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Theory and History of Literacy

Open Directory - Literacy

The Consequences of Literacy in Pragmatic and Theoretical Perspectives
by Akinnaso, F. Niyi

"Drawing on resources from anthropology, linguistics, psychology, and education, this paper examines critically the effects of literacy on cultural traditions, linguistic behavior, socio-economic organization, cognitive processes, and child development..."

Defining Literacy: Paradise, Nightmare or Red Herring?
by Roberts, Peter

"In the past fifty years, hundreds of definitions of 'literacy' have been advanced by scholars, adult literacy workers, and programme planners. This paper analyses three major approaches to the problem of defining literacy: quantitative, qualitative and pluralist. The pluralist perspective, while not without its difficulties, appears to have the most to offer in understanding literacy in the contemporary world."

Literacy in theory and practice, Brian V. Street

"This book challenges conventional theories about literacy, and the practices which often arise from them. It attempts to provide a new perspective through which the variety of literacy practices across different cultures can be viewed and from which the practical issues that arise in specific literacy campaigns and programmes can be approached. Dr Street first examines the explicit theories developed about literacy within different academic disciplines, on the premise that these underlie statements about literacy within development campaigns and in everyday usage. He analyses in detail arguments about the 'technical' and 'neutral' nature of literacy and its supposed 'cognitive' consequences in the work of some psychologists, linguists and social anthropologists. He claims that these amount to a coherent but flawed model that he terms the 'autonomous' model of literacy. Against this he poses an 'ideological' model, one which pays greater attention to the social structure. He attempts to bring together recent shifts in this direction in writings on literacy and to construct a coherent model for further work."

The Legacies of Literacy: continuities and contradictions in western culture and society, Harvey J. Graff

"Clearly an important book... marks a significant point in the history of literacy studies." -- History of Education Quarterly

Digital Literacy Applied in Academic and Working Environments

Digital Literacies: Embracing the Squishiness of Digital Literacy
by Chase, Zac and Laufenberg, Diana

"The article discusses digital literacy, focusing on what the authors see as the ambiguous nature of the term. It addresses the difficulty of defining the term and the implications of this for teachers and educators. The authors suggest that there is not a need for the term digital literacy since it simply signifies the act of reading and writing in a different environment..."

Becoming Literate in the Information Age: Cultural Ecologies and the Literacies of Technology
by Hawisher, Gail E.; Cynthia L. Selfe; Brittney Moraski; and Melissa Pearson

"In this article, we discuss the literacy narratives of coauthors Melissa Pearson and Brittney Moraski, who came to computers almost a generation apart. Our goal is to demonstrate the importance of situating literacies of technology-and literacies more generally-within specific cultural, material, educational, and familial contexts that influence, and are influenced by, their acquisition and development."

by Hobbs, Renee

"The article looks at the factors to consider for the acquisition of digital and media literacy competencies in the U.S. The author believes that media literacy is necessary for people to acquire knowledge and make responsible decisions in the digital age. It also notes that to promote the advancement of media literacy, people need to build a community education movement, create community level initiatives, and increase visibility for digital and media literacy education."

Writing the future in the digital age
by Merchant, Guy

"Meaning making in new media presents new opportunities and challenges for those working in formal and informal educational contexts. How this impacts on a literacy curriculum that attempts both to deliver ‘the basics’ and to respond to new technology demands careful exploration. This paper examines what we mean by digital literacy and how it differs from traditional print literacy, identifying some key priorities for literacy educators..."

Digital Literacy: Human Flourishing and Collective Intelligence in a Knowledge Society
by Poore, Megan

"How is digital literacy important to human flourishing? With so many students today using online and digital tools such as Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and smartphones, this paper investigates the implications for educators in raising students' levels of digital literacy. Using Pierre Lévy's work on collective intelligence as my starting point, I explore the types of digital literacies that both teachers and students will need to develop if we are to make the most of new technologies as humanity emerges into a new 'knowledge space'..."

New Literacies as a Challenge for Traditional Knowledge Conceptions in School: A Case Study from Fifth Graders Digital Media Production
by Rantala, Leena and Korhonen, Vesa

"New literacies children practice and learn in their everyday life, and these concepts have challenged school's traditional knowledge conceptions as certain facts, principles or techniques. Schools have also more broadly struggled with the question of how to deal with digital media in terms of access, technological support, teacher agencies or fundamental structures of school culture. Digital media production as a common media education practice brings new literacies inside classrooms as children engage collaboratively with creative and multimodal tools..."

Teaching Two Literacies
Rooney, Joanne

"The article presents reflections on changes in communication and literacy skills in the 21st-century and the educational shifts which must accompany them. It is asserted that due to the advent of the Internet and digital communications, students must be taught literacy in both "pre- and post-digital" frameworks. The mutual need to adapt to innovations in communications technology and culture as well as to endorse traditional language and communication skills is particularly addressed."

In defence of writing: a social semiotic perspective on digital media, literacy and learning
by Skaar, Håvard

"From a learning perspective, social semiotics researchers tend to focus on the liberation latent in the multimedia options available through the new media. It is true that digital media democratise the possibilities open to the general public of a more varied and comprehensive text production than ever before, both in and outside school. Participating in this text production naturally implies a richer potential for learning. But digital technology also allows us to opt out of, and thus avoid, semiotic work."

Technology and Literacy: A Story of the Perils of Not Paying Attention
Selfe, Cynthia L.

"Technology is either boring or frightening to most humanists. Many teachers of English composition feel it antithetical to their primary concerns and many believe it should not be allowed to take up valuable scholarly time or the attention that could be best put to use teaching or the study of literacy."

Critical Literacies in a Digital Age
by Warnick, Barbara

"This book is written for teachers, students, and members of the general reading public who are interested in persuasive discourse about technology affects how we think about it. Much of the writing about communication technology in the popular media tacitly subscribes to a utopian vision of how the Internet and the Web will improve our lives, lighten our work, strengthen the economy, and lead to other positive outcomes. The aim of this book is to examine the persuasive strategies used in discourse on and about the Internet. It makes use of a critical literacy framework that is built on the principle that everyone should, insofar as possible, become aware of what is assumed, unquestioned, and naturalized in our media experience."

Potentially Relevant Articles

HTML for Babies

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Public Connection through Media Consumption: Between Oversocialization and De-Socialization?
by Couldry, Nick and Markham, Tim

Performing Writing, Performing Literacy
Fishman, Jenn; Andrea Lunsford; Beth McGregor; and Mark Otuteye

"This essay reports on the first two-years of the Stanford Study of Writing, a five-year longitudinal study aimed at describing as accurately as possible all the kinds of writing students perform during their college years. Based on an early finding of how much importance students attach to their out-of-class or self-sponsored writing and subsequent interviews with study participants, we argue that student writing is increasingly linked to theories and practices of performance. To illustrate the complex relationships between early college writing and performance, we explore the work of two study participants who are also co-authors of this essay."

Reimagining the Functional Side of Computer Literacy
Selber, Stuart A.

"Although computer literacy amounts to a complex set of interconnected capacities, teachers of writing and communication have tended to ignore functional issues, which are crucial to many aspects of online work. This essay reimagines the functional side of computer literacy, arguing for an approach that is both effective and professionally responsible."