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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

hyperventilating over learning

Here is a great story about the power of blended learning written in preparation for International Women's Day:
But how can you not hyperventilate? My students, many of them first-generation Americans and the first in their families to attend college, are doing real research. They are doing the research that was previously restricted to scholars who possessed letters of introduction, invitations, and appointments. My students and I have none of these things. We are in a public school during a recession. And yet, we are true researchers.

 In the morning, students knock on the library door, begging to be let in. “We open in five minutes!” I call. I savor the first five minutes of the day alone with my coffee cup and my own research. Currently, I am researching Berenice Abbott, the WPA photographer known for her “Changing New York” photographs of the city. Her work is among 700,000 archived materials in New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery.

You don’t have to live in New York or own a library card to access the Gallery. Like Google Books—which also digitizes historical books—the Gallery is available to anyone with an internet connection. All you need is five quiet minutes in the morning with your coffee cup—or four, depending on the day.

Today I will only have four minutes. Students are rapping on the door, pounding harder. They want in, and come barreling through.     

 “Morning, Miss!” “What new books do you have?” “Can I use a laptop?” “Can I borrow headphones?” “How do I embed video in PowerPoint?” “Where are the Shakespeare plays?”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

revolutionary literacy

So what is the state of the debate on whether or not the revolution will be tweeted?

It rages on of course.

I agree with @navalang that a great addition is to be found here in this blog post, Knowing and Unknowing the Egyptian Public, by @zunguzungu.

His argument, if I read him correctly, is that generalizations about how social movements are developed and how they become effective are not helpful in describing the internal rationality of any specific movement or event.

If, as Malcolm Gladwell argues, the success of the American Civil Rights movement can be attributed to strong links among activists and a well-developed hierarchy there is nothing that says that the next, equally effective, civil rights movement could not start with weak ties and a flattened hierarchy.

He goes further to suggest that Western generalizers are reluctant to learn the specifics of movements because they are reluctant about losing their power to create the official story.

We live in an era we can get glimpses of the different ways the stories are being framed. We can read and listen to and watch mainstream media reports side-by-side with what we learn from our fellow "citizen journalists" on Twitter and You Tube. The official analysts can help us organize the information but our own critical literacy skills are forced into high gear as we try to understand the context and the content. These are fine times to be hanging around this little blue planet.

Friday, February 11, 2011

update 2

As you know, Mubarek's speech yesterday was a huge disappointment to people who are fighting for democracy in Egypt. I guess it was one of those "trial balloons" politicians are so fond of :)

Today at about 6:30 p.m. in Cairo...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

egypt update

Hosni Mubarak 'may step down' - Al Jazeera English (live stream here - Feb. 10 live blog here)

Egypt's Mubarak 'may stand down' - BBC (click on Live tab for updates)

revolution 2.0

from Three Weeks in Egypt with Alan Taylor (The Atlantic) - John Moore/Getty Images

On October 4, 2010 the New Yorker published this in a piece called Small Change - Why the revolution will not be tweeted by Malcolm Gladwell:

The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.


The evangelists of social media ... seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960. “Social networks are particularly effective at increasing motivation,” Aaker and Smith write. But that’s not true. Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires.

I think the recent use of social media to galvanize a group of web savvy internet users to sign an online petition against a CRTC ruling (that would allow large telecom companies to impose usage based billing on their competition) is an example of how the internet can be an efficient place for communities of interest to come together and advocate. I also think that participating in online referenda about irksome billing policies is qualitatively different than engaging in high-risk activism such as "sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960."

In the case of the anti-UBB petition, the petition signers saw a good result when Minister of Industry Tony Clement tweeted this:

As Gladwell says, the internet can foster a kind of activism but not the kind that requires the activists to develop a strong enough sense of commitment to the cause, and to each other, to support the risk-taking essential to creating deep social change.

