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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

hippy hippy rapal

Sorry for the long absence. I got home from my travels late last Tuesday to find that my internet connection was down -- or mostly down. No excuse really. There is always the internet café just a 5 minute bike ride away. The internet was not the only thing that was down. I was sort of down too. I have been on the move for three weeks and was not ready to stop. I wanted to keep going and felt a bit grumpy about having to come home and stay in one place for more than three days in a row. All better now. Still want to move around and am making plans but can probably settle down for now.

The RaPAL conference ended so well. My last day I went to two amazing workshops. I spent the morning with Julie Collins who told us about a variety of storytelling projects. She has worked with a diverse range of people -- striking miner's wives, travellers, street involved people and now me.

In the afternoon Canada's own Bonnie Soroke told us about her work with HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters). Bonnie is the coordinator of the HIPPY plus program at HIPPY Britannia in Vancouver. The HIPPY Plus program combines the traditional HIPPY program with an adult literacy program. The program acknowledges that all parents have levels of competency in different literacies and builds on those strengths to broaden the boundaries and deepen community connections using non-text and creative methods. Bonnie told us we could use art supplies to take notes and reflect on what we were learning. Something that resonated with me was when she told us that one reason some of these parents are isolated from parts of the community is lack of access to transportation. I used play dough to make some rides for them. Later she told us that the HIPPY Plus workers wanted to come to the conference but could not because of costs. That resonated with me because I always feel a seesaw of glad-I-have-this-opportunity and sad-that-others-do-not when I get to attend a conference, especially one that involves travel and hotels. I made a plane for the HIPPY plus workers and am sure they will share it with all of us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

jostling discourses

The Panel Discussion at RaPAL was about the professionalization of literacy teachers, facilitators, instructors or, as they are known here, tutors.

The first thing we were asked to was to generate a list of qualifications we felt necessary to be a literacy teacher. The list was mostly things such as compassion, empathy, flexibility, openness, collegiality, the ability to think on one's feet, the ability to work from where people are, the ability to adapt constantly and so on. The panel seemed pretty surprised that our list was made up of almost exclusively what they called "soft skills" or personal qualities rather than the "hard skills" such as subject matter knowledge. The practitioners objected to the use of the term soft skills because they felt it demeaned what they see as vital to the work. I found it interesting that the list we came up reflects what literacy students say they value in literacy teachers -- they rarely mention subject matter knowledge. We were speaking the language of literacy and our literacy wisdom was on parade.

The rest of the conversation included some of these points:

  • professionalization gives practitioners a career path with options and mobility
  • a professionalized workforce will garner more respect from policy-makers and the public allowing the field to have a stronger, more effective advocacy voice
  • the terms and approaches to achieve this voice means we are using the master's tools to dismantle the master's house and where does that leave us
  • the reason practitioners are not respected is not because we are not professionalized (certified, accredited) but because the people we work with are not respected, because we are a female dominated field
  • there is a big difference between professionalization and professionalism

The we went to a dinner where the Lord Mayor greeted us and a senator danced with a practitioner.

Friday, June 20, 2008

ancient literacies

I visited the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College. One of the first exhibits were examples of the old Irish script called Ogham. Ogham writing looks like a long vertical line decorated with cross hatches. There are 20 letters named for trees. Pretty nice.

With the introduction of Christianity to Ireland came the Roman script and the transcribing of the books of the Bible in the Book of Kells, the Book of Armagh, the Book of Durrow, the Book of Mulling and the Book of Dimma. The Book of Kells was transcribed by Celtic monks around 800 CE and contains the four Gospels of the New Testament in Latin. It is an illuminated text decorated with an extraordinary array of pictures, interlaced shapes and ornamental details of great beauty and delicacy.

After looking at the books and videos about the binding and inscribing processes, you can go upstairs to see the Long Room. The Long Room is an absolutely beautiful library containing the oldest books in Ireland. In the 1800s the library was full so they raised the roof in order to accommodate more books. I am not sure why but it feels almost cosmically wonderful to enter this room and stroll its length.

