The TEDxNYED videos are now up on YouTube—this event featured a stellar lineup of innovative minds of relevance to all librarians and educators, but I want to spotlight two of my favorites here: Henry Jenkins and Michael Wesch. Wesch, a significant source of inspiration for me in the last year, and Henry Jenkins, of whom I’ve been a fan for nearly two years but whom I am now inhaling after participating in his free webinar last week (which you can watch here by accessing the archives page), are more than worth your time, so check out their talks from March 2010.
Please check out my new and expanded version of looking at libraries as sponsors of literacy, or more specifically, transliteracy. This talk is being delivered today, April 13, at the Alabama Library Association YASRT/CSLD Preconference. This presentation is rooted in my previous studies (you can see my papers and readings from 2005 on my Slideshare page under “documents”) in the work of Dr. Deborah Brandt. I am very interested in replicating her ethnographic study with a focus on an expanded definition of literacy.
In this brief talk that is part of a larger presentation with Bobbi Newman and Matt Hamilton at Computers in Libraries (CIL) 2010 on Monday, April 12 at 11:30 AM in E102, I will discuss how librarians can use the frameworks of participatory librarianship and sponsors of literacy to conceptualize the ways we can integrate transliteracy seamlessly into our library programs. I also hope to post a video of this talk on YouTube later this week. You can visit the resource page for this talk at http://theunquietlibrarian.wikispaces.com/School+Libraries+as+Sponsors+of+Transliteracy .
Dr. Deborah Brandt is a Professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of The Acts of Writers, Readers and Texts (1990), Literacy in American Lives (2001), and Literacy and Learning: Reading, Writing, Society (2009). Dr. Brandt identifies her research interests as social and economic histories of mass literacy; the status of mass writing within late twentieth and early twenty-first century culture; diversity, equity, and access in literacy learning.
I first became interested in Dr. Brandt’s work in 2005 as part of a two semester independent research project I undertook under the direction of Dr. Mark Faust at the University of Georgia in the final year of my Ed.S. studies. Dr. Brandt’s work informed this research project and the three initial questions I sought to examine:
- What different kinds of literate communities exist, and how are they sponsors of literacy?
- How do these literate communities and literacy sponsors shape lifelong reading? How do they affect cultural perceptions about reading?
- How do books and reading define culture? How does culture define books and reading?
As part of this two-semester research project, I replicated (in my fledgling researcher way) Brandt’s research study on a small scale and explored the results of the data I collected. I would post my paper here via Slideshare, but under the terms of my IRB, I am not allowed to publish the work, but my findings were fairly consistent with those of Dr. Brandt’s even though my interview pool was much smaller.
Brandt takes a critical and sociolinguistic stance on literacy. In Literacy in American Lives, an ethnography of the literacy histories of eighty Americans, Deborah Brandt critically examines literacy learning, literacy development, and literacy opportunities through the critical lens of sponsors of literacy: “…any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstracts, who enable, support, teach, and model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy—and gain advantage by it in some way…sponsors are delivery systems for the economies of literacy, the means by which these forces present themselves to—and through–individual learners. They also represent the causes into which people’s literacy usually gets required” (19). Brandt views literacy a “valuable—and volatile property” (2) that can potentially help individuals gain “…power or pleasure, [accrue] information, civil rights, education, spirituality, status, [and] money” (7).
Brandt maintains in Literacy in American Lives that these sponsors of literacy are agents who “…support or discourage literacy learning and development as ulterior motive in their own struggles for economic or political gain” (26). By looking at sponsors of literacy in the lives of an individual, one can more easily see the economic forces at work in a person’s literacy learning history. Most importantly, Brandt feels that the analytical lens of sponsors of literacy reveals the connections between “…the ways money gets made and the way that literacy gets made” (26). By looking at the sponsorship of literacy in an individual’s life, one can see how acts of literacy learning reflect the social and economic conditions of an individual’s life and to trace the changing conditions of literacy learning across generations.
Five years later, I am still very interested in Brandt’s work and would like to engage in new research to revisit these questions, but I now would like to expand my definition of “literacy” and examine how people acquire and use other forms of literacy besides the traditional forms of reading and writing. In particular, I’m interested in looking at how people acquire and use multiple forms of literacy (with a focus on my expanding definition of information literacy) and how I could use the concept of transliteracy to theorize my findings.
Dr. Brandt graciously agreed to participate in a mini e-interview with me this last week and to share that e-interview with all of you via my blog. Below is the transcript of that e-interview:
1. Who or what do you feel now functions as primary sponsors of literacy (traditional as well as emerging/new literacies) in today’s society?
