Ed 250: Literacies and Education

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alesnick's picture

Welcome! 

This is the online community conversation and resources space for Education 250: Literacies and Education, a course in the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program taught by Professor Alice Lesnick.  Please feel free to join us -- via individual and course blogs and mico-blogs (via Twitter) -- as we explore literacy learning as a process of ongoing personal, cultural, and political negotiation and invention among and across people’s ways with words. The focal contexts of our studies will be the U.S. and West Africa, specifically Northern Ghana, where some of us will travel over spring break as part of the interdisciplinary cluster of courses making up 360: Learning and Narrating Childhoods.  

 

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About the Learning and Narrating Childhoods 360

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About Titagya Schools and Ghana

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Interactive Blogging: Reflections, Connections, Questions, and Information


juliagrace's picture

world travel/ perspective

This image is from an episode of West Wing, where people bring in a map of the world that is upside-down and explain why it changes everything. The initial reaction, of course, is to laugh because it's such an odd idea and seems so trivial. However, once I began actually looking into this after our class discussion of "world travel" and perceptions, I realized there is actually something to it. For one thing, the continents are re-sized more acurately, but also it does make you think about the relationship between North and South and Top and Bottom. Even if you don't realize it, I certaintly didn't, constantly seeing the US as near the top of the world, or at least above other countries on the map has an implication of power and importance. Imagine if we were no longer North America, but South? Besides the fact that it sounds weird, are there any other reasons we would object?

juliagrace's picture

Single Story

While listening to the TED talk I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with this idea of a "single story". Initially I agreed because frequently there are single stories or party lines that get fed to us and when you actually research the topic you find out that there were a million other voices that got ignored in favor of one idea. However, it was that thought that made me question the conclusion even as I came to it. Is an idea a "single story" of sorts? When you hear an idea or story don't you automatically internalize it in one way or another and make it different? Even if it's just the difference between laughing at something or not, or agreeing with a statement or remaining silent--doesn't that change the way other people see it (or hear it, read it, etc.)? 

bsampson24's picture

Silence and Good Intentions

 

On Thursday I worked with a student on her college essay. She asked me to read it over and provide feedback. After reading the first paragraph and skimming the rest I immediately thought this won’t do. Her story was not compelling enough and did not highlight her agency. In addition to the missing “wow” factor it lacked an inviting introduction and presented no hard-hitting obstacle she overcame that communicated her resiliency and strength. It failed to do what I was told a “winning” essay would do, which was, captivate an audience by telling a story.  In trying to help improve her essay I immediately went to my email and began sifting through my inbox to find samples of college essays given to me during my junior year as well as my own “mission statement” for her to use as a guide. As soon as I opened up that document for her I regretted how I was handling the situation.

bsampson24's picture

Silence and Good Intentions

 

On Thursday I worked with a student on her college essay. She asked me to read it over and provide feedback. After reading the first paragraph and skimming the rest I immediately thought this won’t do. Her story was not compelling enough and did not highlight her agency. In addition to the missing “wow” factor it lacked an inviting introduction and presented no hard-hitting obstacle she overcame that communicated her resiliency and strength. It failed to do what I was told a “winning” essay would do, which was, captivate an audience by telling a story.  In trying to help improve her essay I immediately went to my email and began sifting through my inbox to find samples of college essays given to me during my junior year as well as my own “mission statement” for her to use as a guide. As soon as I opened up that document for her I regretted how I was handling the situation.

bsampson24's picture

Silence and Good Intentions

 

On Thursday I worked with a student on her college essay. She asked me to read it over and provide feedback. After reading the first paragraph and skimming the rest I immediately thought this won’t do. Her story was not compelling enough and did not highlight her agency. In addition to the missing “wow” factor it lacked an inviting introduction and presented no hard-hitting obstacle she overcame that communicated her resiliency and strength. It failed to do what I was told a “winning” essay would do, which was, captivate an audience by telling a story.  In trying to help improve her essay I immediately went to my email and began sifting through my inbox to find samples of college essays given to me during my junior year as well as my own “mission statement” for her to use as a guide. As soon as I opened up that document for her I regretted how I was handling the situation.

kayari's picture

Literacies - Post 3

When Freire discusses how learning becomes “techniques, naively considered to be neutral, by means of which the educational process is standardized in a sterile and bureaucratic operation” I step back to analyze what goals public education has and how these goals have been sterilized. I question what the intent is for public education today. Pressure to perform on standardized tests are causing the classroom to be centered around the test. But what are the goals of the test? One could argue, such as myself, that tests funnel students into reproduction of socio-economic class status. Tests do seek to also gauge whether a student has mastered certain material. To use standardized tests to judge whether a student knows how to read then makes literacy a standardized and sterile activity. Centering a classroom around the assessment tool does not provide in-depth experiential education on a topic. As educators I believe we should focus on the goals of the tests not on the tests themselves. How can we shift the focus off high-stakes testing when salaries, school funding, and schools remaining open depends on test results? How can our students be successful on tests without us teaching to the test?