Last night Sheila Rosenburg opened the RaPAL conference with a talk about English and why people can't, don't and won't learn English. She finished by speaking about whose language is English, referring to the history of colonization and imperialism that brought English to so many places and imposed new names for everything on the people who lived there. Ireland is, of course, one of those places. In the play Translations, Brian Friel depicts how as the British Army mapped Ireland linguistically as well as geographically, as they renamed everything, they were conquering the land from within and using language as a means of oppression. As Sheila was talking about how imperialism then and now intersects with the practice of teaching English in different places, I wondered what it might feel like to be an Irish ESOL instructor teaching newcomers the language that came to my country in such a brutal fashion but has been and continues to be used so beautifully and creatively by a legion of great Irish authors. What place in history do we teach from? Is it the same every day and in every classroom?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

quick note

I am in Galway now.

I am late getting going but I awoke early to an car or shop alarm and then slept in a bit. I chose to keep the noisier room with the balcony rather than move to a quieter, non-balconied room with wireless. I am a little proud of myself for that. I am sitting on the stair landing to write this.

I want to tell you about the Book of Kells and the Long Room and the Lisbon Treaty but the bus for Rossvael leaves in an hour and I hope to be on it and then a ferry to Inis Mor. Whee!

Monday, June 16, 2008

to ireland today!

Good Monday morning.

I have just spent a rather lazy weekend in London. It takes a bit of effort to be lazy in this city but we managed. Toronto feels like a pretty big city when I am in Canada, but this is a really big city.

I am heading to Ireland this afternoon. To Dublin now and then to Galway for the RaPAL conference, Inclusion and Engagement in Adult Literacy, Numeracy and ESOL . Tannis is coming too. And Bonnie Soroke is doing a workshop.

And to get in the mood for the conference here is an an Irish perspective on Middle School from irishdancr.com. Plus ça change...

More soon, Tracey

P.S. The photo is one I took from the plane to Heathrow. It is the south coast of Ireland.

Friday, June 13, 2008

notes from england

Hi there,
I have had a lovely week of visiting and sightseeing. I am posting some holiday pics over at story juice if you want to spy on my vacation. I have been thinking about literacy and education quite a bit as I roam around. A young relative of mine is qualifying to be a teacher and will start his new job in the fall so he is becoming well immersed in the Skills for Life terminology and approaches described by James Simpson in Skills for Life in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or, Be Careful What You Wish For. The good news is that he had also just watched the Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk Do schools kill creativity? -- a big favourite here at the cafe.
Cheers, from Maidstone, Kent

Friday, June 6, 2008

new zealand on parade

New Zealand has joined the parade with four excellent haikus featured this week.

Also new:
Wendell invites us to talk about reflective writing and blogging.

The literacy learners from AlphaRoute courses have sub-titled their blog “The chain reaction of learners for literacy.”

I think Wendell is proposing a chain reaction of reflective practice through blogging. A chain of literacy practitioner blogs talking and listening to each other. Radiant.

And remember, if you feel that maintaining a blog is something you do not want to do right now, there is always space for your reflective writing at the literacies café, on the parade or in Literacies.

P.S I am in Devon for the weekend. Totnes, Paignton and Exeter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

edupunks in ireland

I am heading to England tomorrow to do some visiting and reconnecting with family and friends before Tannis and I meet up in Galway for the RaPAL Conference.

I am so happy and grateful for this opportunity. If you are going too, we'll see you there.

I wish we could take you all with us. We'll do our best to bring as much of what we see and learn as we can to you here in the café. And to promote a cross-Atlantic crazy wisdom parade.

Posting might be a little erratic but we'll be thinking of you every minute.

Monday, June 2, 2008

today was just a blur ... edupunk!

What is edupunk?

It is the post 2.0 thing. I guess every time something -- a movement, an approach, a wish -- gets a name the profiteers move in and the instigators and dreamers have to move on. As Mike Caulfield says,

"...to people like us, Learning 2.0, if it is to remain relevant, must not be relegated to the dustbin of “features” or “products”. It’s neither a product or a process, but a way of approaching things, of which products are only one of the results.

...What began as a clever pun has outlived its usefulness to us. We’ve known that for a while, but as companies begin to reduce the social web to a set of ingredients in their products — we have to go further than whether product x allows trackbacks or not.

...“Edupunk” gets us there — with its implication of technical accessibility, a DIY ethic, quick and dirty over grand design, and a suspicion of corporate appropriation it hits a lot of the right notes."