Friday, September 14, 2012

The Legendary Mr Santos

Mr Santos. I hope it's not his real name. We heard about Mr Santos on Wednesday afternoon, and I've been thinking about him, on and off, ever since. He's a familiar figure in work on digital literacies in education - maybe we all know, or have heard of a Mr Santos. His (or her) story begins in school, as a fairly conservative classroom teacher, dependent or even over-dependent on face-the-front didactic pedagogy. Computers, ICT training and so on have arrived, passed and left no lasting impression. Mr Santos isn't particularly techno-savvy in his leisure time, too - or so it seems. But then, with just a little help and encouragement, everything begins to change. He feels the need, usually as the result of an external force, to produce something digital - and being rather challenged by this he hands it over to the kids. They get fired up, they work things out, they use resources and learning from home, they work together and produce creative stuff that surprises Mr Santos. Their enthusiasm and the way they approach the task so impresses him that he begins to re-evaluate his practice. More collaborative work ensues, and more digital stuff is allowed into the mix. It's not that technology itself has changed anything, but perhaps a combination of external encouragement, pupil motivation and the softer side of Mr Santos. And so it goes. Well, I don't think anyone has really got to grips with the story of The Legendary Mr Santos and his companions - those who crop up in digital narratives in all sorts of different contexts. He is popular, I think, because his 'change' chimes with some basic liberal-progressive educational discourses (pupil autonomy, collaboration, creative production, non-ICT-ICT etc) and of course his story is positioned against the dark forces of neo-liberal reform (lock-step individual progress, prescriptive curricula, accountability, direct teaching etc etc)...but there's probably other stuff going on here, too. I suppose, and in fact I dearly hope that Mr Santos is not the only story we hear. We need more about the doubters, the knock-down enthusiasts and all the others, too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Visitors can bring something fresh, or even something familiar seen from a different perspective. I suppose both seemed to be true listening to today's seminar, in which Christine Edwards-Groves spoke about the multiliteracies project in the Riverina, New South Wales. It's nearly a year since I was over there, and I was interested to hear again how the digital was locally inflected. It was good to be reminded of the work of Hutchby and Moran-Ellis and the role that technology plays in mediating the relationship between the user and others. So visiting and being visited is a sort of trading relationship in academia - long may it thrive!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

On books

In writing about popular literacies and digital culture there is often a need to underline the ways in which the dominant discourses and practices of print literacy are privileged by schools and wider society. Quite specific adult-child interactions with picture story books have been normalised in the literature of early literacy, and because of this some educators (myself included) have emphasised the importance of other ways of meaning-making and other kinds of literacy. By adopting broader and newer definitions of literacy it may sometimes seem that we are against traditional forms - but this is actually not the case. With a new project on the use of interactive storybooks on iPads, some of these misapprehensions may clear. Here we'll be looking at young children doing book-sharing with adults - differently mediated of course - but arguably the same thing. Last year I worked with colleagues evaluating a Booktrust project based on book gifting for 11 year olds. The evaluation of this, the Booked Up project, is here. And currently I'm working with a team who are looking at Bookstart (aimed a younger children). So these conjunctions between new, traditional, narrow and broad definitions of literacy are very much on my mind. Although the study of children's literature sometimes seems to be a bit of a rarefied discipline, it continues to make an important contribution. Perhaps there is a need for more discussion between some of the factionalised camps of literacy educators. Reading Michael Rosen on Sunday, I was struck by how his idea that what we call children's literature '... are interventions in society's debate about bringing up children' would be an excellent starting point. What other literacies make such interventions? Critical literacies, digital literacies, multiliteracies....

Monday, September 03, 2012

In print

Finally, the Virtual Literacies book is going to press. It's been a delight to work so harmoniously with co-editors Julia Gillen, Jackie Marsh and Julia Davies as well as with a talented bunch of contributors. I know it sounds decidedly old-school, but it'll be great to get my hands on the hard copy! And, to add to the flow of publication my paper 'Mobile Practices in Everyday Life' is now online with BJET. That's the second of my forrays into what I see as the world of ICT. Now it's probably time to regroup with my literacies colleagues!