Saturday, 27 February 2010

"I don’t think English is being dumbed down..."

“I don’t think English is being dumbed down, it’s evolving and changing to suit people today, ultimately it’s about communicating ideas, it’s quite cool I can text a friend and I can read some Shakespeare and exactly the same sorts of ideas can be communicated in an entirely different way but ultimately they can all be effective if they are done well” ( Maria English, Student).

This statement from student Maria English caught my attention when she was interviewed a few weeks ago on TV3 ( see full interview ). In conjunction with some other current conversations in education, I have been wondering about what it means to be literate in 2010 in the context of teaching and learning?

• What are our beliefs about the impact of emerging communication technologies?
• Do our actions acknowledge changing perceptions of literacy? How are these reflected in our practice?
• What are we doing that demonstrates pedagogy in a participatory culture?
• If we want our students to be able to read, write and do maths in order to access the New Zealand Curriculum, how are we acknowledging the value of the a fore mentioned? (NZC, p.36, 2007)

What would be our expectations of a literate student (at any level) if, as teachers, we recognise and acknowledge the impact of information and communication technologies? How might this influence the way you teach?

"What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at?" ( NZC, 2007).

Do we need to be asking the question, what does it mean to be multiliterate in 2010?

Just saw this video on a post from Rachel Boyd , "State of the Internet", difficult to ignore the implications!

Also see a related post on this blog by Rochelle Jensen Breathing E-Learning Into The Draft Literacy Progressions.

"Just as reading was made necessary by the printing press and arithmetic by the introduction of money so computer technologies are changing the very ways we think and make sense of the world" (Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Collins and Richard, 2009).

1 comment:

Tessa Gray said...

Hi Fiona, great post. I loved watching the video on Maria English, what an articulate, bright young woman. I enjoyed her explanations that English is, “Not being dumbed down, it’s evolving and changing to meet the needs of people today.”

The idea of multiple literacies challenges traditional forms of teaching. Literary buffs will be worried and possibly disgusted by the changes in the use of English. I guess evolution is inevitable as technologies now require us to work beyond the print medium to, “rapid decoding of print and non-print text, pictures, music and sound…”

I think we’d all agree we still need formal training in English, so that we can adapt the use of language for differing purposes – both formal and informal. “First you must learn the rules, then you can bend the rules, then break the rules and make your own rules” Eisner. I still have to think hard about what to remove in text messages, when I’m communicating without vowels.

Students still need to know is acceptable forms of communication, when and why. For example, texting for a job interview is inappropriate. Writing long-winded poetry in an SMS message is futile. It never was about the technology - otherwise we would be debating the value of traditional oven cooked meals vs microwaves and George Foreman grills. It’s about the process and purpose.

I often debate with teachers - how relevant activities like ‘speeches’ are in their old format. IE think of a topic, create a speech, make sure there’s a jokes in there, prepare it on hand-held cards, present to your class, get judged and make your way to school finals and maybe inter-school competitions if your articulate and entertaining enough. What happened to authentic, rich, real and relevant learning contexts for transference and life-long learning skills?

Maybe speeches in a 21st Century classroom might offer some choice – whether to present your speech alone, or in a group or with the support of digital technologies. What about an important context? What is our purpose? To inform or persuade an audience, to debate an issue, report on news, interview someone, apply for a job? The point being, we don’t speak for the sake of speaking, we do this to communicate an idea. Maria English also said, “English is ultimately about communicating ideas. Exactly the same ideas can be communicated in a slightly different way.” This way of working would reflect more of our “changing perceptions of literacy.”

While understanding that reading and writing will enable students to learn through all curriculum areas, and in applying National Standards, these will act as "...signposts or reference points that describe what students need to be able to do in reading, writing, and mathematics to achieve in all areas of the New Zealand Curriculum", I also think it’s important to stay focused on developing 21st Century skills, knowledge and attributes ( as well as information management competencies (
For educators, it’s also important to think of ways to meet those needs in an educational context without losing sight of the potential impact of digital technologies. "Technology will help us execute collaborative teaching strategies combined with professional learning that better prepare and enhance educators’ competencies and expertise over the course of their careers.” [Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology)