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, January 30, 2009

what did you learn?

Here are the program response recommendations from the Canadian Council on Learning as stated in their report Reading the Future (page 52). Click the graphic to see it full size :P

Here are the "Best Practice" program responses to each market segment from DataAngel as stated in their report Addressing Canada's Literacy Challenge: A Cost/ Benefit Analysis (page 37). As above.

And here is the trailer from Entre les murs (The Class):

Teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau plays a version of himself as he negotiates a year with his racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood. Directed by Laurent Cantet.

This film shows learning the way everybody who has ever tried to help anybody learn anything understands it. It shows how learning does not happen by tick boxes, charts, timelines and goalsetting. It shows how learning is chaotic, free-ranging, exasperating and energizing;
  • that 17 'teachable moments' fly past every minute and no-one can catch them all;
  • that the moments when a teacher and student find a way to communicate authentically are transcendent but often fleeting; 
  • that when students can control the context, process and content, learning is meaningful and deep; 
  • that everything matters forever; and 
  • that the most difficult thing to do is to say what you learned at the end of it all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

food tics

Al Jazeera has a great series on street food from different locations around the world such as Jerusalem, Cairo, Beijing, Nairobi, London, New York City, San Sebastian, and Penang.

The one on Jerusalem seems kind of topical. You might want to watch it on the Al Jazeera site and avoid the comments on You Tube :P

"Everything is overshadowed by politics in Jerusalem. Even the most basic of things like food. Food is a marker of identities and culture and is no different for the Palestinians and Israelis. It is a city torn by war - but whatever a citizens' race or religion, much of their customary street food is the same. What does that say about a shared identity and, despite decades of turmoil, how much hope does that bring for the future?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I do not think that there is any specific mention of literacy in the budget. No surprise there. I guess the Conservative party is continuing their policy of bundling funding for adult literacy with Essential Skills and workforce/workplace training.

In terms of the not-for-profit sector, Imagine Canada has prepared this response:

“We are extremely disappointed that the government was silent on the issue of federal funding to Canada’s charities and nonprofits. These organizations face new and increasing demands for services and declining resources. We called on the government to hold the line. We will be looking for those assurances and watching to make sure that these organizations are not subject to cuts as they, too, struggle in this economy to serve Canadians in their communities.”
Impact of Federal Budget on Canada’s Charities & Nonprofits
Canada’s Charities and Nonprofits are extremely disappointed that the Budget
fails to acknowledge the role they play in helping vulnerable Canadians

Unions, labour organizations, the Green Party, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois, and some mayors see the this budget as a missed opportunity. Canadians are waiting to see what the Liberals think. You can let Michael Ignatieff know what you think of the budget while he ponders whether the Liberal party will vote in favour of this budget.

family literacy day

I direct you to the inestimable Wendell Dryden over at qualities - communities - literacies.

...Sometimes it seems like the gap between support for promotional campaigns that highlight the importance of literacy in families, and support for field work that actually aids families has never been greater. ...Posters and Honda ads and world records are all good and fine. But we're preoccupied by the sight of parents and families largely abandoned along ill-plowed, ice-rutted streets, with nobody else around to do anything about it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

canadian content

Over at the new National Film Board site* (see note below) you can watch full-length NFB documentaries, animations and dramas online. They have a number of educational resources up already. It is an amazing resource for teachers, students and people who like to learn things by watching films.

Here is an oldie-but-goodie to get you started:

A Chairy Tale by Claude Jutra and Norman McLaren, 1957, 9 min 54 s.

In this Oscar-nominated short film, a chair, animated by Evelyn Lambart, refuses to be sat upon, forcing a young man to perform a sort of dance with the chair. The musical accompaniment is by Ravi Shankar and Chatur Lal. This virtuoso film is the result of a collaboration between Norman McLaren and Claude Jutra.

*Okay NFB... here's a little glitch. I just checked into the cafe on my desktop computer which is older (2005) than the laptop upon which I viewed the video. I cannot see the video without the latest version of the flash player. I cannot download the latest version of the flash player because I am using OS 10.39 instead of OS 10.4. I cannot upgrade to 10.4 without installing more RAM and paying about $200 for the upgrade. Aaaargh! Planned obsolescence sux! And actually it seems to be a major glitch if your most excellent content is only available to people who can upgrade their computers the recommended every 5 years. Most literacy workers, learners and programs do not fall into that category.

I just mentioned this to NFB via twitter ... we'll see what they say.

I did find out that many NFB shorts are available on You Tube as well and that the NFB is NOT going to request that they be removed. A Chairy Tale is there:

But, of course many school boards and other institutions block You Tube. But of course there are You Tube workarounds .. and round and round we go.

Friday, January 23, 2009

common good

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

President Barack Hussein Obama,
Inauguration Address,
January 20, 2009

To this point, public discussions of the economic meltdown have focused largely on how to fix a broken financial system and stimulate a business environment sliding into recession. However, there is another consequence of the meltdown that may strike closer to home as it will hit basic social services, recreational activities, and arts and cultural programs, all of which are delivered in large part by 161,000 charitable and non-profit organizations across the country. ...Government grants are precarious at best, and demand for the services of charities is likely to grow when economic times get tough. Although not all charities and non-profits serve vulnerable populations such as low-income Canadians, the newly unemployed, new immigrants and seniors on fixed incomes, those who do serve such populations will soon be asked to do more with less. ...[we] all face a common challenge in finding a way to sustain charitable giving as the economy goes pear-shaped. ...One way to keep the taps open is to provide greater tax support for charitable giving and thereby to complement private charity with public charity. ...A second strategy is to use some of the stimulus package to increase direct government support for charities -- particularly for those delivering social services to highly vulnerable Canadians. ...A third strategy is to direct some of the inevitable increase in infrastructure funding to the charitable sector, thereby strengthening the capacity of organizations.

Dr. Roger Gibbins: Canada West Foundation,
Non-profit sector facing tough year
January 22, 2009

A consensus has formed in major international bodies like IMF, UN, G20 and OECD that a coordinated stimulus of 2% of GDP is needed. ...We recommend the federal government inject $33 billion, or 2.1% of GDP, into the Canadian economy in 2009-10. And we recommend a great deal of that stimulus go to protect Canadians hurt by a sagging economy. ...While much of the infrastructure spending focuses on physical infrastructure, we cannot forget about social infrastructure like higher education, child care and social housing which are also good stimulus investments.

warning: some #$%*s in this video

There's a bailout coming but it's not for me
It's for all those creeps watching tickers on TV
There's a bailout coming but it's not for me
There's a bailout coming but it's not for you
It's for all those creeps hiding what they do
There's a bailout coming but it's not for you
Bailout coming but it's not for you

Thursday, January 22, 2009


"it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. ... Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. ... For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. ...The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified."

President Barack Hussein Obama, Inauguration Address, January 20, 2009

Key findings about the contributions Canada's nonprofit organizations from Imagine Canada:
  • Canada’s nonprofit and voluntary sector is the 2nd largest in the world; the Netherlands is the largest; the United States is the 5th
  • there are an estimated 161,000 nonprofits and charities in Canada
  • half of these (54%) are run entirely by volunteers
  • 2 million people are employed by these organizations representing 11.1% of the economically active population
  • the sector represents $79.1 billion or 7.8% of the GDP (larger than the automotive or manufacturing industries)
  • smaller provinces have a higher number of organizations relative to their populations
  • the top 1% of organizations command 60% of all revenues

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

considering the changing sky

Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander

A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

beauty tips

Monday, January 19, 2009

singing lessons

I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

To our neighbours and friends,
have the happiest Martin Luther King day EVER!

the illustration is by patrick moberg.

find the poem and more from langston hughes here.

the photograph of langston hughes as a boy (c. 1912) is from here.

the photograph of langston hughes on the steps in harlem in 1958 is from here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

r u telling me?