ashley's picture

Impacting Young Lives through Literacy

One of my biggest questions for many years of my life has been, “what grade do I want to teach?” It has never been a question of IF I’m going to teach, but rather where I will be along the education spectrum. Throughout middle and high school I desired to be a Pre-K teacher, then moving up to include Pre-K through first grade. Upon coming to Bryn Mawr, the question arose all over again and I thought I had settled on third grade and had been complacent about that decision for about half a year, but have recently been questioning and re-evaluating things again. My recent thoughts had been that I wanted to have an impact in a place in the students’ life where it was more content-based, as the toddler years tend to be more about teaching social skills.

I’ve been working at Thorne School (the pre-school on campus) for the past two years and have loved my interactions with the children. Last year I was thinking that while I like working there, I wanted to have a different impact on children. But this year, I seem to be going back to my previous choice. This past week while reading books to children at the school, I was noticing how their vocabulary repertoire was building through those simple interactions as they continually asked for clarification on the meaning of words that they were unfamiliar with. It got me thinking that I love that, helping build their understanding and witnessing their desire to understand, and how important that can be at that very young and tender age.

lgleysteen's picture

Returns on Education

This week I wanted to focus my blog post on the value of education.  I am currently taking an economics class at Haverford entitled Microfinance.  The first segment of the course is on poverty and this past week we have been focusing on education.  I think most people in the developed world would argue that education has value but what about the people on the other side of the world whose children have been in school through fifth grade but still cannot read a simple paragraph?  Literacy is a difficult tool to develop but some progress should be made in five years.  The majority of families around the world are educating their children but how much are they actually getting in return? How can families below the poverty line in developing countries measure this value?  How do parents decide whether or not they should send one of their 4 children to school for 15 years, or send all of their children to school but only through basic primary education?  In this class we have been looking at how literacy is defined and its cultural value.

ckenward's picture

ASL

I was having a conversation with one of my friends who is currently taking an ASL (American Sign Language) class at UPenn.  She was telling me about a talk she has to go to and our discussion really got me thinking about some of the themes in this class.  

First, she introduced me to the word "co-equality" which according to Webster's online dictionary means "the state of being equal."  However when she was referring to it in relation to her ASL class it was a bit more specific to context.  This is something we've been talking about a lot in expanding our definitions of literacy; the idea that one can be literate (or equal) in one context does not mean they are literate (or equal) in all contexts and situations.  My friend pointed out to me that the deaf community is one of the few disability communities which is expected to almost completely assimlate into "normal" society.  I say community because the deaf community has their own language and in many ways culture (whereas most other disabilities do not) but it is widely ignored by the hearing community as a whole.  I'm not trying to make a statment about whether this is good or bad, it is simply reality.  It is relevant to this class because as we're thinking about different kinds of literacies and different contexts, I think it is a really good example of how language goes beyond the ability to read and write.  

If anyone is interested in going to the talk at UPenn, here is a link to the description and such:http://bit.ly/wdFcoi

allisonletts's picture

Practicing Tech

This post was written on an iPad. I tried to correct all typos, but some of them might still remain... My fingers aren't quite as sure about here they go without physical keys.

I'm pretty sure I referenced this article for Alice's Ed Tech class, but it's a good one, so I'm going to pull it out again: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/two-step-tech-integration-elementary-mary-beth-hertz 

I've been thinking a lot about how we're using tech in this class, both with iPads and with twitter. I've seen quite a few comments on twitter especially, but also here on Serendip, that the tech is in some ways lowering the depth of connection we have with each other as we engage with the material. That has looked like playing with the iPads instead of listening to the entire iPad introduction, as well as occasionally forced conversations or overwhelming conversations on twitter. I can write this blog post on my iPad, but I can't yet use it seamlessly when I'm interacting with someone. At this point, I really don't know enough about the iPad for it to work quite as well for me as my computer. I've been using it in as many different situations as possible--passing it around to sign up for snacks for my a cappella group, bringing it along any time I might want to use Internet, and trying to push past some of the initial slowness of learning the tech. To be fair, I have an iPhone, so I'm already familiar with multitouch gestures and the way I-devices work.

JBacchus's picture

Technology: Beneficial or Detrimental?

I really didn't want to feel unoriginal or predictable and write this blogpost on the presence, not use, of technology in our lives, but for some reason ever since getting the iPad, I've been particularly sensitive to this topic. I was trying to write on something else, but that just wasn't happening I suppose.

