Literacy Symposium Panel 4: Literacy and Pedagogy

Learning to think like a trickster. Using humor to teach about identity, difference and democracy.

Presenter: Elaine Decker, BCIT

Educator Sir Ken Robinson argues that creativity will be as important as literacy for our students graduating into an unpredictable world.  Creativity – inventing new/other ways of organizing and acting – requires imagination, tolerance for ambiguity, courage and hope. These are among the characteristics of the trickster, the figure who stands apart, observing the society from a topsy-turvy perspective and serving as the world's truth-teller.

The trickster's mocking and often cruel truth is derived from a distant, but focused attention on the issues of the day, a larger perspective and broader wisdom on what matters. The Millenium Project is in its tenth year documenting the fifteen global risks – the things that matter – if there is to be a future at all (see http://www.millennium-project.org/millennium/overview.html.) While we may face crises in literacy and technology, we face others in water, health, democratization, the rich-poor gap, gender equality, sustainable development, energy, global ethics.

A closer examination of the Millenium goals shows that many of the risks to survival have their foundation in rigid stratification and separation among peoples, along socially constructed boundaries. This paper proposes that we learn to develop a trickster perspective, reading the other as complex and interesting, seeing difference as a resource for new ideas rather than a problem to be solved, using difference to re-imagine the world.

Violence and vanishment: Minimalism and post-literacy.

Presenter: Carl Peters, UFV

the private is now horribly corrupted by the banality of the public. even in our lifetimes, before the internet, most people’s embarrassing moments weren't something to broadcast to a pathetic world that sits around with nothing better to do than surf the net and look at utube videos, facebook and tweeter pages. people seem increasingly incapable of interacting, in person, with other people any more. that, perhaps, forces the private into a more and more debased sphere of self-indulgent exposure. a paradox – if i don't air everything in public, i'm not confirming my individuality (even though airing everything in public just confirms one's banality).

In an attempt to understand the problem of illiteracy among students in colleges and universities today we need to consider the questions: what is the work of art actually? What constitutes a civilized community? Both questions must be considered apposite the idea of literacy as a mark of freedom. Without knowing it students embrace an anorexic and minimalist existence, and there is violence to this because it means the destruction of reading, empathy and art. Languages have become, in this populist minimalization of them into the twitters & tweets of 25-word-or-less vernacular of the sales-pitch, dilapidated, which means of course: "the (building) stones of the polis shattered and strewn about." It is the end of public discourse as we know it. The barbarian-citizens of the electronic world no longer have time to EITHER read or write. As educators we need to radically adjust our views on literacy in this post-literate age. Perhaps if the student tends to his/her own civility (or lack of it) a bit more, more of what they write will sound closer to something meaningful; and, more of what they read will have meaning.

Changing the rules changes the game: Young children's appropriation and recontextualization of school and out-of-school information literacy practices.

Presenter: Marianne McTavish, UBC

Information literacy (IL ) may be foundational for learning in our contemporary environment of technological change (Bruce, 2002). With the rapid development of ICTs, and the shift to an increasingly complex information environment, educators are now recognizing the need for an education system that stimulates students to acquire and practice new skills in order to build new knowledge beyond what they already have.

While this increased attention to IL in schools is laudable, it raises questions about how these changing school-based IL practices are restructuring out-of-school IL practices and vice-versa. Attending to Schultz and Hull's (2002) call for research to document the ways school imposes a version of literacy on the outside world, it is now a critical time to document the interplay between school-based and out-of-school IL practices and to question how this may be contributing to children's school-based literacy success.

This presentation investigates how young children appropriate and recontextualize school and out-of-school IL practices for their own purposes.  In this presentation, the author draws on the concept of "recontextualization" (Dyson, 2003a; Iedema, 2003), and the lifting of particular genres, texts and practices across sites and their "remix" (Dyson, 2003b) and  reappearance in different contexts. The presentation suggests an emerging framework for early childhood IL learning that will meaningfully connect learning across school and out-of-school contexts, and contribute to the creation of more effective literacy pedagogies and curricula, particularly in the area of IL.