Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

literacy unknown

Wow. That was a long break. I went to Calgary to the Health Literacy Institute hosted by the Centre for Literacy of Quebec and Bow Valley College. I spent three days in Calgary at the institute, three days in Edmonton meeting with Literacies colleagues and touring the city and then two days on the train travelling from Edmonton back to Toronto. You can see some of what I saw over at storyjuice.

The institute was an amazing event. I wish that you all could have been there. It was a meeting of people who brought academic theory, practical experience and wide and deep understanding of how to put research into practice and how to develop research out of practice. The one caveat that struck me is one that often strikes with regards to terms such as health literacy, information literacy, computer literacy, financial literacy, etc. It seems that there is always a point where general literacy, in the reading and writing sense of that word, gets mixed in with the concept of comunicating complex and complicated information in ways that can be understood, evaluated and used by a diverse group of people. I think that we need to be careful to ensure that health literacy (and all of those other kinds of literacy) is not be dependant upon or integrated with reading-and-writing literacy. People have a right to good information that they can use to manage their health and other aspects of tehir lives regardless of their ability to get information from print materials.

And that always leads to questions about the word literacy: what does it mean? does it now mean so many things that it actually means nothing? In the history of the English language, no group has had much longterm success in trying to control meaning and usage so it is unlikely that the literacy field will ever be the place where the definition of literacy lives, but how well does the word serve us now? How well does it describe the work, the learning, the research, the teachers and the learners?

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