Reflecting on New Literacies 5: from NCTE Voices from the Middle

The most recent edition of Voices from the Middle, a journal by the National Council of Teachers of English, is centered around the idea of New Literacies, and so I have been very excited to dive into the articles. There’s a lot of great and interesting research in here, and so I decided I would break up my reflections on the reading into a series of blog posts.

Writer Phil Nichols begins his interesting article (From Knowledge to Wisdom: Critical Evaluation in New LIteracies Instruction) with a comment that at first seems like an adult complaining that technology instruction is too isolated from meaning. Then, you realize that it comes from one of Nichols’ students, and that realization that his student is right, that technology “…should have a purpose.

What this comment by his student does is help Nichols re-evaluate a traditional web-building project for Animal Farm, and recast the entire learning experience into one of “agency” of the student, who is no longer building a static website to share some knowledge, but creating personas within a social networking environment that draws students into the content in an engaging way. Students used Facebook to creating pages for an “ideal society” that would then be voted on by ninth graders.

While much of the content expectation remained the same, even with the shift, Nichols concludes that the use of a social networking space that students already inhabit allowed them to see the power and drawbacks of the space in a new light, and allowed them to showcase and publish the wider, real world. It provided his students with a critical media lens.

“If we teach students to make websites, they only gain the transferable skill of being able to make more websites. But if we teach students to inquire into the purposes and limitations of a medium, then they will be able to transfer that inquiry to any new medium — including those that have yet to be invented. (page 69)

This is the most important sentence in the whole piece. Our instruction must be focused less on the “this moment” in technology and more on the “any moment” idea because we all know that changes will take place, and the tools today will not likely be the tools of tomorrow (sorry, Facebook). But inquiry skills and critical reading/writing with media skills, and more, are going to be so important to our students, and they need exposure, scaffolding and time to play and explore and reflect in the New Literacy world.

Peace (in the sharing),



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