When The Last Raspberry Is Sour

When I woke up this morning, mommy pajamas still on, I fell into my role as the foreman of the household.  In my “Mom Me” voice, I orchestrated drinking of chocolate milk, brushing of teeth, putting on of shoes, and zipping of rain jackets.  I then changed into a pair of Old Navy Pixie ankle pants (delighted that they fit me like regular pants, and there’s no hemming required), donned a long open cardigan, and slid my feet into boots with sensibly low heels to go to work, disguised as “Teacher Me.” I packed some raspberries, a yogurt, and some leftover penne vodka, and I was off! I taught my classes, stopped at HomeGoods, as “Public Me,” and came home to immediately remove the Pixie pants and cardigan, and put on a pair of leggings.  Aah! “Home Me.”  Later, I will hop in the shower, get dressed for dinner in my nice denim jeans, high heeled boots, black blouse, and leopard sweater, to become “Social Me.”  

While I was reading the Harvard Educational Review’s article, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures,” a validating, insightful, and, at times, a little-too-Marxist-for-my-personal-taste look at multiliteracies, I couldn’t help but connect the authors’ ideas on “three realms of our existence: our working lives, our public lives (citizenship), and our private lives (lifeworld)” (p.65) to my ever-towering pile of laundry, and its various identities.  I’ve always bemoaned (usually late at night, when I’m still fluffing and folding and sorting) the need for so many wardrobes, to fit so many roles and identities and occasions.  And I’ve always acknowledged, sometimes comically, the need to use “different voices,” different personalities, tones, inflections, when speaking and when writing.  But I’ve never actually connected those ideas to pedagogy in the classroom before reading this article. In that way, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” was deeply validating, if, for nothing else, for making those connections to phenomena about which I was already keenly aware.

And the article was insightful in the implications about language it raised: that there’s a language for work, a language for power, and a language for community.  I’d actually argue that one of the main shortcomings in this article is actually its limited scope for the various languages people need, possess, and employ throughout their lifetimes.  And I really enjoyed how the article tied together two seemingly disparate premises: that there are now different media channels and outlets for language, which has broadened the scope of multiliteracy, and that there exist, as a result of ever-expanding globalism, coupled with increasing tribalism among subsets of communities, giving way to different languages and varieties of speech.  From a mathematics-perspective, the multiplication is simple: where there used to be one public sphere and one national identity, there was only one type of literacy.  Now there are many spheres of public and private life, and a rich array of identities and speech varieties, so there are multiple types of literacy needed.

Indeed, the root of many problems in social circles is the misuse of language, the “wearing of the wrong outfit,” if those clothes were words.  Did “Mom Me” condescend to my husband? Did “Teacher Me” give my waitress the wrong impression?  Did I accidentally let “Social Me” speak in the classroom?  So much of what we teach our students with regards to multiliteracies has to do with audience and purpose, with tone and style and voice.  It’s the reason a student’s too-casual email is perceived as rude, or why a teacher’s too-professional reply is received as aloof.  

It’s why, as the authors state, “With a new worklife comes a new language.” (p. 66)  Walk into any (pre-COVID) teacher’s lounge, and drown in the alphabet soup: SGOs, PDPs, and ILTs, RTI and GCN, IEPs and PLEPs and 504s… This type of jargon, and industry-specific language certainly is the result of the “postFordism” the authors described, although the mini-walk through US labor history was slightly tangential.  (Or so I thought…More on that topic later…)

I really perked up when, finally, the authors arrived at the point I had been waiting for: educational implications!  A thrice-underlined, exclamation-mark punctuated “Yes!” is scribbled in my margin next to: “Our job is not to produce docile, compliant workers.  Students need to develop the capacity to speak up, to negotiate, and to be able to critically engage with the conditions of their working lives.”  Amen!  This is our mission!  This is our goal!  This is the endgame of education: to create critical thinkers, students who have power and agency, and the literacy skills to express themselves successfully, and to fully engage in this world!

I was elated, too, that the article seemed to embrace the pluralism on which its ideas were premised: “…we have called this utopian possibility productive diversity, the idea that what seems to be a problem- the multiplicity of cultures, experienes, ways of making meaning, and ways of thinking- can be harnessed as an asset (Cope & Kalantzis, 1995).” (p. 67)  And, while I was a little hesitant at the use of the word “utopian,” I was pleased at the authors’ conclusion: Our diversity is our strength. 

