Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of insiders and outsiders as it relates to education, technology, and the development of the self. While there are definitely three posts brewing in my mind (see below), I’ll save two for another day. But, to be a little more transparent, here’s what I’ve been thinking about…
- In my Klingenstein Leadership class, I had the chance to examine a case study which initiated conversation around the idea of increasing diversity in independent schools. While I can’t refer to the specifics of the study for confidentiality reasons, it made me think about problems with diversity initiatives – especially those programs which aim to increase the “outsiders” within certain communities without proper preparation and planning. It made me frustrated and sad for the many students who have difficult (and often detrimental) experiences as “outsiders” in schools. [I’ll hopefully find time to post about this later in the week.]
- Yesterday, a tweet directed me to a blog post that addressed the experience of an ELL (English Language Learner) in a Georgia classroom. The tweet said, “if you only read one thing today, read the posts/comments.” I would argue that if you only read one thing this week, make sure to put this post at the top of your list. I was profoundly affected, as it encompasses what’s been on my heart and mind recently. Rocio, the student featured in the post, beautifully describes her experience as an ELL student – an outsider – within the context of a school classroom. “We don’t have a personality until we own the language the people around us use to communicate,” she explains. The statement of “you can’t be who you really are in someone else’s language” is a powerful one – and one that adds even more texture to the context of my reflections this week in light of insiders/outsiders. [Again, I’ll hopefully find time to post about this later in the week.]
- Finally, the assigned reading for my Literacies and Technologies class (New Literacies; ch. #1 “From ‘Reading’ to ‘New’ Literacies”) addressed a completely different subject (much less heart, a lot more head) but strangely connected to the concept of insiders/outsiders that I’d been mulling over all week. Rocio’s statement, “You can’t be who you really are in someone else’s language,” powerfully relates to the ideas of literacy (post-1970) and the implications for educators striving to teach skills of the 21st century to students who desperately need them.
In the first chapter of New Literacies, Lankshear and Knobel introduce readers to the idea that “literacy” is dynamic and multi-faceted. It is not as simple as defining someone as literate or illiterate. While this complex idea of literacy has not always been as an educational focus (especially prior to 1970), I am intrigued by the development of the definition of literacy. Last week, Gee provided a strong foundation but this week, I have found the sociocultural perspective presented by E.D. Hirsch and the 3D model (Green) to be the most salient.
The 3D model builds on Hirsh’s idea of cultural literacy but adds that:
Literacy should be seen as having three interlocking dimensions of learning and practice: the operational, the cultural, and the critical. These dimensions bring together language, meaning, and context, and no one dimension has any priority over the others. In an integrated view of literate practice and literacy pedagogy, all dimensions need to be taken into account simultaneously. (p. 15)
It is essential that educators grasp this concept – especially since it’s essential that we teach 21st century literacies within the school walls. On school campuses across America (and across the world), there are insiders and outsiders in relation to the conversations concerning literacy, technology, and education. Jonanthan Kozol would argue that in some schools (schools I have visited in New York and Atlanta), literacy in its basic form isn’t being taught (and sadly, there is eerie silence in place of rich conversations around technology and education). Luckily, in many schools (public and private), the idea of multiple literacies (the 3D model) is being addressed. I believe that in order to prepare students to be productive citizens in a global economy, educators must attend to the operational, cultural, and critical dimensions of learning and practice. Then, the conversation concerning technology and education will have a stronger foundation and might naturally follow.
All of this relates (maybe too tangentially) to the idea of insiders and outsiders. If we only teach children the operational dimension of literacy, we are not teaching them the language of the 21st century. Essentially, we are making them outsiders because they won’t be able to understand someone else’s language. In the past, participation (reading/writing – on paper) was sufficient for the navigation of the world outside the school walls. Now, students must understand the language of the 21st century – and educators must help them work toward creating that understanding. This means that they (students and teachers) must be “able to transform and actively produce” literacy while moving past “operational or technical competence by contextualizing literacy with due regard for matters of culture, history, and power” (p. 16). What does this look like in the classroom? A starting place would be some of the ideas in Richardson’s book – using blogs, wikis, and podcasts (and Flickr, Del.icio.us, and RSS) to create, transform, analyze, gather, manipulate, search, navigate, and evaluate. Educators (we) must help students (them) learn the world’s language so they can express who they really are – in a language they feel comfortable with and understand.