In all of these answers, my inclination is to say “it depends.” It depends on who we are talking about, where we are talking about, and why we are talking about it. The great big sponsors of literacy throughout history have always been religions, states (including schools and military), and commerce and I don’t really see that changing. These are the big catalysts for literacy learning and the agents of change and appropriation.
2. What economic, political, and/or cultural forces do you see impacting who (individuals or institutions) functions as primary sponsors of literacy?
Because our economy has shifted from manufacturing things to manufacturing symbols (mostly, written symbols which both deliver and manage services),literacy has been drawn much more directly into work in this country. The productivity of the country (its ability to compete globally) depends much more on the mass literacy of its citizens. So I think that is why we see technologies being used to stimulate people’s appetite for communication (these are the underlying skills the economy wants and needs and so it entices people to develop their communication skills during their leisure time so that eventually these skills can convert into labor), why the schools are being pressured more than ever to produce highly functioning literates, and why the “goodness” of literacy is seen less in terms of morality or (democratic) nation-building and more in terms of what it can do economically. In saying all this I do not mean to advocate for this view of literacy but only to suggest the pressures that create it. Because literacy has been so drawn into economic competition, we will inevitably be in literacy shortfall–in perpetual literacy crisis. There will never be enough. And this puts enormous pressures on teachers and students.
One of the big shifts that come along with literacy for productivity is the growing importance of writing. We will see much more attention to writing in schools in the coming years.
3. Last fall, the Knight Commission released a report and > recommendations on “The Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy”. I was wondering your thoughts and/or reactions to Recommendation 6 —do you feel these new literacies will be an essential form of “cultural capital” in today’s society? Do you think we may see a widening gap in segments of society in terms of access to these forms of literacy? (I’m thinking people who don’t have access to broadband at home or school and/or a place to access the Internet at a public library).
We know from history that changes that are introduced into literacy and communication rarely result in changes in the social order–the routes to access and reward for new literacies will take predictable forms that favor the already privileged. Also, as in the past, even obtaining high levels of technological skill and experience will not inoculate people against discrimination by gender, race, class, age, or other sources of stigma. But this means that our democratic institutions (schools and libraries particularly) have to work hard and thoughtfully to mitigate these forces. The gaps are complicated. One big gap is generational, creating problems in schools where older teachers struggle to keep up with technologically innovative students. We have to find better ways of allowing young people’s skills developed outside of formal institutions to flow more regularly into school. We have to make sure schools and libraries invite critical and active uses of media that strengthen our democratic potential. Wouldn’t it be great if people could go to their school or public library and get into conversation (by video conference or by internet) with people from all over their society and their world? This is certainly a period when educators and librarians and others could really re-imagine education and what is possible with new technology to distribute access and reward more equitably and to make sure that these incredibly powerful resources are used to better people lives and increase our capacities for democracy and justice.
Brandt, D. (2001). Literacy in American Lives. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Today is the day of TEDxNYED; if you miss the livestream of the outstanding lineup of speakers, be of good cheer: all video will be available on the TEDxNYED website and their YouTube Channel.
What is TEDxNYED?
TEDxNYED, an all-day conference examining the role of new media and technology in shaping the future of education, will take place in New York City on Saturday, March 6, 2010 and will be webcast live here at tedxnyed.com, allowing viewers around the world to join and engage in these ideas worth spreading.
TEDxNYED is operating under license from TED, organizers of the immensely popular TED Conference, an annual event where some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers are invited to share what they are most passionate about. In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading,” TED has created TEDx, a program of local, organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. ted.com/tedx.
TEDxNYED is independently organized by New York educators. At TEDxNYED, TED Talk videos and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connections. TEDxNYED presenters have been invited to share their insights and inspire conversations about the future of education. Attendees of the conference will participate via networking sessions where they will educate one another and, in the spirit of TED, help spread these ideas.
TEDxNYED is an all-day event designed to bring leading educators, innovators, and idealists together to share their vision of education. This event will provide a platform for administrators, teachers, and those passionate about education to connect, learn from these extraordinary speakers, and spread their ideas on how new media and technology are shaping the future of education. There will be live speakers, two recorded TED Talks, and a number of networking sessions both during and after the event
The lineup of speakers features some of the most innovative and forward-thinking minds in a broad range of fields that are impacting current thought in education as well as librarianship! Henry Jenkins, Michael Wesch, Andy Carvin, Chris Lehmann, and Lawrence Lessig are just a few of the stellar speakers.
Here are a few helpful links: