New Literacies: The Connections and the Disconnect

In all of the readings for this week, a theme of disconnect reoccurred throughout the articles. Mostly the disconnect occurs in the research performed on socioliteracy practices and the implementation of new literacy in the classroom. In, “New Literacies: “Research and Social Practice,” a plenary address delivered by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel, they rallied against the focus on “applied concerns” in new literacies research.Why? The disconnect: the framing of this valuable research as an easy, consumable lesson plan detaches the “richness” of new media and new literacies from the classroom. Rather than encouraging teachers to explore how new literacies can be applied in their individual classroom to meet the individual needs of their students, the focus has been on producing “learning packages.” For me, research that results in a definitive lesson plan in the digital world resists the glory of new literacies: specifically, it ignores the fluidity of new literacies. By producing a stable lesson plan or learning package, the newness is removed, detached from the flexibility and malleability of new media.

Also, I found another disconnect in the discourse of new literacies, a disconnect Jennifer Stone tries to dismantle in her chapter “Popular Websites in Adolescent’s Out-of-school Lives.” In her essay, Stone confronts the sharp division between classroom texts and popular texts read by students outside of the classroom. In the classroom, websites deemed as explicitly educational and informational are assigned to students, disregarding the literary vibrance and intertextuality of popular/entertaining websites students consume outside of the classroom. Students who performed poorly reading academic texts spend hours accessing, reading, and analyzing the texts of mtv.com and fan sites for musical artists that often showcase a more sophisticated vocabulary, syntax, and intertextual approach than classroom websites. By separating the two, classroom texts and recreational texts, schools aren’t helping students recognize their reading or their analytical skills, the same skills these popular websites require. I don’t believe this is new to school; “popular texts” have long been ostracized outside the academic canon, and throughout history, schools left comic books, RPG books, and cinema outside the realm of acceptable teaching texts, limiting their full teaching potential.

All of the authors display concern about the disconnect present in current research on new literacies, and yet, in so much of the actual, practical new literacies out there, a focus on community and connection emerges. What I found most interesting in the readings, especially in the “New Literacies: “Research and Social Practice,” is the literacy benefits of online communities. In fanfic and manga communities, writers, many of whom are young adults, learn how to assess and implement feedback from peers, how to reach a certain audience, and how to revise the written word. For anyone familiar with the writing process, these steps are integral, and often ignored in the classroom.

While the research itself presents disconnects between  theory and practice (and fortunately, the authors we read are all aware and attempting to bridge that divide), new literacies offer students connection and community, as well as important lessons on the process of writing.

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2 comments on “New Literacies: The Connections and the Disconnect

  1. Good points here, Ruth, especially about the disconnect between literacy habits of students online and in the classroom. How do we bridge the gap? How do teacher translate reading skills from online gaming, for example, to understanding literary and academic texts? I also understand what you are saying about focusing on theory, rather than lesson plans that can be immediately used, because they tend to go obsolete quickly. Yet after reading all this theory this week, which I am very excited about, I began to crave solid, specific advice on how it might be used.

  2. Pingback: What does this Mean???? New Literacies « Let's Talk Chalk

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