 Alas, in the words of Robert Frost, “Nothing gold can stay.”  Enter: Marxist theory.  The authors seemed to veer sharply off the topic of multiliteracy in education, and into the realm of sociology.  And it was very apparent: Capitalism is evil, a new communism is “Indicative of a new world order [in which] liberalism… eschews the state.” (p. 68)  The rest is a self-proclaimed “manifesto,” rambling on about how to use schools as petri-dishes for social reengineering, churning out students adept at “negotiating” between working, public, and private worlds, fluent in Newspeak, and using language to create “symbolic capital” (i.e. virtue signaling).  The section was actually concluded with the frightening line: “This is the basis for a new social contract, a new commonwealth.” (p. 73)  Wow.  Just, wow.  

Honestly, as an educator, this felt a little dirty.  Even great summations, like “One and the same person can be different kinds of people at different times and places” (p. 74) weren’t enough to rinse the lingering bitterness of Communism out of my mouth.  Reading this article was like eating a bunch of raspberries, red, juicy, and sweet, and popping a rotten one in my mouth last, with a sour little seed getting lodged in my back molar.  I think, over all, the ideas in this article were solid, and I would have enjoyed its content more if I didn’t have to ransack my desk drawer in search of a toothpick!

Thankfully, Paul Kei Matsuda offered me that toothpick, in his “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World.”  This article was, for me, not only more personally relevant, but also much more practical than theoretical.  Matsuda offered a decent overview of school-related topics and terms (ELS, ESOL, ELL, etc.) and quickly go the subject of multiliteracy.  He acknowledged that there is a “dominant variety of U.S. English,” (p. 40) but that even native speakers do not all access this dominant variety in the same way.   

Much the same is true of my own experience learning a foreign language.  I can still remember my classmates, who spoke various flavors of Spanish in the home, opening up class dialogues which usually began with the tag, “In my country, we say it like this…”  There were different phrases and constructions, depending on whether my classmates were of Cuban or Dominican descent, from Columbia or Peru.  My teacher’s response, however, was always the same: “We are learning Spanish from Spain.”  She meant it to put the debate to rest, but what she was really doing was asserting one standard as the dominant variety, and establishing everything else as the variant.  And we teachers of English often do the same: “We are learning to write in proper English” or something to that degree, I’m sure, would draw snickers from teachers in England, or Australia, or South Africa, or Ireland, or any other English-speaking country in the world.  And it really drives home the idea that there is no such thing as “one language,” even within one language!  This naturally begs the question: how do we teach ELL’s English when there’s no consensus as to “which English” we teach?

Matsuda then goes on to outline how to approach teaching ELL’s at various stages of their English acquisition, and, I think, provides important points to note in each phase.  He then finishes with a few “Intellectual Issues and Controversies” that don’t seem too controversial to me (but I just escaped a Marxist bait-and-switch, so maybe my barometer needs recalibration).  Over all, Matsuda’s essay was the toothpick: very valuable for getting the job done, as long as you didn’t try to eat it. 

Multiliteracy and Multilingual Considerations

The theme of citizenship and how to be responsible and empathetic participants in our society continues with this weeks’ readings on multiliteracies and multilingual composition/pedagogy. In both “Teaching Composition in a Multilingual World” and “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures“, we are reminded that the world of education is still trying to work itself out of practices that promote homogenous conformity and into ones that embrace diversity. I think that these readings were particularly impactful for me this week as I was faced with my privilege of being someone who has always been an English speaker and writer. With my background in mind, I want to explore a few of the ideas that stood out to me in these writings. Namely, the need to move to a multilingual education system and to create an environment that embraces multiliteracy.

I am going to be honest and say that the idea of learning a new language feels overwhelming. That said, I can only imagine how much more overwhelming it would feel if learning the new language wasn’t a choice and was vital for me to succeed. This is the case for many students in U.S. classrooms today. In Matsuda’s essay “Teaching Composition in a Multilingual World”  he discusses how students who do not speak English as their first language are placed in an education system that then divides them off from the English speakers or judges their work based on the ‘proper’ English speaker. He gives a brief overview of the history of ELL students and how policies slowly developed over time to try to create a more equitable learning environment. Though the writing classroom is still not fully adapted to cater to ELL students, it has become more accommodating; even so, Matsuda argues that there is still a great deal of oversight in education around multilingual pedagogy. Among the solutions Matsuda offers to remedy the ongoing issues in education are having teachers be trained to assist ELL students instead of leaving it up to specialists, teaching English speaking students to be multilingual as they interact in a society that is globalized, and revising placement procedures for ELL students (47-49).

