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, December 21, 2007

partying with the mice

Have a great weekend everybody.
And for all of you who are having holidays next week, have a wonderful, restful time.

At Literacies, like Kermit and the mice, this evening we will be closing up for Christmas.

"It is a season when saints can employ us
To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive."

Literacy workers are thus employed every season. Thank you all for keeping the faith throughout 2007. Your steadfast commitment to equity, justice and compassion nurtures peace and understanding in ourselves, our families, our communities and beyond. You are the role models and the start of many ripples. Thank you. And bless you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

bubble wrap

And for all of you who are getting just a little sick of trying to keep up ...

...we second that emotion!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

facebook rap

Thanks Tracy Defoe for finding this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

facebook rules?

I joined Facebook last year.
I find it a very odd environment. Mostly I do not know why I am there. I vibrate my sister's hamster - and no, that is NOT a euphemism for anything. I insult friends I have not seen for years in a mock Shakespearean lingo. I look at photos of other people's travels and adventures. I rage against all the advertising and spam.

And then this happens:
Copyright Delay Demonstrates the Power of Facebook
On December 1st, Michael Geist, a columnist on technology law issues, launched the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group because "seemed like a good way to educate the public about an important issue." He "sent invitations to a hundred or so Facebook friends and seeded the group with links to a few relevant websites."

"One week later, there were 10,000 members. Two weeks later, there were over 25,000 members with another Canadian joining the group every 30 seconds."

and then:
"it helped spur on an offline protest when Kempton Lam, a Calgary technologist, organized 50 group members who descended on Industry Minister Jim Prentice's local open house to express their views on copyright."

To see the CommonCraft Plain English Video about Social Networking, click the link in the sidebar ... or here.

Tracey Mollins's Facebook profile

Monday, December 17, 2007

learners who inherit the future

On October 29th of this year, 120 educators and people with an interest in education from across Canada gathered in Winnipeg for the The Canadian Education Association's Rethinking Adolescence, Rethinking Schools workshop. They have posted audio files of some of the discussions.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds spoke about how the real 'essential' skill is learning to think. She quotes Eric Hoffer from his book Reflections on the Human Condition, "In times of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. Learners find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."

She goes on to say, "We do not need malleable young people [or people of any age] who are primed to spit out the one correct answer to every question without being able to connect it to a history, a world, or a meaning."

Listen to more here.

The panel then responds to a question from People for Education Executive Director Annie Kidder about how, in education that develops the thinker, the risk-taker and the agent of change in all of us, do we feed the assessment / accountability beast that inevitably narrows learning to the acquisition of flavour-of-last-month so-called essential skills. She phrased it a little differently of course.

Listen to this discussion here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

building love

Last week I listened to this Democracy Now interview with Dave Isay. Dave Isay founded StoryCorps, an American oral history project. The mission of StoryCorps "is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening."

"...when you hear stories like this, you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our stories are the most interesting and important stories of all... And when you take the time, you’re going to find, you know, poetry and grace and wisdom in the people you find all around you, whether it’s your family or your friends or your neighbors or someone who you are sitting next to on a bus."

Dave has compiled some of the almost 30,000 life stories that everyday people have shared with family and friends via the roving StoryBooths in a book called Listening is an Act of Love.

There was much that resonated for me in this interview, but the deepest resonance came from the phrase 'listening is an act of love'. I thought about all the listening that literacy workers do and how it IS an act of love ... and an act that builds love.

Have a great weekend everybody. You are a gift. Your work is instrumental in tipping the balance of the universe in favour of peace, love and understanding.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

broad strokes

These days I'm thinking a lot about what 'counts' as research in practice (RiP), mostly because I'm in the midst of work on the next issue. Our theme next time is "The State of RiP". We chose this theme because people are wondering what will happen to RiP now that it is no longer a priority for federal funding here in Canada.
Perhaps we've boxed ourselves in by thinking that RiP is mostly projects with start dates and end dates, research questions and 'deliverables'. Research is so much more than that. I'd like to share the broader definition of research, phrased so well by Richard Darville in our inaugural issue:

all the ways in which people concerned with adult literacy practice re-search – look again, articulating and clarifying what they know, and pushing out into the unclear and the unknown.
What would it mean to think of RiP as this sort of re-search? Here's more from the same article:
When we begin to connect a broad understanding of practice with a broad conception of research, the first thing we recognize is that much of practice already includes research. It is research when teachers experiment with learning materials, with the phrasing of explanations, or with learner involvement in program organization, and make findings about what works. It is research when practitioners carry on discussion and debate, seeking to share and to clarify their understandings, or to pose and address problems. It is research when people drafting and testing plain language documents come to new understandings of reading processes. It is research when practitioners and policy makers observe and reflect on how administrative arrangements work.

So research is a normal part of ongoing good practice. But of course when people conventionally speak of research, they mean something different and more formal than this – inquiries that are deliberately planned and conducted, and that result in some writing (or taping or filming) and public communication of their results.
The next issue of Literacies will explore whether the current funding situation is helping broaden our ideas about what counts as RiP, or simply making people feel their work is even more devalued.

What are your thoughts? I'd like to hear from you!

