Thursday, April 9, 2009

Balancing Two Literacies

My 6-year old daughter recently showed me a new way to navigate through one of her favorite websites. I told her she was smart and that she was much better with computers than I am. Her response, verbatim: "that's because you're old dad....and bald....and you have a huge forehead." I asked her if she wanted to kick my dog while she was at it, but she declined. Apparently her love for animals extends far beyond her love for her daddy.

My little angel's point is valid. I am old, and my educational experience is far different than the one she is about to endure. For one, students today have to deal with two literacies. One is of course the traditional literacy function that includes hard copy books, articles and newspapers. The other is a technological literacy function, one where blogs, articles, chat rooms etc. are read through the use of the Internet.

In the March 2009 issue of Educational Leadership, Joanne Rooney addresses this challenge in an article entitled Teaching Two Literacies. The following bullet points are a review of the article.
  • Technology has revolutionized reading, possibly as profoundly as the invention of the printing press.
  • The format for reading may have changed, but the ability to understand what is written is still at the core of reading.
  • Schools are held accountable for teaching the traditional literacy as well as incorporating new technology into the learning environment.
  • So the challenge becomes teaching both literacies.
  • The author offers 3 mindsets in order to achieve teaching two literacies:
  1. Continue to encourage students to read good books and effectively communicate through writing.
  2. Redefine the term literacy, with less focus on textbooks.
  3. Create a culture in school that is focused on reading, writing and thinking.

So how do we create a culture as described? Nine suggestions:

  • Emphasize reading and writing school wide (poetry writing contests etc.)
  • Create student blogs or chat rooms
  • Create time and space for silent reading
  • Encourage teachers to use web tools that "hook" students.
  • Create book clubs for staff
  • Encourage electronic journal keeping for students and staff
  • Train or encourage teachers to read and write in both literacies
  • Model both literacies
  • Teach parents the importance of reading to or with their students.

This article provides good perspective on attempting to balance the new and traditional forms of literacy. The challenge of balancing the two is not going away. The sooner schools accept these two literacies as a reality for our students, the sooner we can start to find a proper balance in order to create the best possible learning opportunities for our students.

For a little pick me up, check out the tune Black Betty by Ram Jam. I have no idea what the song is about, but it's a catchy tune and it makes me want to play the air guitar while lip-synching. It's a great reminder that I could be a bodacious rock star if I only had musical ability.........or talent...............or could play an instrument.

The Red Sox are 1-1. At this current pace, they will finish 81-81. Luckily, they play the White Sox 7 times this year, so that's 7 wins in the bank. That should be enough to make the playoffs. Go Bosox!


  1. Brett, i have to say, i really enjoy reading your blogs, (even though your wife is wittier)((and you are a misguided baseball fan)) (((i blame it on your misguided youth.))) you had to throw in that part about forming book clubs for the teachers though didn't you can't i just stick to reading the backs of my baseball cards???

  2. Brett, parents reading to their kids is huge. I improved as a reader and became more interested in it when my mom used to read to me in elementary school. And no she doesn't read to me anymore thank you very much. By the way, Brett you are not misguided, just educated on supporting good baseball. The 2004 and 2007 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox are two things I enjoy reading about regularly.

  3. If your six year old thinks YOU are old, I wonder what my 11 year old thinks of me. (I really try hard to listen to the Hard Rock music he likes at a loud volume!) I first started working with technology in 1977 with keypunch but it is passing me by at break-neck speed. I'm sure Alex will also pass me by one of these days if he hasn't already. I enjoyed your synopsis a lot. Thanks. Oh, and really it's a wonder we all don't have to wear shades to protect us from your forehead! Kids say the darnedest things!

  4. Very well said, not just what your daughter said but the point of the article. It makes me feel good, I feel we are on the right track here at GKMS!!