Frank Zappa talks about creativity and taking chances:

I read about this interview, and the transcript which I copied here, at Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation

“One thing that did happen during the Sixties was some music of an unusual or experimental nature did get recorded or did get released. Now look at who the executives were in those companies at those times. Not hip young guys. These were cigar-chomping old guys who looked at the product that came and said, ‘I don’t know. Who knows what it is. Record it. Stick it out. If it sells, alright.’ We were better off with those guys than we are now with the supposedly hip young executives who are making the decisions of what people should see and hear in the marketplace. The young guys are more conservative and more dangerous to the art form than the old guys with the cigars ever were. …Next thing you know [the hip young executive has] got his feet on the desk and he’s saying, ‘Well we can’t take a chance on this because that’s not what the kids really want and I know.’ And they got that attitude. And the day you get rid of that attitude and get back to ‘Who knows. Take a chance.’ That entrepreneurial spirit where even if you don’t like or understand what the record is that’s coming in the door, the person who is in the executive chair may not be the final arbiter of taste of the entire population.”

To see more of Frank's 'Who knows. Take a chance.' spirit click here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

r u talking 2 me?

"You never hear 20-year-olds talking about information overload because they understand the filters they’re given. You only hear, you know, forty- and fifty-year-olds talking about it, sixty-year-olds talking about because we grew up in the world of card catalogs and TV Guide. And now, all the filters we’re used to are broken and we’d like to blame it on the environment instead of admitting that we’re just, you know, we just don’t understand what’s going on." Clay Shirky via Scott Heiferman's Notes

History of the Internet is an animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to filesharing, from Arpanet to Internet. You can see the credits for this movie on lonja.de/motion/mo_history_internet.html Other works done by Melih Bilgil can be seen on lonja.de or lonja.de/diploma

The history is told using the PICOL icons on picol.org , which will be available for download soon. On blog.picol.org you can get news about this project.

Monday, January 12, 2009

revolutionary habits

Scott Heiferman "It's now awkward and loserish being around strangers (such as being on an elevator) without interacting with a screen. In fact, I'm typing this now, amongst strangers, to avoid contact and perhaps appear as if I have friends or responsibilities in the world. I wouldn't mind conversation or a quiet, contemplative, and/or work/social-free screenless moment. Scott Heiferman's Notes

The Revolution in the Hello "... we’re sluggish now from our deep sleep – we will go to the neighbor that we daily padded by with our iPod, go up to that person and slow down. Taking in that so ordinary and so fantastic neighbor – the revolution is here... If we walk in our streets again we re-magicalize them. Touching each other for a moment, “Hello!” - in that moment the architecture around us seems to change... Say hello to a neighbor and trade names and a new economy begins. Can we sense the release from debt and the launch into real wealth when we find a stranger who was always nearby but was lost in our consuming?" Reverend Billy: the church of stop shopping via Scott Heiferman's Notes

(Know Other People poster by Open downloaded from ReadyMade: Instructions for Everyday Life projects page 2)

Friday, January 9, 2009

habits and habitats

I have been evaluating some of the ways I participate in the online world and what it means for my learning process and how it helps me reflect upon what I learn and make meaning. I reread a couple of articles and thought I would share them with you here.

Here is what Etienne Wenger says about why it is important to be connected:

We are essentially social beings. We live in societies, of course; but more fundamentally perhaps, it is our participation in social communities and cultural practices that provides the very materials out of which we construct who we are, give meaning to what we do, and understand what we know.

As valuable as information is, information by itself is meaningless—as are the sounds of an unknown foreign language. Information only takes meaning in the context of the social practices of the communities that give it cultural life. It is therefore through our membership in these communities that we come to know—and to be empowered by what we know.