On January 27, the day he was to be detained in Egypt, Wael Ghonim tweeted this:

And yesterday he tweeted this:

So what is all that about? Why is this participant in the January 25th uprising in Egypt, an uprising where hundreds of participants have been injured and detained and a number have been killed (there is controversy over the death toll numbers but most put the number at over 100), making this claim? Is it because he works for Google and sees the world through a 2.0 prism? Or is he experiencing a magnification of commitment that occurs when a revolution is tweeted?

I think there's an unmistakable effect that the Internet has had on dissident communities, that it has emboldened them. I recall when I was in the Islamist slums of Cairo, a friend of mine that I started to talk politics with silenced me immediately and said in Arabic (SPEAKING ARABIC) "The walls have ears."

There was a sense of fear in daily life in Egypt. And what I believe the Internet has given to dissidents is the -- the feeling that there are those in the West who care about them, an ability to talk with other people. So, it's a really -- a very empowering feeling that -- that nothing can take away.

David Keyes from CyberDissidents.org on NPR
(see video below - transcript here)

Gladwell might well argue that the ties between the Egyptian protesters and other Twitterverse participants are the weak ties of low-risk activism

but if those ties, however weak, strengthen the commitment and motivation of the people who have ties strong enough to support each other in high-risk activism, perhaps the revolution should be tweeted... and retweeted.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

truthiness in canada

On October 17, 2005, The Colbert Report comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word "truthiness."

Here is how Merriam-Webster defines it:

truthiness (noun)

1 : "truth that comes from the gut, not books" (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," October 2005)

2 : "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true" (American Dialect Society, January 2006)

On January 10, 2011, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released a Broadcasting Notice of Consultation which could legitimize truthiness on Canadian airwaves.

The current wording is broad:
[Media outlets are prohibited from broadcasting] any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading.

The proposed change is an addenum to the previous statement:
[Media outlets are prohibited from broadcasting] any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.

Here is a petition just in case you think we should stick to the original wording.

Keep Canadian Media Honest - Don't Let The CRTC Deregulate Truth in Journalism Petition

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

legacy numeracy

Another legacy of the Reagan presidency, and of all the hawkish regimes everywhere that preceded and followed him, is off the charts military spending.

Monday, February 7, 2011

happy birthday mr. president?

Last week there were a number of television moments dedicated to reflections about the presidency of Ronald Reagan on what would have been his 100th birthday. I found it all quite bewildering. Here is one of the reasons why:

Friday, February 4, 2011

reading serenity

Remember Quietube - the people who brought us that nice clean page upon which to view videos?

Well now there is Readability who bring us to nice quiet places to read stuff on the internet. You can sign up and pay a fee, a portion of which goes to the writers you read or you can get a Firefox extension or bookmarklet for free.

These easier-to-read pages are nice for everybody but especially nice for our learners who may struggle to find there way through all the advertorial text, tiny text and flashing bits on so many websites.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

(anti?)social media

Here is a commentary on online personas from Ross Gardner:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

literacy by the numbers

VIDA - Women in Literary Arts - was founded in August 2009 to address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing in our current culture.

They have just published The Count - a breakdown by gender of who writes for some major publications and whose writing gets reviewed by these same publication. Here is one example:

We know women write. We know women read. It’s time to begin asking why the 2010 numbers don’t reflect those facts with any equity. Many have already begun speculating; more articles and groups are pointing out what our findings suggest: the numbers of articles and reviews simply don’t reflect how many women are actually writing. VIDA is here to help shape that discussion. Please tell us about the trends you’ve witnessed in your part of the writing world. Let us know what you think is going on. We’re ready and anxious to hear from you. We’re ready to invest our efforts and energy into the radical notion that women are writers too.

No Canadian publications in The Count. I wonder if The Count would be any different here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

literacy alive


Volunteers have been working on translating the Arabic voice messages left by Egyptian protesters on Google’s Say Now service (which were then, with the help of Twitter, pushed out as tweets on the @Speak2Tweet account) into English.

reading frenzy