Response to Lankshear and Knobel’s “New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning”: Chapter 1

*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This is the first post within a series of critiques on literature readings that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.

Lankshear and Knobel New LiteraciesNew Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning – Chapter 1: From ‘Reading’ to ‘New’ Literacies

  • What are your main insights and ideas from the given L&K chapter?

Having never read any sort of literature on the topic of literacy, I gained several insights and ideas from Chapter 1.  I am not in the K-12 education sector, nor do I teach or educate anyone on how to read or write in any form.  I am a corporate educator in that I teach adults how to use a software and how to do their jobs at a specific company.  My teaching job requires that my learners already be quite literate…and even quite digitally literate.  So the entirety of Chapter 1 was basically all new information for me.  (Could I possibly be then, a digital literacy educator?!)

One of the main insights that was new to me was the emergence of literacy to the forefront of educational policy, practice, and research.  I think it might be easy for some to assume that literacy has always been an important concept, necessary for economic growth and social well-being.  So it was a new insight for me to read and learn about the history of literacy and how it came to be where and what it is today.  I’d heard the name Paulo Freire before, but I did not know of his involvement in a radical education movement.  I knew nothing of the 1970’s literacy crisis (aside from a few movies set in the 70’s and 80’s in which the head jock couldn’t read by the 12th grade) and I certainly knew very little about the growth of sociocultural theory.

Before today, I’d never given much thought to the term ‘literacy’ in general and so it was very new for me to really think of it as a metaphor for ‘competence’, ‘proficiency’, or ‘being functional.’  The various concepts for one term are quite vast: ‘oral literacy’, ‘visual literacy’, ‘information literacy’, ‘media literacy’, ‘science literacy’, ’emotional literacy’, ‘digital literacy’, etc.  In fact, the section(s) on digital literacy are what really caught my attention.  I feel lucky to have been born before the digital age and then to have grown up learning new technologies as they were invented.  I especially relate to the National Council of Teachers of English, or NCTE’s, formally adopted position on twenty-first century literacies as their proposed competencies are so extremely close to those of my current Master’s program (pp. 24-25):

“asserting that contemporary life ‘demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies’ (NCTE 2008: n.p.).  These literacies are ‘multiple, dynamic, and malleable’, and range from ‘reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms’ (ibid.).

The Council’s policy position proposes that today’s and tomorrow’s readers and writers must:

• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology;
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally;
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes; • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts;
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.”

  • What unique terminology, jargon, buzzwords, and other concepts appear in this reading that required your careful attention and definition? What are your interpretations of these words and concepts?

One concept that required my careful attention was that of some critics regarding the discovery in the 1970s of large-scale illiteracy in North America as an invention.  I don’t know that I fully understand the meaning by this statement, but I think it might be implying that we created the illiteracy in our nation by neglect and from our focus on economic growth.  Maybe a by-product of recovering from the depression era?  I wish they had elaborated more on this!  It’s an interesting statement!

Another concept that required my careful attention was in a section called “‘New’ Literacies” (pp. 27-30).  I had to research a few words a bit further to fully understand how they were being used here – paradigmatic and ontological.  I also had to reread several sentences over and over as my eyes kept glazing over the word “new” and what context it was being used in.  (For example:  “The ‘New’ of New Literacy Studies and the ‘new’ of new literacies in the sense we are discussing here are quite distinct ideas” (pp. 27-28).)

  • How does this reading challenge/expand/contradict your definition of (digital) storytelling?

I don’t feel that this reading has challenged, expanded, or contradicted my definition of digital storytelling…just yet.  I definitely need to keep reading more to learn about ‘new’ literacies as I feel I have already failed in my understanding.  There is a reflection and discussion section at the end of the chapter that asks the reader to decide from a list of twelve choices, which ones might not be considered ‘new’ literacies and why.  I have read through the list multiple times now and I cannot find one that I feel might not be considered ‘new’ literacies.  Surely they wouldn’t ask a question as such without a more in depth answer, so I need to keep reading to figure out my misunderstanding!