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.

Friday, June 5, 2009


The reading and research I have done this week has left me feeling a little out of sorts. I just wrote a post about how everything is changing and nothing is changing but I now do not want to publish it. Maybe some other time.

So instead I am going to re-publish something I wrote for the The National Institute for Literacy (NIFL - US) Technology List discussion about integrating technology. (You can sign up here.)

I do not feel like this today but I did on Thursday and I will again soon I am sure. I face the weekend with hope.

Some people have talked about how integrating technology changes the role of the teacher.

In some ways, I think that integrating technology allows teachers to do some of the things they have long wanted to do but found challenging.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is the role of the canon — that “dead white guys canon” we deride but that still gives us currency we use daily.

We used to talk a lot about how to bring the canon to literacy – how to balance giving literacy learners access to the canon that lets us be part of the Western Judeo-Christian discourse with creating an alternative canon that includes a more diverse range of contributors. We valued the alternative canon and wanted to promote a more democratic, post-colonial canon but we knew this canon is not valued in some of the places literacy learners want to go.

Literacy students come to programs to change the access they have. I remember an occasion when we read Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening and the next day, Pierre Trudeau’s (former prime minister of Canada) son paraphrased the poem at his father’s funeral. The students knew the reference which made the quote more meaningful to them and also made them feel they were part of a conversation – not onlookers or outsiders. I think that is an important role for literacy education.

The challenge in finding the balance was always access to resources and the ways in which resources were organized. We used libraries and indexes that were developed by experts. They were useful but we had no ownership and no way to contribute. Most of what students saw was stuff we brought. Most of what students thought was valuable was the stuff we brought. They trusted us to know the index and to choose wisely.

I think that the internet and publishing tools help us find a better balance – or a better way of creating balance. It allows us (compels us?), teachers and students alike, to create our own resource lists and index them in ways that are useful to us. It allows us to index items from the revered canon with items from our own personal canons side-by-side. It allows us to publish our own work and see it beside, linked to, and with reference to any other work we choose. It allows us to join a discourse and create a discourse. And it means that each teacher and each student can create their own balance.

And the great thing for those of us working in literacy, those lists and canons and conversations can be less print-based and people who are not primarily reader-learners can participate in them more easily.

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