As I read about the need for English speakers to learn to adapt to a globalize society by entering into the role of multilingual learner, I felt that sense of overwhelm I mention above. Again, this is the discomfort of privilege and there is little to pity in that. Overwhelm aside, I also feel a continued sense of excitement as I once again find the common theme of adopting these different theories and practices to promote a pedagogy of social engagement. Seeing how important it is to learn how to function in a world that is so interlinked to people of different backgrounds and languages, I feel an even greater responsibility as a citizen and writer. I’ve always wanted to help students who were coming to academia with barriers, but I will admit one of the areas I haven’t thought a lot about is language. As Matsuda says, I felt that a specialist needed to be the one to address ELL students difficulties. This mindset contributes to the ongoing separation of ELL student learning and English learning. So how do we shift the view so that multiliteracy starts to be part of the main curriculum, instead of as a side ‘issue’ for specialists to deal with?

My hypothesis is that part of the problem is that, as Matsuda’s article mentions,“…second language writers are subject to the institutional practices of various related fields, including composition studies…”(37). So, second language writers have drawn on the composition field, but have they been able to inform it? I think this is the change that would need to occur in order to see the changes Matsuda proposes that we need.

The second article in the readings this weeks picks up the issue of education being informed by old ways of learning by exploring literacy. Again, due to the expansiveness of our society that has been created by technology, The New London Group argues that we need to adopt new ways of pedagogy around literacy. No longer is literacy limited to the world of pen and paper, but it has grown to encompass computers and media of all sorts beyond the written word. The authors propose ideas that could be the seeds to start a movement in education towards integrating multiliteracy approaches in the classroom.

This article was very jargon filled and confusing for me. Especially at the end when they start proposing their methods for how change might be brought about. I was excited to see what the ideas were, but the inability to understand made it a disappointing read. That said, I do agree with the spirit of the process of “design” that they discuss. My interpretation of it is similar to what I said above about multiliteracy pedagogies being informed by current curriculum instead of the other way around. The London Group propose that their needs to be a “Available Design”, “Design”, and “Redesign” process to create a new language and pedagogy (73-74). This process draws on old information and by reconsidering, rethinking, and integrating new information, allows for a redesign of existing theories or practices (74). This model would be beneficial to implement both for a new pedagogy of literacy and for a practice of multilingual pedagogy.

I know that there has to have been more research and development since The New London Group met in 1994, so the next step for me would be to look around and see if their theories were actually put into practice or if better theories were developed. Based on an article I read last week for electronic literature (check it out if you want to learn more), I can see that multiliteracy has slowly made its way into the education system. I believe because our world is increasingly informed by intersectional approaches to life, we will see this trend grow; in the next twenty years, we will have a whole new understanding of what it means to be literate.

I think both of these articles were helpful in being exposed to multilingual and mutliliteracy theories, but I definitely feel I have so much to learn. I am still playing catch up on a lot of theory and jargon in this world of Writing Theory and Practice, so I often feel overwhelmed by the readings. That said, I know from experience that feeling like a deer in headlights is part of the initial phase of learning about a new topic. In the meantime, I am enjoying the exposure to new ideas and I am thankful for the moments of recognizing common ideas and themes.

Works Cited

Matsuda, Paul Kei. “Teaching Composition in The Multilingual World.” Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, Perspectives, edited by Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda, 1st ed., Utah State University, 2016.

The New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Review, Spring 1996, pp.60-92.

A Multiliteracy Boy and his Metalanguage

To summarize “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures,” all one would have to do is read the first few sentences: “New London Group presents a theoretical overview of the connections between the changing environment facing students and teachers and a new approach to literacy pedagogy that they call “multiliteracies.”  All of this is so easy to understand that I shouldn’t have to complete the rest of this paper.  However, what environments are the authors speaking about?  What is pedagogy according to the authors? What are multiliteracies? Please keep in mind that the ten scholars who dedicated their time and energy to the onset and creation of this piece did so in 1944 and was then subsequently added to and amended at various points of progress.  To me, these are the most pertinent questions of my entire teaching career. Much has changed in the seventy-six years since this paper and all of the pertinent information contained within were conceived. It’s even been years since the last amendments were made to this paper. Yet the ideas contained within are the very things teachers and students continue to struggle with in 2020.

