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 8, 2007

literacy is like water

I read the post about cipms yesterday morning and am (like everyone else??) struggling to get my head around what this will mean for literacy work in Ontario and trying to figure out how it all makes sense.

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to attend part of the MTML Learner’s Conference and the Golden Oak Book Award Ceremony. Here’s the thing…. as I sat in the auditorium with 150 adult literacy students and instructors I realized again that in literacy in Ontario we have fewer and fewer opportunities to come together like that.

It seems to me that when I first became involved in the literacy field there were several such gatherings every year, where instructors and students could come together to share their experience and celebrate their work. Am I being romantic – am I remembering some golden age that never existed??

Sitting in that room yesterday was a powerful experience – the group represented the real cultural diversity of Toronto and many ways of learning, thinking and knowing

As I sat there listening to the presenters speak about the books they had read and watching people joyfully greet each other it brought home to me again my understanding that literacy is not just a word, an artefact– it is a process – process in which people, real people engage together – it is a human activity – and although it can be weighed, measured and counted as an abstraction – that’s only a small part of the story – and if that’s the only part of the story that gets told there is a real distortion of the reality Today I’m going to look again at Naming the Magic by Evelyn Battell from B.C. and I've Opened Up from Ontario to remind myself that numbers are only one way of knowing and that literacy students know what they want and know when they are moving forward. The following quote from a student in the I’ve Opened Up project says it all……..

Literacy is like water. It goes everywhere. You just can't see now. It is very important. Like water, sometimes it goes underground and you can't see it but, it's flowing all the time.
So… my point, if I have one, is – we need to remind ourselves and remind those who make and promote the policies that shape how literacy happens in Ontario that the literacy story is complex and multi-faceted, because it is about real people, there are many ways of knowing and not all of them can or need to be counted - and that merely counting does not always show what is really happening and what matters.

Maria Moriarty


Nancy Friday said...

Maria, as you know I too was at the Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy's 5th annual Learner Conference. As I left the auditorium after the Golden Oak Book Awards that concluded the day, a student I was with said with great emotion, "That hits me right here" and she put her hand on her chest. There aren't words for what she expressed - to even relive what she expressed I have to put my hand on my chest. There just aren't words. But we shared the same event and I feel and know what her gesture means - it expresses what I felt at the end of the day as well.

That can't be measured - nor should anyone attempt to meausre that. But is was the result of learning within a real life context and event - and we aren't the same people today as we were yesterday because of that.

That's literacy to me in its truest sense.


Judi said...

I've been meaning to respnd to this for a while.

I am just learning about CIPMS, and, like Maria, Tracey and Nancy, am struggling to digest it - starting with their plan for measuring “learner skill attainment.”

(M)TCU summarizes HRSDC's nine essential skills and goes on to say that they will use 3 of them – Reading Text, Document Use and Numeracy- to measure learner skill attainment in Ontario Literacy Programs.

The skills that will not be included in their evaluation are: Writing, Oral Communication, Working with Others, Continuous Learning, Thinking Skills and Computer Use.

I must say that the conspiracy theorist in me first saw this as a blatant attempt to silence literacy learners. What’s important is learn how to passively read text, do math and use documents, but not to think critically about what you learn or to respond to it - either orally or in writing.

Once I had talked with others at the Learner Conference last week and read Tracey and Maria’s blogs and Nancy’s response, I realized that TCU may not have such a nefarious intentions.

They have not chosen these 3 skills because they think they matter; they’ve chosen them because they believe they are easily quantified – and can be measured using a multiple choice test.

As I said to someone last week – it reminds me of a very old joke. A woman walks by a man who is crawling around under a streetlight looking for his car keys. She asks him if he’s sure this is where he dropped them. He replies, "No, I dropped them down the road a bit, but it was too dark to see anything down there so I came up to the light".

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