New Literacies

I spend each school year trying to drill the idea of literacy being a fluid thing into the heads of my students  as well as their parents. I used to think of myself as quite evolved on the subject, but honestly, after reading chapter 1 from  Sampling the New in New Literacies, I have realized I also have quite a bit to learn.  One of the biggest things I took away from this reading is the idea that literacy can be defined in many ways and perceived through countless lenses.  This chapter looks are literacy as a process, rather than a “thing”, through which we can use countless mediums to reach countless (or very specific and exclusive) audiences.

One of the most interesting pieces of the reading, to me, was when primary and secondary discourses were discussed.  The chapter looked at the idea of how the many discourses in which we participate in can shape the way we understand as well as create different literacies.  It was so interesting to me to think of how each person, even members of the same household, will view different literacies through completely different lenses depending on the discources in which they are considered literate.  It was also eye opening to have to begin to think of myself – a teacher, book lover, and someone who loves to write – as someone who is, in many ways, illiterate when it comes to new literacies.  The chapter states, “to be literate means being able to handle all aspects of competent performance of the Discourse,” (Knobel 3).  In terms of the expectations of the course I am currently writing this blog for, I am completely illiterate.  I do not yet understand the social norms and expectations that come along with blogging and tweeting, and I am certainly not fluent in the technical language required to complete all of the assignments that are expected.  As unsettling as this feeling is, I am looking forward to sharing this learning and my struggles with my students in the years to come.

The chapter then goes on to discuss what exactly is meant by “new literacies”.  There was an explanation of the “technical stuff” and the “ethos stuff” that goes into deciding what can and cannot be considered a new literacy.  I found it particularly interesting when the chapter explained that, ” is possible to use new technologies (digital electronic technologies) to simply replicate longstanding literacy practices—as we see ad infinitum in contemporary classrooms as well as in many workplaces” (Knobel 7).  I see teachers struggle with this often – feeling that they are using the technology we have in our building to its full potential simply by having their kids read their textbooks online.  This, by itself, is not asking our students to participate in any form of new literacy, but rather it is just changing the medium with which they are working.  In order for a literacy to be considered new it must also contain the “ethos stuff” that is the collaboration and interaction of the students with the content itself as well as with the other members of their academic discourses.  

When I received the syllabus for this course I was having a difficult time understanding how it would be relevant to me as an elementary teacher.  Once I began interacting with the other participants and got past my technical inadequacies I started to see how I might transfer my learning into my own classroom, but this reading is really what drove the point home for me.  It opened my eyes to how digital story telling is not just distantly related to literacy in the way I hope my students understand it, but rather it IS that literacy.  I am interested to see how I can use the information I learned in this chapter to expand the ways in which my students interact with one another and with the texts that we work with day to day.  I also look forward to bringing a deeper understanding of both Discourses and discourses into my daily teaching practices.









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