“We are living through a period of dramatic global economic change, as new business and management theories and practices emerge across the developed world.”  This was the environment that the authors were working with in 1944 on the outset of this project.  Same in 2020.  World War II was still being fought or just coming to an end when the authors had to realize that how children are taught and what they learn had changed in ways never imagined.  Atomic bombs were only science fiction before 1944. Technology, just like right now, surged forward.

Classroom environments and social norms have come a long way.  Back in 1944 the classroom was viewed as a place where each child was deemed a product.  If that child passed, he or she was a product well made.  If a student failed, that child was deemed defective in some way or forced to complete the coursework a second time.  Summer school became a derogatory term.  Had society not deemed those who attended summer school as failures, then perhaps society would not have such a negative look at the term. This piece intends to undo such thinking. “The changing nature of work has been variously called ‘postFordism’ and ‘fast capitalism’.  PostFordism replaces the hierarchical command structures epitomized by Henry Ford’s development of mass production techniques…,” Children learn best in a classroom that doesn’t feel like an assembly line or a repair shop.  Students lean and thrive in an environment that openly accepts who they are based on where they come from and encourages students to actively engage in multiple forms of communication – technology.  Seventy-six years of additional study has shown us that. Thankfully the article does make mention of these advancements.   

Pedagogy simply put is: the teaching learning relationship; developing what students will learn and methods used for teaching. The article does recognize the need to change what and how we teach our students.  “Curriculum now needs to mesh with different subjectivities, and with their attendant languages, discourses, and registers, and use these as a resource for learning.”  This line just shows that even all those years ago, when this piece was written, the authors recognized that the environment in which students learn can be and should be used as a tool in the learning process. This included all spoken local jargons as well as mention and paid consideration to the immediate world surrounding the school. 

Then comes the main thrust of the article.  What are multiliteracies?  Multiliteracies are the many languages teachers everywhere have to be aware of when speaking to children and students.  The authors proposed the use of a “Metalanguage.”  What a metalanguage does is bridge the gap between what needs to be learned and how that concept will be relayed to students. Metalanguages are derived from the immediate environment of the school system.  Its engaging with all forms of communication that I mentioned earlier.  To give an idea:  In America we would say to our students, there is no smoking on school grounds.  In England that might go, “You are not permitted to have a fag on school grounds.”  Try getting away with yelling the later in 2020 America. Yet it speaks volumes about REMIXING the language of the classroom with the language of the students’ environment. 

There are quite a few of my peers in this class that spoke about the use of jargon in both the classroom and workplace. Alyssa’s presentation showed the use of metalanguage in practice.  Nancy Sommers, spoke about how students in her study disliked the use of the word “Revision” when making reference to making corrections to a written piece of work.  According to Sommers, students were more applicable to doing revision work when instructors used phrases like “editing,” or “marking out.”  Kelsey blogged about how she referred to her “first draft” as her “worst draft.” She was using a metalanguage and she didn’t even know it.  

There is no other language on the entire planet that changes and expands more than the English language does each and every year.  The internet created an entire metalanguage that is used universally on every continent.  The authors of this piece felt that developing a metalanguage that gets students excited about the learning process is the way to go.  Yes, finally an idea I didn’t find outdated. Students utilize technology a bit too much sometimes.  So why not play to that strength?  When students are home they are speaking a metalanguage to their family and peers.  Teachers need to capture that.  Online, students are speaking yet another metalanguage. In 1944 when the ideas in this piece were first developed, technology came in the form of black and white rubber suited space men.  That was the technology they had at their disposal and they used it as best they could.  We have better and can do better.    

