Thursday, 9 October 2008

Literacies of fusion - first thoughts

Much sympathy with the literacies of fusion concept. Millard advocates a productive dialogue between pupils and teachers about practices taking place outside school (TV, DVDs, videogames, readings of books and comics) and other, more conventional pedagogic practices rehearsed inside school.

There is some resonance for me in HE – what are our students doing (esp. with technology) outside the lecture theatre or before coming to uni? What can we learn from it? How can we use what they do to support them in their studies? Can the energies/enthusiasm of the fun/socialising stuff they do off campus be directed toward the learning outcomes of HE courses?

I like the fusion cuisine metaphor too – it doesn’t suggest one cuisine replacing another but, rather, a new combination. Analogue and digital terrine to start; a main course of fricass√© of linearity and multimodality; a dessert of popular culture tart on a coulis of canonical texts? This appeals to me as I also think school is a place where you should be exposed to things you don't get at home as well (e.g. my white, European, secular children are learning about Diwali and Chinese New Year).

I also wonder – but others know schools better than I do - if Millard doesn’t construct a bit of a straw man in her description of the ways schools operate:
“… the precedence of written, over spoken texts with a hierarchy of importance topped by the analytical and expository skills of essayist literacy, which still dominate modes of assessment in higher education (Lillis, 2001). It is based on the reaffirmation of a standard, written, national language, transmitted largely through a print-based, linear pedagogy.”

Are things really that fixed? I'm always delighted by the creativity of the environments I see in my children's schools and nurseries (colourful work plastered on every wall, welcome messages in 15 different languages etc.).

I'd accept the claim that "essayist literacy" is probably still the default mode of academic discourse expected in HE - even on this course apparently ;-) - but is it the same in schools? I read Clare Dowdall's article on dissonance at about the same time and was struck by how the school-based writing activity ('Knightly Norman') encouraged pupils to engage in a degree of linguistic/stylistic play (news report on events of 1066) - some degrees removed from "essayist literacy".

I wasn't sure of the connection between Millard's advocacy of fusion literacies - essentially to support reading and composition - and her conclusion in which she cites Giroux's conception of literacy as "an emerging act of consciousness and resistance" (which sounds a bit like Paolo Freire). Literacy defined here sounds like the ability to uncover the mecanisms of ideological manipulation and discover the real relations of power at play. At what age could/should children be expected to engage with texts at this level of sophistication?

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