Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is This Literacy?

It’s so hard for the casual observer to tell when literacy instruction is going on in a classroom. So many people—from parents to politicians, and from administrators to teachers—expect to see students hunched over books or scribbling away on paper. From this perspective, literacy is reading and writing. It’s books and essays, literature and research papers.

What I like about the Language Arts article “Literacy All the Livelong Day: A Picture Portfolio of Kindergarten Teaching and Learning” (E) is its visual display of ways that 21st century literacy goes far beyond conventional expectations of reading and writing. When I look at the images in that article, I wish that I’d had the foresight to take pictures of all the classrooms where I taught to document the literacy skills that students explore and extend as they work together on individual and group projects.

If every teacher had a Flickr album that showed literacy in action, what a rich resource we’d have. I wonder what we might learn and what we might teach all those casual observers with such collections. If everyone could see and hear images and videos of students exploring the many varied texts that they encounter, could we eliminate the observer’s question “Is this literacy?” and replace it with “Look at the ways literacy is happening here!”

12 comments:

Clancy said...

It's a good idea in theory, but a lot of parents would probably be utterly irate if photographs of their children were posted on Flickr. Maybe they could blur out the faces or something. FERPA might extend to this as well. Sorry to be such a killjoy...

Teru Lesesne said...

We were just having this discussion at the university yesterday as NCATE wants us to video folks in our library program booktalking to kids. I wondered about the privacy issues as well. I am assuming that if they are posted, there is permission.

On another topic, I am pleased to see NCTE enter into the blogosphere and hope there is a wiki or two in its future, too.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth does NCTE use blogger?

Can't they afford a free download of wordpress?

Ethos, folks.

Nick said...

The photo idea is great. Next stop is youtube. A real good place for photos would be on a school's WWW site, the place parents and administrators and others concerned about education in a given community are likely to go.

Each school could have its own best practices digital teaching portfolio.

Karla Kitalong said...

I am currently collecting photographs to illustrate the life of a composition instructor at my institution, where our full-timers teach 4/4 with classes capped at 27. This article is a great model. One of my colleagues has suggested making a video; I love his excitement, but realistically, is that going to happen ? Photographs, on the other hand, are a real possibility.


Obviously, we don't have the same privacy issues as they do in elementary schools, but I assume that if we include students in any of our photos, we'd have them sign some kind of release.

Traci Gardner said...

Darn it all. You're right, of course, Clancy. I guess that's why we don't have such archives. And as Teri's comments suggest, this issue is all tied up with assessment. No wonder politicians like standardized tests. No one ever sees the documents, no chance of students' work getting us into privacy issues.

Depressing really. Perhaps student artifacts (with family permission) and pictures of empty classrooms are the best we can do.

Traci Gardner said...

NCTE is in the process of creating their own blogging tools, which will tie into the association management software that the organization uses to track memberships, book sales, and so forth.

We're using blogger as a stop gap, till we have our own tool in place. I know that Wordpress and Drupal are free, but they wouldn't integrate with that management software. So, anonymous, there is a reason for the choice.

Pete England said...

Ethos also means encouraging other writing teachers to keep working.

Great work, Traci! Yaaaay!

Anonymous said...

"Literacy All The Livelong Day" reminds of of my student- teaching at a university attached pre-school. Parents were concerned that free play was not preparing their kids for elementary and the teachers responded by preparing a special night when we showed all the parents how literacy was built into all the activities in our pre-school including the math skills in the sand and water tables.

cindi in l.a.

Dickie Selfe said...

Of course we need to collect the correct permissions. But the idea is terrific from K-college.

At the Partnership for 21st Century "skills" (P21) this last weekend, one of the most talked about suggestions for getting new teachers and parents to understand the notion of new literacies in the classroom was (Framed by Randy Bomer, former NCTE pres.) the need for these groups to literally "see" what it looks like to integrate these skills into our curricula.

They were talking about highly edited video, though there was some mention of youtube sites as well. I like this idea at least as well (as long as we include reflective pieces by teachers (explaining the potential and constraints) and students (explaining what the liked and learned or what they are concerned about). We need to take advantage of the things we do every day because none of us really have time to invent an entirely new set of materials. Why not foreground what we do well and often?

The teachers, national org. leaders, IT professionals who attended P21 found this idea compelling.

chezoph said...

Clancy, I understand the concerns of the parents. I too would have them if my daughter were in school. I would like us to feel safe and free in posting photos, writing, and commentary of children. So what do we do in the meantime? Take risks? Limit access to viewing to registered parents, relatives, interested parties? I don't know the answer.

chezoph

Traci Gardner said...

Another article on photo evidence of learning: Academic Scrapbooking: Snapshots of Learning from Edutopia.