give a name to a socially useful state to which individuals can aspire. Given that most proponents of such terms would agree that their thinking is built upon Traditional Literacy, it would seem that using ‘literacy’ as an epithet for these extra skills, abilities and behaviours is unnecessary.

What may be more useful in a Pragmatic sense may be to assume Traditional Literacy and combine these skills with digital tools and sociocultural practices that lead to socially and educationally-useful outcomes. Instead of viewing a ‘digital’ version of literacy as a pinnacle to be achieved or surmounted, the focus would be on Flow. When dealing with digital ‘texts’ (loosely defined) this would result in Digital Flow depending upon literacy. Literacy becomes a staging-post on the journey instead of the destination itself:

Literacy mountain Flow mountain

Mass education – as developed in the 19th century – served to instil a minimum standard through drill-and-practice within the realm of Traditional Literacy. Some have likened this to a factory model with Taylorism as its guiding principles. This is slightly unfair, given the constraints, social problems and political landscape of the time, but does throw light upon how debates surrounding the purpose of education have shifted. It is no longer enough to ensure that young people leave school with the ‘3Rs’. Indeed, under initiatives such as Ofsted’s Every Child Matters (ECM), wider concerns such as children’s (mental) health, and their ability to achieve ‘economic wellbeing’ have necessarily been brought to the forefront of planning and curriculum design in UK schools.

Despite this, skills and abilities in almost every area of the curriculum are, somewhat indiscriminately, designated ‘literacies’. Courses are designed around concepts as ‘health literacy’, ‘financial literacy’ and ’emotional literacy’ as a shorthand to convey action relating to the ECM agenda. It may be more productive and instructive to replace this ‘scatter-gun’ approach to literacy with a more far-reaching commitment towards helping young people develop their ‘autotelic self’:

A person with an autotelic self learns to make choices… without much fuss and the minimum of panic… As soon as the goals and challenges define a system of action, they in turn suggest the skills necessary to operate within it… And to develop skills, one needs to pay attention to the results of one’s actions – to monitor the feedback… One of the basic differences between a person with an autotelic self and one without it is that the former knows that it is she who has chosen whatever goal she is pusuing. What she does is not random, nor is it the result of outside determining forces. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 2008:209)

Instead of having to continually widen and redefine literacy to cater for new technologies and methods of social interaction, a focus on Digital Flow would be consistent with the idea of ‘liquid modernity’. It would serve to end the idea of a ‘life-project’ being something external to the individual and encourage individuals to embrace short-term, pragmatic strategies when approaching digital technologies (Martin, 2008:153). Digital Flow is focused on the creative act, as opposed to never-ending definitions of literacy predicated on the consumption of media or physical goods. As a result, Digital Flow can be considered the ‘umbrella-term’ for which theorists have been grasping and over which they have been arguing. Moreover, it can be seen as a coherent target at which to aim educational experiences.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Literacy -> Digital Flow: moving beyond Traditional Literacy.

This post comes from my (ongoing) Ed.D. thesis, which can be read in full over at http://dougbelshaw.com/thesis. You’ll find full references and more reading material at my wiki (http://dougbelshaw.com/wiki). 🙂

Marginalia

CC-BY-NC seriykotik1970

Whatever literacy is, it [has] something to do with reading. And reading is always reading something. Furthermore, if one has not understood [made meaning from] what one has read then one has not read it. So reading is always reading something with understanding. (Gee, Hull & Lankshear, 1996:1-2, quoted in Lankshear & Knobel, 2008a:2)

The idea of literacy being ‘reading something with understanding’ is what shall be referred to in the followin as ‘Traditional Literacy’. This conception of literacy is ‘Static’ and ‘Psychological’, being focused on the individual’s relationship, and interaction with, physical objects. The book comprises what Lankshear & Knobel call the ‘text paradigm’ – something over and above the simple act of reading with understanding:

[D]uring the age of print the book… shaped conceptions of layout, it was the pinnacle of textual authority, and it played a central role in organizing practices and routines in major social institutions. The book mediated social relations of control and power… Textual forms and formats were relatively stable and were ‘policed’ to ensure conformity. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:52)

This perpetuation of hegemonic power through Traditional Literacy has complicated debates surrounding, and the evolution of the term, ‘literacy’. Not only is ‘reading with understanding’ bound up with politics, but with religion (due to the actions of the Catholic church) and identity. Literacy is predicated upon a scarcity model, ‘with literacy comprising a key instrumentality for unlocking advantage and status through achievements at levels wilfully preserved for the few’ (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:62). Schools and educational institutions, as Bigum notes, are mainly consumers of knowledge (Bigum, 2002:135, quoted in Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:188). Meaning is made centrally and then disseminated to such institutions and individuals as can access the encoded texts used to convey ideas, thoughts, concepts and processes. These encoded texts consist of, ‘ texts that have been “frozen” or “captured” in ways that free them from their immediate context and origin of production, such that they are “(trans)portable” and exist independently of the presence of human beings as bearers of the text.’ (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008b:257)

