Embracing New Literacies in Curriculum and Instruction

A complicated subject, technology and its relationship to what we see as the “writing world,” seems to at times be a positive synchronization of goals.  At others, an attempt to make the “cloud of sometimes contradictory nexus points among different positions,” align is a futile effort.    Emerging literacy’s are difficult to define and thus difficult for instructor’s to implement into their classrooms.  Language attempts to provide ways in which to hang in the balance between what Anne Wysocki stated above in Blinded By the Letter, about literacy’s ever-changing role in technology and its more traditional place in the history of printed word.

Our world is moving towards a place where interactive texts are becoming equally as valuable to some users as printed texts.  Lankshear and Knobel write in their article, New Literacies: Research and Social Practice,  “Within this broad frame we distinguish  between (new) literacy’s that might be regarded as ontologically new and literacy’s that while being chronologically recent, are not necessarily ontologically new.  The idea of “ontologically” new literacies is the idea of literacies that constitute or are constituted by a new kind of “stuff.”

If we consider the social context of writing and new technological literacies, we can see that these theorists are advocating for a convergence of constructed relations between the information available to us as consumers of text and the broader strokes of  literacy through technology that may be read, but likewise, seen and heard.  Understanding that communication happens amongst many different platforms, incorporating evolving ideas of “new literacy” into our thinking and teaching could impact the level of engagement in our classrooms.  Integration of these new literacies must be judged on an applied basis, because theory alone cannot judge whether or not these new literacies are strengthening our pedagogy’s.

Julie Davies and Guy Merchant state in Looking from the Inside Out: Academic Blogging as New Literacy propose that, “the production and consumption of blogs is seen as a new form of social practice, dependent upon specific genres of writing and meaning making- a practice which reconfigures relationships and  can engender new ways of looking at the world.” Based on this assessment, can we propose that “new technological literacy’s” are inherently tangential to reconfiguring the way we see communication in the world.  Can we use the blogs we read and write to form a new approach to the acquisition of literacy?  Global discourses are readily available and knowledge that had been untapped in previous generations is present for evaluation and utilization because of these new literacies.  Cultural practices can be explored and thus enriched through classroom research. This challenges the fundamental basis of books as the dominant way to convey and receive information.

Trends of interest and significance can be assessed on a semester by semester basis, coupling these new availabilities with the latest research on the subject.  According to Ladislaus Semali in Defining New Literacies in Curricular Practice,  “Over the past quarter century, communication technologies have spawned an explosion of ways in which “text,” both written and electronic, has become part of the out-of-class curriculum. This explosion has outpaced our pedagogy, our curricula and methods of instruction, and the definitions of what it means to be literate in a multimedia society.”  In short, what it means to be literate in a post-typographic society is going to change as these new literacies come about.

I am personally attracted to alternate methods of teaching writing because the traditional mode of critical thinking can be replaced with a true critical analysis of multiple mediums.  The unraveling of several layers available in this context makes new literacies exciting, and in turn, can provide a greater level of engagement for the students we are hoping to reach.  We must not prefer to lean on our own ideologies about curriculum.  We must instead continue to research thoroughly the mechanisms by which we can create new literacy realities. The Canadian Council on Learning has put out a release implying that comic books, science fiction adventures, and media related reading/writing attract young men and school aged boys.  Using these widely available materials is said to be increasing reading ability.  According to this release boys and young men fall well behind the performance of young girls and young women in reading/writing tasks.  Embracing change (new literacies), offering new outlets for student progression, enhancing participation and pleasure in the task of reading/writing, can and will soon be the way of instructing in the modern world.


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