Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chapter 1 Response

For my first response, I am going to focus mainly on the first two questions:

  • What are your main insights and ideas from the given L&K chapter?
  • What unique terminology, jargon, buzzwords, and other concepts appear in this reading that required your careful attention and definition? What are your interpretations of these words and concepts?
The first thing that came to  my mind while reading chapter one of New Literacies by Lankshear and Knobel was how much has gone on in the last 30-40 years in terms of policy changes, definitions of literacy and general viewpoints.  While reading, I couldn’t stop thinking about my very first course at CU Denver on my road to becoming a teacher.  I had to read chapter upon chapter of texts telling me about the achievement gap and how low income most always correlated with low achievement.  I had such a hard time believing that as I continued through the course.  I kept thinking to myself, ‘yeah but if someone really wants it, they can go to college and be successful’.  It wasn’t until I stepped foot in my first internship at my current school that I fully began to understand what all the achievement gap stuff truly meant.

As I continued to read, I kept thinking about the term ‘illiterate’ and how its meaning has changed over the years in some sense.  In the 60s and 70s, if you were ‘illiterate’ it meant that you couldn’t read or write and that typically you were of the lower economic status.  Lankshear and Knobel state, “'Illiteracy’ and ‘illiterate’ usually carried social class or social group connotation.  Being illiterate tended to be associated with being poor, being of marginal status, and so on” (p. 12).  After my second year of teaching in a low-income school, I 100% see the achievement gap and how it affects my students.  I have many students who, in third grade, can’t read or write but I have never or will ever call them illiterate.  They have many skills that will help them on their road to becoming literate.  But there still is a correlation, in my eyes, between being illiterate and economic status.  I had one parent tell me she can’t really help her child because “I can’t read good or do math good myself because I only made it to 10th grade.”  I will never forget that conversation because it made me so sad and this parent wants to help her child so badly, but she doesn’t know how.    

However, I feel the term illiterate has taken on a more laid back, casual meaning in terms of ‘new literacies’.  For example, I hear my dad say all the time that he is technology illiterate or cell phone illiterate.  I don’t feel the term has such a negative connotation anymore in regards to new technologies, or maybe the term is just a generational thing...

Two of my students working on a research project 
Finally, as I was reading about the standardized tests internationally, I was getting frustrated that we are trying to compare ourselves with other counties.  There are so many factors that play into international comparisons that I feel it is like comparing apples and oranges.  Some countries only test their top 70% of students; some countries have longer school years or longer school days, some countries value education more than others.  I think it is OK to compare our students within our own country, but it is a sticky situation when you start throwing in different countries!  

I look forward to your thoughts!


  1. There are multiple aspects of this post that I find particularly effective Emily:
    - Your grounding in the connections between L&K's concepts and historical analysis, paired with your experience in the classroom
    - The inclusion of artifacts from your teaching, specifically the featured photograph of students collaborating
    - And your own opinion - and perhaps unknown questions about - the importance of literacies in formal schooling.

    I'm looking forward to reading your forthcoming posts.

  2. I enjoyed reading your experience with the gap between low income families and education. I was a working on a military base in Germany and worked quite frequently with an Autistic girl who used some sign language as she was hard of hearing. I remember the first time I met her parents and they were screaming at her to her face and using no sign language at all. I felt almost as if one day they wanted to wake up and their daughter would her their words. It was eye opening to see one set of parents (poor) response to communicating with their children. I enjoyed reading our past experiences!

    1. Hi Annie,
      Thanks for your reply...some parents can be frightening can't they?!? I am not a parent so I don't know a lot about parenting obviously but by being a teacher I am exposed to a lot of "what not to do" that's for sure! I have learned that kids are very resilient but it still makes you sad when you see that stuff.

  3. I really appreciate your teaching perspective on the topic of literacy. As you mentioned, hearing about the literacy gap for low income families didn't really hit home until you were teaching in the class room and working directly with the parents. This realization struck me because I really want these kiddos to have a chance in the world. The dreamer in me wonders if new literacies could offer new ways for teaching literacy. Perhaps that's why we're all enrolled in Digital Storytelling at CU--to make change.

    Thank goodness for teachers like you.

    1. Hi Susannah,
      Thanks for your comments! I really want them to have a chance in the world too! It is my hope that new literacies will help them the problem now becomes getting the resources to do so...never ending battle and no quick fix unfortunately.