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, February 27, 2009

happy birthday mr. miller

Jerry Lee Miller is a well-known and much loved literacy activist from Toronto.
He is celebrating a pretty special birthday this weekend.
Have a great party Jerry and thanks for all your extraordinary wisdom and energy.

To hear more of Jerry Lee Miller's wise and wonderful words, please click here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

more meanderings

Here are some of the comments by literacy learners on Carol Goar's article, Put education focus on ABC not PhD:

From a Literacy Group

Here are four comments from literacy students in Toronto about the need for literacy programs:

-- I can do anything that is needed in my job, like drywalling, painting, framing and carpentry work. If I could read and write very good, I would be able to own my own business. I feel good that the literacy program is helping me to reach my goal.

-- My tutor says that I'm reading and writing better. I can read the subway signs now. I feel good that I can help my child more, too.

-- I'm 21 years old. I want to go to college to be a nurse. I need to improve my English skills first. I feel comfortable at the literacy program, and I am learning.

-- I'm a mom and I work part-time. When I come to the literacy program, I improve my literacy so that I can help my son with his homework. Also, I want to reach my goal of a full time job.

Submitted by Jumping In Group

Monday, February 23, 2009

RaPAL conference in wales this year

It is time to start thinking about the RaPAL conference again. Tannis went in 2007 and we both went last year.

Click here to read more about last year's trip on this blog and here to read about some of the other things we did in Ireland on my story juice blog.

As you can see, the RaPAL conference is a great time. Lots of fun and lots of learning in a relaxed and congenial atmosphere.

Here is the information that the good people at RaPAL sent:

Dates: 26-27 June 2009 with a free pre-conference event on 25 June.
Place: University of Wales, Newport
Theme: Sustainable Literacies

The call for papers is at the website and the deadline is March 20th.

We would like to invite conference participants to apply the idea of sustainability to literacies. Workshop themes could cover the following issues:

• Practice, research and policies that sustain a variety of literacies and languages.
• Practice, research and policies that avoid ‘quick fix’ solutions and promote long-term development of literacies.
• Practice, research and policies that support literacies as a sustainable community resource as well as individual skills.
• How can digital technologies support and develop sustainable literacies?
• Sustainable literacies in local, national and global contexts.
• How can literacies sustain and support individuals and communities in times of changing social, environmental and economic conditions?

...We welcome proposals from new presenters and will be happy to offer advice and support if you have not presented at a conference before.

Newport is a former Victorian industrial town between Bristol and Cardiff which flourished as a port, docks and steel town until the 1970s. It subsequently lost these core industries but is now recovering as a lively and attractive city with developments such as new bridges, an arts centre, the establishment and expansion of the University Of Wales, Newport, city centre regeneration and other projects.

Please put the dates in your diary now.

Read about last year's conference in Galway here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

the tale of the tail

Beavertails are a Canadian version of one of the world's most beloved treats: fried dough covered in sugar. I don't remember beavertails being part of my Ottawa childhood diet. An internet search reveals that beavertails arrived in the Byward Market in 1980 - the year I left Ottawa. Coincidence?

I have tried the Grouse Mountain version with lemon juice and enjoyed it immensely. I also have fond memories of churros in Spain, funnel cakes on the Jersey Shore, beignets in Washington DC and donuts at my Grandma's house. I certainly understand Mr. Obama's craving. Here is how it went down yesterday afternoon -- a series of delicious events that prompted one pundit to name President Obama's visit The Beavertail Summit.

It brings to mind another beloved American president,
an international visit...

... and ... donuts.
Warning: NSFW - some swearing.

This president did not call himself a donut.
Some worried that he almost called Ottawa Iowa by mistake,
but his proclamations of love for Canada
and his hearty enjoyment of the sweets he found here
banished all recriminations.
I hope your weekend is treat-filled and recrimination-free. See you Monday!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

literacy meanderings

Here are some of the comments by literacy workers on Carol Goar's article, Put education focus on ABC not PhD:

Reality Check
As a volunteer with a local Literacy program, I can assure you that the problem is real. And let me be clear, it is local agencies like ours who are making the difference, not governments. While we receive funding from the Ontario government, that funding has not increased in 10 years. We now have to do a significant amount of fund-raising to keep our program going. Without the efforts of our local community and dedicated staff and volunteers, there might be no literacy training at all.
Submitted by Binger

Needs Adult Literacy
Thanks for bringing attention to this issue. As someone who is working in the 'trenches' with adults whom have either fallen through the education system's cracks, or whom are in need of upgrading assistance so they can find employment, I must say that I am disappointed in the government's lack of support, both provincially and federally. There has been a great deal of attention focused on retraining for employment, and although this is important, what we have found in our literacy centre, is that huge numbers cannot be retrained because their literacy skills are too low, and/or they do not have a grade 12 diploma, because they left school and got jobs that did not require one. Now they must have one. Someone once said that the health of a society is judged by its weakest members. These members, who are trying to better themselves, and contribute to our society, deserve our support.
Submitted by literacywarrior

Literacy is the Foundation
Ontario workers are being laid off by the thousands and are demanding access to upgrading. Yet the Ontario government continues starve literacy & essential skills programs offered by community-based agencies, school boards and colleges. There is overwhelming research that the investment into literacy training would boast our economy, our GDP and an individual's skills & quality of life. The government just announced the adoption of the "Creativity Economy" characterized by thinking skills, information use, and teamwork. Guess what literacy programs teach along with the 3 Rs? Those exact skills along with continuous learning and communication skills. What is our government waiting for? When will they invest in the vision they claim to believe in?
Submitted by Literacy Worker

literacy in Ontario
First of all let me echo the previous comment - the reductionist policy that promotes literacy as important only in relation to employment is short-sighted and ultimately damaging to our communities and culture. Far from supporting creativity or a "learning culture" the provincial policymakers and their counterparts at the federal level have systematically undercut the notion of literacy as learning and access to literacy learning as a right. Carol, you have been one of the very few public champions of literacy - and it would be great if you could connect with literacy students and providers in the province so that their real need and concerns could be heard.
Submitted by Maire

What literacy learning is all about
Carol, in an earlier comment I suggested that you might want to connect with literacy students and providers - a good place to start might be at Wendell Dryden's blog - Wendell is a literacyinstructor in New Brunswick - here's the link to his blog http://wendell-communitylit.blogspot.com/ It is well worth a visit - I guarantee that you will get a unique and powerful "view" of what literacy learning and teaching is all about
Submitted by Maire

And for the aforementioned Wendell's response - and what I wish I had said - click here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

meanderthals for literacy

Meanderthals are guided by desire lines.

Desire lines, as you may know, are defined by architects and urban planners as those trampled-down footpaths that deviate from official (i.e. pre-planned and paved) directional imperatives. These pathways of desire cut across university campuses, they carve up the urban grid, they exceed the boundaries of the sidewalk; in so doing desire paths express the excess that premeditated constructions cannot foresee or contain. Desire lines objectify the constraints of the concrete. In so doing, they reveal new potential trajectories, in turn opening the urban traveler to new experiences of space, place, and time: a getaway-from-the-everyday.
A desire path (or desire line) is a path developed by erosion caused by animal or human footfall. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination. The width and amount of erosion of the line represents the amount of demand. The term was coined by Gaston Bachelard in his book The Poetics of Space. Desire paths can usually be found as shortcuts where constructed pathways take a circuitous route.

They are manifested on the surface of the earth in certain cases, e.g., as dirt pathways created by people walking through a field, when the original movement by individuals helps clear a path, thereby encouraging more travel. Explorers may tread a path through foliage or grass, leaving a trail "of least resistance" for followers.

The lines may be seen along an unpaved road shoulder or some other unpaved natural surface. The paths take on an organically grown appearance by being unbiased toward existing constructed routes. These are almost always the most direct and the shortest routes between two points, and may later be surfaced.

Whenever we talk about literacy and learning in the ways we experience it, we create desire lines. The depth of our groove is evidence of our joy and our passion. Our desire lines will encourage more travel in this direction.

Friday, February 13, 2009

divine machines

Language is the breath of god.

Have a great weekend you divine, infinite creatures. See you Monday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

literacy in the news

Carol Goar is writing about literacy this week.

Monday: Put education focus on ABC not PhD

Wednesday: Literacy network struggles to survive

One way to let the Star, other media outlets and perhaps election campaigners know that it is important to keep shining a light on the issue is to comment on this story.

Link up and leave a comment.

Here is what I said:
Put education focus on ABC not PhD
Great article Carol. It is not just that public funders do not allocate funds to literacy, part of the problem is that when they do, they require that those funds be used for programs that act as as a prescription to heal economic woes instead of a resource to foster creativity, intellectual development and excellence in individuals and communities. In Ontario funding for adult literacy comes through Employment Ontario and federally it is tied to Essential Skills. Locating literacy as an employment skill only is reductive, short-sighted and does a great disservice to our students, to our communities and to our culture.

Literacy network struggles to survive
Thanks for shining a light on this issue Carol. The Ontario Literacy Coalition published a response to the federal budget that includes data on the lapsed funds for literacy - the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills has been unable to spend even the reduced amounts allocated on literacy research and development (more on this here: http://literaciescafe.blogspot.com/2009/02/lapsed.html) That coupled with the fact that funders are supporting less research and more tool creation means that Canada is no longer supporting innovation in the field. 5 of the links on this UK research page (http://www.literacy.lancs.ac.uk/rapal/researchinprog.htm) are projects by Canadian researchers. We cannot continue this internationally recognized, essential research without publicly funded support.

infinite machines

Here is what we are talking about. Here is an example of how to activate and mobilize the gifts of an individual for the benefit of both that individual and the community to which he belongs. Here is what happens when we understand the difference between resources that are finite and those that are infinite. Here is the magic when the total becomes greater than the sum of the parts ... greater the sum of the parts we can see.

