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, November 30, 2007

justice 2.0

Here is a message from Paul Hawken about how the largest movement in the world came into being, and how no one saw it coming.

All who seek out ways of facilitating, promoting, developing and enhancing ways of learning that are participatory, democratic and emancipatory are part of this movement. That's us, right? And all of these organizations and all of these people are our allies.

Thanks to Mark Federman via Stephen Downes for highlighting this video.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the state of RiP

The next issue of Literacies will focus on the state of research and practice (RiP).We chose this focus because many people have serious questions about what will happen to RiP in the current funding climate.

Last year's groundbreaking study, Focused on Practice, revealed that
research in practice (RiP) is "essential yet close to impossible, given the state of the adult literacy field" (p. 105) in Canada.

For the study, practitioner-researchers in each province and territory, and an Aboriginal researcher, collected data about the state of RiP. Together the whole group analyzed the data. The central findings are explored in Chapter 6 of the book (pp. 105 - 117). Here is what they found were the central reasons why RiP is so contradictory:

  • We want to read research and engage in it, we just can’t spare the time or find the energy
  • Even so, or because of this, RiP is needed more than ever before
  • We must do RiP because we are so isolated, yet our isolation makes it impossible to do RiP!
  • Given the state of the field, RiP is essential, but the state of the field limits the value of RiP!
  • We are wary of research yet we use research skills all the time
  • RiP might lead to change, but would we like all the changes?

Over the coming weeks, we will share more about these findings, and what a range of people are saying about these contradictions.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Welcome back. To see our version of the grey cup cocktail, please click here.

On a not so happy note, the AlphaPlus library has been dismantled.

In September 2007, as a direct result of the federal funding cuts to provincial literacy initiatives announced in the fall of 2006, the AlphaPlus Library discontinued it's lending services and began the process of decentralizing its adult literacy collections and finding new homes that were willing to ensure continued access to the resources for members of the provincial literacy community.

Thanks for all the good help AlphaPlus librarians. We miss the lending service more than we can say. And thank you for 'decentralizing' the library in such a thoughtful, caring and democratic way.

...The singer
Must then pass out of sight, not even relieved
Of the evil burthen of the words. Stellification
Is for the few, and comes about much later
When all record of these people and their lives
Has disappeared into libraries, onto microfilm.
A few are still interested in them. "But what about
So-and-so?" is still asked on occasion. But they lie
Frozen and out of touch until an arbitrary chorus
Speaks of a totally different incident with a similar name
In whose tale are hidden syllables
Of what happened so long before that
In some small town, one different summer.
Syringa by John Ashbery

Friday, November 23, 2007

medieval shift

Another episode in the history of shifts.

Have a great weekend. Relax with a nice book.
Or, if you are so inclined, a nice Gibson's Touchdown.
My friend's son, Simon Ho, won a contest to invent the official drink of the Grey Cup.

Here is the recipe:
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and combine:
- 1 1/2 oz. of Canadian Whisky
- 1/2 oz. of orange juice
- 1/4 oz. of Canadian maple syrup
- 1 oz. of cranberry juice
- Dash of bitters
- Shake and serve in a rocks glass filled with ice
- Serve with pretzels or other salty snacks


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

places to learn

During the forum, Nancy and Wendell started us dreaming about places to learn. Here is Audrey Thomas' dream from LITERACY THROUGH LEADERSHIP - Outlining an Adult Literacy Strategy for British Columbians - Select Standing Committee on Education - First Report.

Audrey Thomas:

“My vision for literacy in BC is that anyone who needs basic literacy skills or wishes to improve any of the cluster of literacy skills — which are now defined as numeracy, reading, writing, computer skills, oral communication, problem-solving, teamwork, etc. — will have a place to go where they will be welcome to continue their learning and that, if possible, they can access that learning through electronic means, which we were beginning to do when I left the ministry. I think that for that to happen, every community in BC should strive to be a literacy-friendly community so that we take away the stigma that makes it difficult for adults to come forward and we make it as easy as possible to diminish the barriers which many adults find.

“Finally, I would just like to say that there has been a lot of good work done in the province, and there's no need to reinvent the wheel, but there may be ways of helping the wheel get a little bigger and move a little more easily.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

shift happens update

And while we are on the subject... Here is a video called Did You Know 2.0

This video is an "official update to the original "Shift Happens" video from Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod" from June 2007. For more information, or to join the conversation, you can visit the Shifthappens wiki.

The music is kinda scary but is this shift scary?

Friday, November 16, 2007

into the machine

Here is more from the famous Michael Wesch:

A short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

old friends, brilliant careers

Another person from a past phase of my brilliant career that I got to hang out with in Ottawa is Norm Beach, adult english as a second language teacher, anti-poverty campaigner and environmental activist extraordinaire. We worked together at the Toronto District School Board and at CUPE 4400.

Norm is embarking on a new phase in his actually brilliant career. He is taking a four-over-five sabbatical and is using the year to write. Here are a couple of things that are online.

Missing piece of poverty picture

Adult education, the key to helping many parents improve their families' lives, hasn't even been near the radar screen in the public debate about schools and poverty.
Medicine to treat the eco-blues
I admit it doesn't make sense that I would glare at a discarded Coke can rather than the drivers pumping toxic chemicals into my lungs. But I can't blame every harried commuter stuck in a traffic jam, especially since I've been one myself. And Coke cans don't glare back.

Monday, November 12, 2007

we're back

Well here we are again. In the café and in Toronto. I was up in Ottawa last week for the Linkages: Connecting Literacy and English as a Second Language forum. It was an amazing 30 hours. So many innovative and creative people from both fields and from the academy, the government and the community. Thanks to the good folks at the Movement for Canadian Literacy for such a wonderful opportunity to network. I met up with colleagues from many different phases of my brilliant career and with new-to-me people who I hope will become part of future phases.

James Simpson was there from the University of Leeds to talk about The Right Course, a project he worked on with Melanie Cook and Mike Baynham.

This project asked: How do ESOL or bilingual students get placed or place themselves in literacy and/or ESOL classes? ... The decision may be made at an institutional level, and one part of this research ... sought to understand how placement practices operate in particular institutions. But students position themselves as well ... The second part of the research ... included an examination of students’ views on whether and why an ESOL or a literacy path is followed.

This snapshot of adult education policy and practice in the UK presented a picture of how the implementation of a national strategy can impact teaching and learning. Some of us heard a cautionary tale and some called for a similar national effort to develop common definitions and standards here in Canada.

At one of the discussion tables, Doug Fleming posed these questions, "What would a common definition of ESL/Literacy give us? Can we develop a definition that includes all the work currently called ESL/Literacy? What would have to be excluded?"

We talked about creating a definition based on practice rather than one that was prescriptive and about how we would need to do more field research to make sure we could be as inclusive as possible. And then, of course, we ran out of time. I hope that this conversation gets picked up again somewhere.

Sue Folinsbee's discussion paper, which does not appear to be available online but which is a fascinating read, is a good start and points us towards many investigations.

Charles Ramsey is going to work with NALD to set up an ESL/Literacy listserv. I'll let you know details as soon as I get them.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

be back soon

Tomorrow is the last day of the forum.
See you back here on Monday.