Monday, August 30, 2010

Digital Literacy - the missing framework

December 2005 is a bit 'yesterday' in terms of the rapid pace of debate in new literacies, but I just came across this European project which was tasked to produce a framework for digital literacy. The project is described here but the project website seems to have vanished. Allan Martin argues here and elsewhere that digital literacy is 'the ability to succeed in encounters with the electronic infrastructures and tools'. So we are essentially talking about a model of ICT competence - not quite what I understand by a 'literacy' in a strict or a even a metaphorical sense. The definition derives from the EC's observation that 'The ability to use ICT and the Internet becomes a new form of literacy: 'digital literacy'. Digital literacy is fast becoming a prerequisite for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship and without it citizens can neither participate fully in society nor acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to live in the 21st century.' quoted in the above paper by Martin. There's no reference to critique, refusal or a participation gap here, nor anything about the understandings and developments necessary to establish this literacy in the first place. But maybe this is all in the framework, wherever that is.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

So why can't they read?

Well one thing is certain - the Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet 'So why can't they read?' offers nothing new to the debate on reading standards. It recycles opinion as if its fact, and attempts to simplify complex professional and pedagogical issues in a single sweep. The ridiculous suggestion by Boris the Preposterous that these complexities could be resolved by some sort of 'shoot-out' is not really worthy of comment (but see here). Alarm bells began to ring for me when I looked at the contents page: foreward by Boris Johnson: alarming figures (!); reading wars; immigration; what's happening in primary schools now; facts are fun; a good school. In 38 pages there couldn't be much - and certainly not £5.00 worth and I can safely say there isn't. I went straight to the immigration page. Could a pamphlet with that title possibly suggest that immigration was to blame? Was the author Alf Garnett? Well no and no. The immigration chapter with its two subheadings, SEN and Speaking street is pretty incoherent but not as dangerous as I anticipated. Thank goodness for that! But if any budding sociolinguist wants to do a study of language and power, I recommend the 'Speaking Street' as a text for analysis. Whether you're interested in verbal hygene or cleaning up the streets, it's a gift!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quote, quote

Oh that was what I meant by the YouTube video. I don't think he went commercial or anything like that. Here's one of my favourite quotes from his chapter 'Slacking off' in the Counternarratives collection: 'Shopping malls, street communities, video halls, coffee shops, television culture, and other elements of popular culture must become serious subjects of school knowledge. More, however, is at stake here than just an ethnography of those public spheres where individual and social identities are constructed and struggled over. More important is the need to fashion a language of ethics and politics that serves to discriminate between relations that do violence and those that promote diverse and democratic public cultures through which youth and others can understand their problems and concerns as part of a larger effort to interrogate and disrupt the dominant narratives of national identity, economic privilege, and individual empowerment.' (Giroux, 1995: 74)

Monday, August 09, 2010

My Giroux moment

I was working this morning. Working to try to reclaim some critical space in new media literacy. So I turned to Henry Giroux, and somewhat surprisingly there he is on YouTube. Maybe he's cool with that, YouTube being participatory and all that. But I was reminded of finding a copy of The Mouse that Roared, his trenchant analysis of all things Disney right there in the belly of the beast - in the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, LA. I suppose, if that's some kind of victory it has to be handed to the publisher, but it was still a great experience enjoying Disneyland and reading the critique at the same time. Given the corporation's voracious appetite I'm surpised they haven't already tried to consume critical pedgaogy - I'm sure there's a ride in there somewhere!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Writing and reflexivity

I've just finished Ralf Cintron's wonderfully written book 'Angel's Town' which was recommended to me by Damiana Gibbons. It's one of the most reflexive ethnographies I know, and it is particuarly successful in analysing the act of writing. Cintron talks about the 'special relationship between the space that contains the writing and the writing that inhabits that space' arguing that the two form 'a powerful dialectic, Stated simply,the dialectic consists of writing (the making of socially meaningful marks usually realting to oral language) and a blank surface (paper, clay tablets, computer screen, walls, and so on). Writing is the making of an order and the blank surface is that space or servant that holds the order. Typically, writing catches the eye, but the surface that recieves the writing does not. In this sense, the writing contains the stronger presence, and the surface that receives the writing is defined by that presence. The surface, then, is an ordered, limited space cleared of obstacles and ready to be acted upon by an ordering agent weilding a highly routininized tool.....the goal of literacy to produce individuals [ordering agents] who can create viable minature worlds in both their writing and reading....Writing attempts to interrupt or shape an amorphousness that might otherwise melt us into everything else, and we call those interruptions or shapings acts of consciousness or self-consciousness.' Say no more!