Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reality check

 The relationship between academic and everyday life is a fascinating area, best typified I guess by blurred boundaries. Yesterday, for example, we were celebrating two 'new doctorates' - or perhaps I should say two people whose lives had, in different ways, been entangled with doctoral study. In the course of this celebration I got talking to a researcher who I haven't had much previous contact with, and through our conversation I learned that she was a parent of two teenage boys. Perhaps inevitably the conversation turned on literacy. What she said in a few minutes seemed to me to sum up, perhaps even to validate, what I've been writing about over the last ten years or so. It was, if you like, an everyday validation of my research pre-occupations. Perhaps it's easiest just to list the themes that came up in her observations, grounded, as they were, in her everyday life as a parent. Of course, inevitably, this is my summary:
1. Teenagers are reading as much, if not more than they have in previous generations.
2. Very little of the material they read is in print books.
3. They make good use of a very wide range of online sources.
4. Their level of informal learning, understanding and knowledge is impressive.
5. They find (perhaps as a consequence) that what's on offer in schools is uninspiring.
6. They are developing social skills, literacy and learning through online gaming and social networking.
7. Parental concerns about regulating the frequency and duration of screen-time and the suitability of online content are persistent and under continual review and renegotiation.

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