Monday, February 9, 2009

infernal machines

Greater participation in shared culture enriches that culture; it does not deplete it. Freedom in this digital age includes the ability to have unrestricted access to public goods, which in turn produces more public goods. Laurence Lessig (among other things, founder of the Creative Commons) has explained this phenomenon at a TED conference on the strangling of creativity by protective intellectual property laws. Lessig frames the problem as a war between the read-only culture induced by copyright laws and an emerging read-write culture wherein creativity is democratized by access to and re-use of prior artistic works.

Stanford professor Larry Lessig, the Net’s most celebrated lawyer, cites John Philip Sousa, celestial copyrights and the "ASCAP cartel" in his argument for reviving our creative culture.

If we agree that literacy is culture and that culture is read-write, and the process of creating culture includes mashups and remixes, and that "Culture is not a finite resource" ... why are we allowing people to talk about literacy like this?:

The causes of the literacy market failure can be traced to a few simple facts. ...Markets only work well when both buyers and sellers have a clear idea of the costs and benefits that would be associated with the purchase of additional literacy skill and this is clearly not the case with most Canadians, or their policy makers.

Can literacy skills be purchased? If so, who are the buyers and who are the sellers? Would any of us describe the work in which we engage as a commercial transaction? Or any kind of transaction at all?

Would any of us apply the ethic of the commons, so appropriate to finite resources, to the infinite resource that is human intellectual and creative capacity?

Would any of us describe our work as part of the read-only culture?

Or would we describe it terms of the creative commons--the mashup, the remix--where people come together to share and develop their intellectual and creative gifts both individually and collectively?

The failure to fund literacy programs and projects in ways that meet the needs and dreams of Canadian communities and individuals is not a market failure. It is a failure to listen, a failure to be inclusive and a failure to be respectful. It is a failure to recognize and value the riches that already exist within those communities and individuals and it is a failure to learn how those gifts are activated and mobilized. It is a failure of the imagination.

Friday, February 6, 2009

common ground

This video is a bit wordy - too much reading for a video IMHO - but I think Friday of stimulus-budget-week might be a good day to be thinking about the Commons. Not just the House of Commons.

"In a just world, the idea of wealth—be it money derived from the work of human hands, the resources and natural splendor of the planet itself—and the knowledge handed down through generations belongs to all of us. But in our decidedly unjust and imperfect world, our collective wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. There is be a better way—the notion of the commons—common land, resources, knowledge—is a common-sense way to share our natural, cultural, intellectual riches."

Learn more at OnTheCommons.org.

Monday, February 2, 2009


The Ontario Literacy Coalition has prepared a document about the recent Canadian Budget: Implications of the January 27, 2009 Federal Budget for the Ontario Literacy Field.

Many items in this document are relevant to literacy workers beyond the borders of Ontario. You can download a 588kb PDF of the document by clicking here.

The document outlines some of the spending that may benefit literacy programming such as the enhancements to Employment Insurance benefits, the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) and the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers; the creation of a Strategic Training and Transition Fund and a Community Adjustment Fund; plus infrastucture projects such as those aimed to repair, retrofit, and expand facilities at post-secondary institutions and local and community cultural and heritage institutions such as local theatres, libraries and small museums.

This next bit is especially relevant (but not news?) to those who have responded or are planning to respond to requests for proposals from the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES).

Implications for federal funders:
The budget indicates departments have not been accurately forecasting their spending which resulted, in 2007-08, in the highest level of lapsed funds (the amount of funding that is appropriated by Parliament but not spent by departments) in recent years at $7.6 billion, or about 9 per cent of appropriated funds. (Page 210)

Note: The Federal Government’s Public Accounts has reported lapses in literacy spending for the last few years. There may be increased scrutiny of the spending on literacy. (Click image to see numbers more clearly).

Under the National Literacy Secretariat, we used to be able to see which literacy projects had been funded by checking out the Grants and Funding Program pages. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has a proactive disclosure page where:

On 21 October 2005, the Government announced its commitment to proactively disclose the awarding of grants and contributions over $25,000 as part of its Management Improvement Agenda. ...Beginning on 31 May 2006, and every three months thereafter, this Web site will be updated to include information on grants and contributions awarded in each fiscal year quarter by Service Canada on behalf of Human Resources and Social Development.

You can see all the HRSDC grants but cannot tell which grants were funded as literacy projects. I am not sure if this where you can find literacy projects. I cannot find the Literacies grant here.