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.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry merry y'all

I hope you all get some of that Christmasy feeling ... a little music, something nice to eat and, best of all, time with friends and family.

Monday, December 21, 2009

more time to think

This is how Simon [a young student and son of the author Anne Trubek] describes why he hates to handwrite: "I have it all in my memory bank, and then I stop, and my memory bank gets wiped out."

As a great follow up to Letters Of Note, here is an article about the art and history of handwriting. In Handwriting Is History, Anne Trubek starts by discussing how we connect handwriting to "personal identity (handwriting signals something unique about each of us), intelligence (good handwriting reflects good thinking) and virtue (a civilized culture requires handwriting)." She traces the history of writing to try to understand how we got to the point where the technology of forming letters on paper with an ink-delivery device came to mean so much to us.

Handwriting slowly became a form of self-expression when it ceased to be the primary mode of written communication. When a new writing technology develops, we tend to romanticize the older one. The supplanted technology is vaunted as more authentic because it is no longer ubiquitous or official. Thus for monks, print was capricious and script reliable. So too today: Conventional wisdom holds that computers are devoid of emotion and personality, and handwriting is the province of intimacy, originality and authenticity.

Our romanticism of handwriting has led to the "handwriting effect" where assessors rank elegantly scripted prose much higher than the same prose written in chicken scrawl.

"...[T]yping in school has a democratizing effect, as did the typewriter. It levels the look of prose to allow expression of ideas, not the rendering of letters, to take center stage."

But more than that, using a keyboard rather than handscripting allows us "cognitive automaticity, the ability to think as fast as possible, freed as much as can be from the strictures of whichever technology we must use to record our thoughts. ... This is what typing does for millions. It allows us to go faster, not because we want everything faster in our hyped-up age, but for the opposite reason: We want more time to think."

Monday, December 14, 2009

social media old school

Letters Of Note is a blog that celebrates the way people have used their literacy skills over the years to tell their friends and colleagues what they think about stuff.

For example, Joe Strummer wrote this about Bruce Springsteen:

Bruce is great... If you don’t agree with that you're a pretentious Martian from Venus. Bruce looks great... Like he's about to crawl underneath the chords with a spanner & sock the starter motor one time so that a engine starts up - humming & ready to take us on a golden ride way out somewhere in the yonder...

Lilian Gollan wrote this love letter to her new baby in 1934:
Thankyou for coming, Baby dear, and giving me the greatest happiness I have ever known. My dreams of you are nearly as old as I am, for every dolly was my would-be baby and yesterday, just as the sun rose above a golden shaft into the room, the dream child became a real child and you were born - A whole 8lbs of you, with soft dark, hair, curly eyelashes, perfect half moons on your tiny fingers and the funniest little wriggling feet! Oh, the wonder of you!

And a primary school student, Anthony Ferreira, wrote to President Gerald Ford in 1974 about his pardon of disgraced president Richard Nixon:

I think you are half Right and half wrong.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

on a boat on a river

Over on Facebook, a colleague posted a link to Connectivism as Learning Theory by Eyal Sivan and said this:

Just came across info on "connectivism", a theory of "network learning" based on principles of chaos, complexity and emergent meaning-making ... and it was a Manitoban that came up with it! Here's some brain food about social and educational connectivism, sparked by the new theory. In case you're bored. :)

Connectivism is a learning theory (or is it?) developed by George Siemans and Stephen Downes.

So is it a learning theory? I am not sure (as Eyal says, "I’ll leave that to the teachers.") but here is what Mr. Siemans says:

Connectivism’s relevance increases when we consider a new method (or metaphor) of learning. The achilles heel of existing theories rests in the pace of knowledge growth. All existing theories place processing (or interpretation) of information squarely on the individual doing the learning. This model works well if the knowledge flow is moderate. A constructivist, for example, can process, interpret, and derive personal meaning from different information formats…as long as the flow doesn’t overwhelm the learner. What happens, however, when information is more of a deluge than a trickle? What happens when information flows too fast for processing or interpreting?

Once knowledge/information flow becomes too rapid and complex, we need to conceptualize a learning model that allows individuals to learn and function in spite of the pace and flow. A network model of learning (an attribute of connectivism) offloads some of the processing and interpreting functions of knowledge flow to nodes within a learning network. Instead of the learning having to evaluate and process every piece of information, she/he creates a personal network of trusted nodes (people and content). The learner aggregates relevant nodes…and relies on each individual node to provide needed knowledge. The act of learning is offloaded onto the network itself – i.e. the network is the learning. This view of learning scales well with continued complexity and pace of knowledge development.

He also says this:

Our natural capacity for learning is tremendous. We overcome many obstacles and restrictions to achieve our goals. It’s also an example of the short-sighted nature of some learning programs. The problem rests largely in the view that learning is a managed process, not a fostered process. When learning is seen as managed, an LMS is the logical tool. When learning is seen as a function of an ecology, diverse options and opportunities are required.

If you are on Facebook and want to join the connectivism learning circle happening there, click here.

And if you want to see a ecological approach to curriculum, check out the National Film Board site for Waterlife -- a deluge made up of a connected series of trickles where we can forage, explore and connect the trickles we choose to create our own deluge.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Well here it is December already and still no sign of the café blogger. Sheesh. I was laughing the other day because I could not muster up the 5 clicks it would take me to sign in and post a little message here.

I have lots of ideas but I am not sure about any of them. Perhaps I am suffering from brain crack. (Warning: NSFW - Swearing starts at 1:44.)

Or perhaps it is a case of monkey brain.

Unfortunately, I like my monkey brain.

I think it is a bit of monkey brain and a bit of feeling slightly adrift in the literacy field right now. I am working and I am enjoying the work I am doing but I do not feel grounded in practice with literacy learners. Could it be that I am blogless because I am currently part jumpy monkey and part drifting jelly fish? Well, monkeys can learn to collect a perfectly ripe coconut (3:15 - 6:45) ...

and ocean drifters are luminescent ...

so stay tuned!