Source: Darville, Richard (2003). Making Connections. Literacies #1

Monday, December 10, 2007

one small drop, one strong wave

Last Thursday I went to the Labour Education Centre 20th anniversary celebration.

The Labour Education Centre was founded in 1987 by union activists from the Toronto and York Region Labour Council who believed in the power of learning to transform the lives of working people.

What a fantastic event ... a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues in this social season and to reflect upon the role of the labour movement in education and the role of the literacy movement in labour.

We were treated to a series of musical presentations. One group to serenade us was from PATAC.

PATAC envisions a future where each person’s right is respected and upheld in a society with genuine freedom and peace based on justice. ...PATAC is an Anglicized spelling of the Filipino word ‘patak.’ It means a drop of something and aptly describes the basic principle of the organization. ‘Patak-patak lang’ is a common phrase that Filipinos say when they want to ask everyone to contribute to the achievement of something, whether it be a contribution to help someone or to buy a meal. It is this same principle that PATAC adheres to. We believe that with a little help from everyone, we will be able to achieve our dream.

Here are the lyrics from one of their songs:

We are one great echo
Saying no to those who give us
machines of death and destruction
saying no to those who kill
The soul of beloved places

Now we are one strong wave
Crush the wall of darkness
Drive out those who make us
Strangers in our land

Tomorrow we'll sing to you
A vision of the peace we wage
Fr we are growing faithful and strong
In the middle of the storm
Tomorrow oh child, we'll work hand in hand
As we fight for peace today

We are on a bold wind
Reclaim the world we honor
And open it up to peace alone
La la la la la la
La la la la la la
And all the ancient islands and waters
To where our spirits
Must come home!

This song was written by a group of artists. The musicians who performed it at LEC were Marco Luciano, Levy Abad Jr. and Ricky.

Friday, December 7, 2007

the wisdom of our allies

Thanks to Mike Kwan for commenting on justice 2.0 and telling us more about WiserEarth.

WiserEarth . . .
serves the people who are transforming the world. It is a community directory and networking forum that maps and connects non-governmental organizations and individuals addressing the central issues of our day: climate change, poverty, the environment, peace, water, hunger, social justice, conservation, human rights and more. Content is created and edited by people like you.

There are
107,756 Organizations
8,026 People
2,509 Resources
1,282 Events
294 Jobs
178 Groups
currently networking at Wiser Earth. Including Literacies. And these 131 "adult literacy" organizations.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

supporting RiP

This piece was created by Yukon artist Jo deBeaudrap for the Focused on Practice research project. Here's some of what Jo learned from being involved in the research:

RiP participants expressed both frustration and gratification about their field. They wrote about the need for community support, for building a foundation and finding new ways to do things. Some expressed frustration at being surveyed when time and money are stretched thin....
Working on the piece I thought about how literacy affects the social and economic development of individuals. The impression that I have is that the challenges for the worker are often similar to the challenges of the learner: time, money, support and staying motivated.

The Framework project outlined all of the barriers that make research in practice difficult. More importantly, perhaps, it also articulated a strong vision for how research in practice strengthens literacy work, and the best ways to support this vital work. Research coordinators Jenny Horsman and Helen Woodrow are clear that RiP includes "not only practitioners carrying out research but also reading research, reflecting on practice in the light of research, and changing their practice as a result of research and reflection" (p. 11). Here is what the researchers concluded about the best ways to support RiP:

Research in practice will thrive within an infrastructure that strengthens both the literacy field and RiP itself. It will flourish if governments, funders, administrators and institutional providers recognize the realities of literacy work and value and support practitioner knowledge and methods of strengthening and developing that knowledge. Here is what this means:

...Infrastructure that strengthens RiP:
• Awareness raising
• Funding for all aspects of RiP (locally and nationally, including various ways to engage with research, for short and longer-term studies)
• Support for reflective practice as a precursor to RiP
• Readily available and flexible seed money, sabbaticals and other structures that would free up time to plan and carry out RiP
• Training (both face-to-face and face-to-face combined with online formats; topics including introduction to reflective-practice, recognizing the role of research in everyday practice, and all aspects of RiP)
• Mentors (face-to-face and online, both local and from other regions)
• Flexible ways for provinces and territories that are new to RiP to learn from other regions and to develop locally appropriate models
• Support for dissemination in varied formats (including Literacies and other print vehicles, online sites, and face-to-face methods)
• Networks (local, regional and national)
• Gatherings (local, regional and national)
• Resources (easily accessible for both newcomers to the field and experienced RiP practitioners) (p.18)

Which of these are supported? Which are neglected?

Monday, December 3, 2007

who said anything about fun

Here is another literacy story:

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, conducted by Boston College, assessed 215,000 fourth-grade students' ability to read both literary and informational texts.

Russia topped the 2006 PIRLS study, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore ...Rounding out the top 10 were Luxembourg, Italy, Hungary, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and Flemish-speaking parts of Belgium. The United States ranked 14th, followed by England at 15th. The worst performances came from South Africa, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Indonesia, Iran, Trinidad and Tobago, Macedonia, Georgia and Romania.
You might say, "Who cares?" but here is my favourite part:
The study found that girls on average showed higher reading ability than boys, and that only half of students polled enjoyed reading, with few reading for fun.