It first started in class on Thursday, when I realized no one was paying attention to the iPad introduction, save for a few people. Most were preoccupied by the iPad, and even during subsequent discussion, the preoccupation with the iPad maintained.

About five or so hours after class I was in a training for my placement. The trainers asked us to take down a web address. I immediately texted the link to my friend for both of us, and the girl behind me took a picture of the slide with her camera. Two of the trainers commented, one remarking that she had expected us to take out pen and paper, and the other about our almost unorthodox use of technology for something so simple.

I had been struggling on not writing about technology up until I was watching the superbowl a few hours ago. Two of the first few commercials (I don't recall what they were for, but I know one was for a car), including Twitter hashtags at the end of their commercial.

All these things got me thinking, not about our use of technology, but rather it's presence in our lives, and whether it's taking over. I thought about the baby who expected the book to work like an iPad, and the cat who was playing a mouse chase game on the iPad.

HannahB's picture

The Technology of Literature-a summary and critique

For my fourth class this semester, an independent study with an anthropology professor revolving around the topics covered in the 360, I have explored in the last week a series of pieces of literature delving into the differences and paradoxes between oral-based cultures versus those that have developed systems of writing. Specifically, my studies started by looking at Jack Goody's theory on the "technology of writing" in which he essentially argues that societies that have developed a system of writing have created a new tool or "technology" which has enabled them to be cognitively more advanced. The argument has been widely critiqued and problematized and I think the literature in general raises some critically important, provoking ideas.

I will summarize here a few of the contentions I found most stimulating. The first is the presence of logic and the potential way writing enables various ideas and works from different authors and different times to be consolidated in a way that is more logical and thus helpful than what can be done via oral tradition only. A second contention is that of audience. Whereas oral tradition requires, at least seemingly, an audience, written works can be written and transmitted without knowledge of a specific audience. I find this idea particularly interesting because it feeds directly into a third point about variability. Written works are stagnant to a certain extent, copyright and authorial presentation are limited to the page, lacking change with time, speaker or audience.

vvaria's picture

Defining Literacy

I want to use this blog to reflect on some of the thoughts I have had about defining literacy.  In class we worked in groups or pairs and expanded our idea of literacy.  My group came up with the following as our working definition of literacy: the ability to manipulate secondary discourses in order to give you agency.  Each of these words carries a lot of weight and purpose for me and to the overall definition.  I particularly like the idea of “manipulation” here because I think language can be, and often is, manipulative.  Being literate can mean different things in different contexts.  This idea was also something I have been thinking about and elaborating on in the last few weeks. We typically understand being literate as simply reading and writing and associate it with books and alphabet letters, but with this definition, the more elaborate interdisciplinary nature of literacy is acknowledged. Being literate in math or in science, or being literate in facebook or twitter, are now all accepted statements, and logical under this definition of literacy. On the twitter, the idea of being literate in music was brought up.  This to me, was particularly interesting because it broached the idea that being literate is not only about seeing something on a page and understanding it, but also about feeling and transmitting feeling.  Does this definition account for that? I wonder what the boundaries of this definition are. Is this definition sufficient? Or are we still treading around it?

kwyly's picture

In what situations do iPads belong?

Since our introduction to the iPad on Thursday, I have been thinking about how using one would alter situations where they had previously not been used. As an expansion of the reading that listed pros and cons of iPads , I have been trying to critically think about what impact it could have on my experiences and the experiences of others. The first instance that I had been thinking about was how a iPad could fit into the kindergarten classroom where I teach. Every morning I teach a small group lesson that focuses on reading comprehension, writing letters, and making connections through a poem/nursery rhyme. The nursery rhyme is on a board and we often use white boards to practice writing words or letters as well as coloring pictures that connect to the rhyme. I can see how iPads could have a place in this type of situation; instead of erasing a whiteboard after each word or struggling to make sure every student can see the text of the poem, each child could have their own iPad. This way, they could practice writing words, coloring, or playing games on their own comfort level and a lot of time could be saved. Despite this, the introduction of iPads into this situation seems stressful. Relying on the iPad eliminates much of the work and experiences of learning. The idea of learning to write by using a stylus on the iPad or even using the touch screen to form words is not the same type of experience that our and other generations learned to write through.

miaashley's picture

Marxism, Alienation and False Consciousness

This week there was a strong presence of Marxist thought in both the Education and French literature courses. In last weeks conversation in French we discussed written language as the embodiment, the production and the perpetuation of colonial tools and epistemology for language communication—where the idea of a ‘written’ documented language is one brought by colonizers. In the same way that written language is discussed in post-colonial literature as the very essence of its contradictions, Marxism can be thought of similarly in the context of its presence in the Global South. What was essentially a western ideology permeated deeply into Global South nations and had/has a profound effect on much of the literature we are reading in our 360 course. In Cultural Action for Freedom the quote that stood out to me was, “His alienated culture prevents him from understanding that his thinking and world-expression cannot find acceptance beyond his frontiers unless he is faithful to his particular world.” It is interesting how Paolo Friere uses the ideas of alienation, false consciousness, power and class to discuss access to education and how to educate those we are marginalized and illiterate yet writes in an academic elite jargon that is only comprehensible to an esoteric population.  His writing reminded me greatly of The Power Elite by sociologist C. Wright Mills--the idea of forces larger than the individual controlling knowledge and access to the creation and attainment of truth.

couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

Reflection on Technology and Social Media

After weeks of class and many interactions with media and technology, I now feel like I am in a position where I can  really assess how technology is affecting (good and bad) my life.


Just from this class alone, my tech and computer  literacy has sped up faster than I expected. Not only can I type super fast, navigate the world of touch screen, and balance multiple social/interactive websites, I can also think in very short, twitter-like sentences (I am not so sure that is a good thing). However, I am struggling in the sense that I do not know how to (or can't at all) balance between my "worlds," as lugones would say, in school, personal, and social/online life. In some ways it is uncomfortable to have the three merged because there is no sense of identity. Part of having an identity is knowing that there are distinct "sections" of myself and I feel like they have all become one, muddled pile. Is it at all possible to make clear distinctions between identities once tech and social media is involved? Do we have control over these distinctions now that sites, like Facebook, can be left to the viewer's interpretation?

elchiang's picture

Am I Colonized?

Thinking back again to the chapter on Childhood and Postcolonization, I can’t help, but think how waste is also an example of how colonization still exists in our society. When the United Sates does not know what to do with all of their “stuff,” they just send it off to the Third World as a free gift. Not only is this unsustainable, but it is also perpetuating the power dynamic between the United States and other continents such as Asian and Africa. It is also ironic that the cycle is actually a cycle. Clothing, electronics, products are made by sweatshop workers or modern day slaves in factories in China or by children in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These products are then sent to the United States and Europe where marketers manipulate consumers into buying useless products that they will eventually dispose of in exchange for more useless goods. The products they are “useless” are then taken to thrift stores and second hand stores, which only end up selling one fifth of that back into the economy and society. Finally the cycle goes full circle as the United States then ships all of this clothing and electronics to the countries that made the products in the first place. At some point, even these countries do not even need the products since there are so many excess products.

et502's picture

Hesitating...

I’ve been hesitating to actually use my iPad - and no, I’m not writing this blog entry on the iPad. I probably could if I wanted to. But like I said, I’m hesitant. I know it will be really good for me, that I will benefit from the mental exercise...
But the thing is, it actually takes me a while to learn how to use a piece of technology. Like anyone else, I’m going through an adjustment period. So when I say I am able to use a cellphone or iPad, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m adept. And it will be much faster to just type this and submit it on my MacBook Pro (which I also don’t know how to use to its full capacity), than to try to use a whole other piece of equipment at the same time.

My boss keeps telling me that this generation needs to slow down - we’re too impatient, we don’t read the directions all the way through, overconfident that we’ll be able to just figure it out as we go. In class, I had a hard time paying attention to Olivia’s instructions - I was so eager to try out this new machine and start creating things! But as soon as class was over, I felt a sort of drag - “now what?” I think this is such a trend - we (my generation) are enthusiastic about something new (an instrument, a foreign language, an iPad) but as soon as we encounter difficulties - such as not knowing how to get from one App to another without going back to the main screen, or feeling slowed down by the unfamiliar touchpad - we hesitate.
OliviaC's picture

Ghana Linguistic Diversity Resources

Language Map of GhanaAs promised, here are some resources on linguistic diversity in Ghana:

African Languages: An Introduction(a recent-ish reference book, with maps, to get you started - on the shelves in Canaday 1st Floor)

Ghanaian language listings with various additional info included:

CIA World FactBook - check out the Languages section on the Ghana country page... most interesting is to go to the Dynamic Statstics Tables (just click on the Languages link from the Ghana country page) and cross-compare Languages with other variables like Literacy, Ethnic Groups, Administrative Divisions, etc.

Ethnologue: Languages of Ghana - includes speaker population, region, alternate names, language family and dialects, plus link for more information

GhanaWeb: Ghanaian Languages - includes detailed info for government-sponsored and non-government-sponsored languages

JBacchus's picture

Arrogant Perception in Lugones

In her article, Lugones discusses this idea of "world-travelling" - switching between "worlds" for the non-white woman. She writes that outsiders (whom she refers to as "women of color in the US) practice necessary "world-travelling". This "world travelling" is being able to exist and integrate in more than one culture ("world"). I do not necessarily disagree with what she says here, but I do have several criticisms of her ideas and her presentation of the fact.