Recently, with the dawn of first mass media, and then mass participation with the rise of the internet, conceptions of literacy have had to change. This has put a strain on the Static, Pyschological conceptions implicit in Traditional Literacy. As a result, what ‘literacy’ means (and therefore what it means to be ‘literate’) has changed. As Lanham (1995:198, quoted in Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:21-2) puts it, literacy ‘has extended its semantic reach from meaning ‘the ability to read and write’ to now meaning ‘the ability to understand information however presented.’ There is no doubt that ‘literacy’ has become a fuzzy concept that gives the semblance of being straightforward, but contains layers of complexity. Erstad, for example, comments on this fuzziness, noting that it is apparent ‘especially among those educators and researchers whose professional interests are tied to how literacy is understood’ (Erstad, 2008:181-2).

Given these difficulties, some commentators (such as Sven Birkets in The Gutenberg Elegies) yearn to return to Traditional Literacy, due to the decline in the reading of books, ‘with the attendant effects of the loss of deep thinking, the erosion of language, and the flattening of historical perspective’ (Taylor & Ward, 1998:13). Birkets, like Barton (1994) and Kress (1997) argues that literacy ‘should be confined to the realm of writing (Buckingham, 2008:75). Rejecting the dichotomy, Tyner (1998) sought to reconceptualize the debate in terms of ‘tool literacies’ (the skills necessary to be able to use a technology) and ‘literacies of representation’ (the knowledge required to take advantage of a technology) (cited by Erstad, 2008:183). This middle ground gave space for multiple conceptions of literacy to flourish.

Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, these ‘new literacies’ smacked of old wine in new bottles:

It does not follow from the fact that so-called new technologies are being used in literacy education that new literacies are being engaged with. Still less does it imply that learners are developing, critiquing, analysing, or even become technologically proficient with new literacies. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:54-5)

The problem surrounding new(er) literacies in schools is fourfold. First, there is the very real problem of educators not having grown up in an environment where such digital skills – both Tyner’s ‘tool literacies’ and ‘literacies of representation’ were necessary. The age-old problem of “it was good enough for me when I was at school” applies as much to educators as it does to parents. If a problem cannot be seen it and/or understood then cannot be dealt with effectively. Second, is educators’ willingness to ascribe problems to factors other than their own weakness, ignorance or fear of change. If the mere presence of, for example, an interactive whiteboard in a classroom does not lead to increased examination performance, then the technology is blamed. Following on from this, and third, is what is known as the ‘deep grammar’ of schooling:

School learning is for school; school as it has always been. The burgeoning take-up of new technologies simply gives us our latest ‘fix’ on this phenomenon. It is the ‘truth’ that underpins many current claims that school learning is at odds with authentic ways of learning to be in the world, and with social practice beyond the school gates… It is precisely this ‘deep grammar’ of schooling that cuts schools off from the new (technological) literacies and associated subjectivities that Bill Green and Chris Bigum (1993) say educators are compelled to attend to. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006:57)

‘School’ then becomes a self-perpetuating institution, cut off from new(er) conceptions and forms of literacy. Given that this is the place where most people (are supposed to) learn, this constitutes a problem.

Finally, there is the problem of ‘knowledgeable peers’ when it comes to new forms of literacies in schools. Top-down, hierarchical, Traditional Literacy is perpetuated within schools because it is so difficult to come up with other models. Students ‘seek to enter new communities… but do not yet have the knowledge necessary to act as “knowledgeable peers” in the community conversation’ (Taylor & Ward, 1998:18). Educators seeking to perpetuate Traditional Literacy often exploit the difference between students ‘tool literacy’ on the one-hand (their technical ability) and their understanding of, and proficiency in ‘literacies of representation’ (making use of these abilities for a purpose). Reference is therefore made to ‘e-safety’, ‘e-learning’ and ‘e-portfolios’, slippery terms that sound important and which serve to reinforce a traditional teacher-led model of education. As Bruffee (1973:644, quoted by Taylor & Ward, 1998:18) points out, ‘pooling the resources that a group of peers brings with them to the task may make accessible the normal discourse of the new community they together hope to enter.’

The barrier, in this case, is the traditional school classroom and the view that Traditional Literacy is a necessary and sufficient conditional requirement for entry into such communities.

css.php