In fact, isolation as a principle is either illusory or paralyzing —except perhaps when it is part and parcel of the practice of communities that give it a social meaning, as in monastic seclusion or in the process of writing. Our very identity of individuality is a matter of belonging.
Etienne Wenger,
“Communities of practice: where learning happens”,
Benchmark Magazine, Fall Issue 1991
Downloaded from www.ewenger.com/pub/index.htm
(click on papers and scroll to the bottom of the list)

And here is what Stephen Downes says about how to stay connected:

1. Be Reactive
...The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land. ...

2. Go With The Flow
...When connecting online, it is more important to find the places to which you can add value rather than pursue a particular goal or objective. The Web is a fast-changing medium, and you need to adapt to fit the needs of the moment, rather than to be driving it forward along a specific agenda. ...

3. Connection Comes First
...If you don't have enough time for reading email, writing blog posts, or posting to discussion lists, ask yourself what other activities you are doing that are cutting in to your time. These are the things that are often less efficient uses of your time. ...

4. Share
...When you share, people are more willing to share with you. In a networked world, this gives you access to more than you could ever produce or buy by yourself. By sharing, you increase your own capacity, which increases your marketability. ...

...RTFM stands for "Read The Fine Manual" (or some variant thereof) and is one of the primary rules of conduct on the Internet. What it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others. ...

6. Cooperate
...Offline people collaborate. They join teams, share goals, and work together. Everybody works in the same place, they use the same tools, and have the same underlying vision of the project or organization.

Online, people cooperate. They network. Each has his or her own goals and objectives, but what joins the whole is a web of protocols and communications. People contribute their own parts, created (as they say in open source programming) to "satisfy their own itch." ...

7. Be Yourself
...What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being. ...

“Seven Habits of Highly Connected People”,
eLearn Magazine, April 18, 2008
Available at www.downes.ca/post/44261

And on the topic of being connected and making meaning ...
Update: I wrote about enjoysthin.gs on Monday. Since then Ted Roden, who created the site and is nurturing this community, made a tutorial video. It is such an easy peasey way to share online it might work nicely for a group of students or co-workers as a way of starting discussions or cheering each other up on those days when we need cheering up.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

tooning in

This is the cartoon for this week at Cartoons for the Classroom presented by Newspapers in Education Online and the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists. Every week they post an editorial cartoon with a lesson plan that you can download. There is a cartoon evaluation sheet with questions that can apply to any of the cartoons and help students analyse and interpret the cartoon. The site also has videos and information about cartooning and cartoonists. Most of the content reflects an American perspective but they usually choose events that have international implications or are of international interest.

At the beginning of December the cartoon was about the prorogation of the House of Commons but it drew an analogy between that event and Custer's Last Stand and the lesson plan assumed knowledge of Custer that I am not sure is shared by our Canadian students -- in that case the cartoon might have muddied the waters for a Canadian audience.

Monday, January 5, 2009

the details

Hello tout la gang!

Hope you all had a nice rest and are looking forward to good work in 2009.

I have been reading some year-end wrap ups; the highlights and lowlights of 2008. And then I read this blog post by John Dickerson about his 5 end-of-the-day questions:

Who did you help today?
What silly thing did you do today?
Who did you make smile today?
What did you learn today?
What did you create today?
For quite a while now my end-of-the-day questions have been:
What was the best part?
What surprised you most?

Since Novemberish, there has been a website where you can record your answers to those questions. Over at everybody enjoys things, you can start an account, add a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar and use it to add things to your page of pleasure. You can befriend people and see what they enjoy. You can check out random pleasures or the home page for other enjoyments.

For some of us this is going to be a rough year. My horoscope says: "an uncomfortable year that will have some rewards. Eventually." Okay then.

I am hoping that everybody enjoys things will help me to remember my own principles of pleasure and not get overwhelmed by predictions of discomfort.

My page of enjoyable stuff is here.