To connect the ideas I have presented thus far, the environment teachers teach in is that same environment that students live and work in.  There has to be one common spoken and written language when it comes to learning that bridges the gap between the education world and the real world.  I agree with the authors when they say that, that language has to be established in the pedagogy of what is being taught and learned.  The authors identified that each person – teacher or student – comes from a multitude of backgrounds.  I myself am a teacher, a father, I’m Hispanic.  Some of my students are parents, Hispanic, auto mechanics and medical assistants.  The Phoenicians understood the need for a universal language the worked across all walks of life for the expansion of trade and the sharing of information.  This sounds like I’d like to revert back to the days of the Ford assembly line.  Back to a time when structure was widely recognized over substance.  On the contrary. The authors of this piece offer Six Design Elements and Four Components of Pedagogy to help educators construct and build a multiliteracy pedagogy that has a metalanguage derived from the students’ social and environmental surroundings that is way ahead of its time. As to avoid becoming long-winded on the matter, the ten aforementioned ideas are rooted in the concepts of Differentiated Learning.  The Six Design Elements are comprised of linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial cues in order to help students achieve higher levels of knowledge assimilation.  The sixth Design Element involves the combination of the other five elements used during a lesson.  The Four Components of Pedagogy, as described in the piece, involve how a teacher will use the elements in either Situated Practice, Overt Instruction, Critical Framing, or Transformed Practice.  Each of these methods will help utilize the design elements in a more practical way.  The Four Components require little explanation.  The authors of the piece intended it to be that way. Situated Practice is the full immersion of students into a lesson where aspects of the environment are incorporated.  This practice that has been in place for some time.  Overt Instruction requires the use of the metalanguage.  It is also a component where analytics come into play.  Critical Framing shows students precise formats for leaning where social and environmental ideas are introduced and contemplated. Transformed Practice allows the instructor more flexibility when it comes to using the Six Design Elements.   Again, all of this means nothing if the student can’t understand what is being asked of them.   

A line of communication, that is universally understood within the immediate environment of the school is what is being said and proposed by the authors and myself. The Phoenicians understood this, the authors of this piece understood this and we should all take it to heart as well.  If we can’t all speak the same language then how can anyone learn?  That is why it is so critical to introduce the concepts of multiliteracies into a socially woke learning environment.  Even more important is that as teachers, if we are unwilling to compromise and find new ways of communicating or incorporate new methods of incorporating meaningful communication into the classroom, are we really doing our best as teachers?  And finally, as teachers, you have to ask yourself, how much do you trust technology to help you with this endeavor? This was the one a singular biggest piece the authors did not have.  Most of this study was effective with VCRs.  Can you trust yourself and your students to use technology to help everyone communicate better and more effectively?  That’s what Multiliteracies are.  That’s what creating a metalanguage is all about and any pedagogy worth the paper it’s written on needs to have all of the above contained within.  Thank you.                

Pedagogy, Multilingual & Multiliteracies

Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World Second Language Writing in Composition Studies By Paul Kei Matsuda

“Today, with the globalization of economy and information, teaching writing to college students is not just about preparing students for academic, professional, and civic writing within the national boundary; it is also about preparing students- both domestic and international- for the increasingly globalized world that has also been, and will continue to be, multilingual.” I personally have been taking Spanish courses since elementary school and my last course was during undergrad. I even held a job where my little Spanish was used pretty often. However my speaking and understanding the language is much more strong than reading and writing it. Literally today on a work call, I was set out to find a new team member that was bilingual. I work with students that need resources, and life skills in order to be prepared for post high school real world, and because the school I am working with is 100% diverse in student population, we (my team) should really all be bilingual. I am not surprised that the training and need will always be there, however what is a little shocking is the fact that issues concerning language have been underrepresented in composition studies.

I find it very interesting that people deem a ESL student as a negative or confusing term. If you are living in the same world as I am, having two or more languages, or learning a second language can only be to your benefit In the working world. When I worked at Vice in Brooklyn, I made a lot of friends from all over the globe. One of my good friends who’s first language is English signed herself up for Mandarin lessons because she knew learning a second language, especially one that is considered high in the business world, would only take her to the next level in her career. So I can just imagine the opposite, already knowing your native language and then learning English, it’s almost as if you have one up on the single language speakers.

I was a bit shocked to see the many different interruptions that teachers and students reference ESL, to me there really shouldn’t be any complications with the name or definition. To be clear, we all at some point had to learn how to read and write in a language that before we got it down packed was indeed foreign to us. “no one is the native speaker of writing,” is basically what I am getting at. However I clearly understand the difficulties that can develop as one non native is learning to read, write, and speak a new language.

As I continue to read this scholarly article, I keep saying to myself, this would be really really good to be able to hear the perspective of a student who had to experience some of these trials of being a non native reader and writer and what their experience and process looked like. I would have loved to hear from someone studying professional writing in another language, I think that is huge when it comes to global communication something we know won’t be going away probably ever. Overall I found this article to have a lot of information, from the history to more recent events that have been taking place regarding the process and purpose of learning a new language regarding reading, writing, and using.

A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies Designing Social Futures by Cope & Kalantzis

“How do we ensure that differences of culture, language, and gender are not barriers to educational success? My answer would be its starts with the educators and dropping their immediate bias with their students. We all have them one way or another no matter how you slice it down the middle, I believe that is the first thing that needs to be stopped. Once that is done, educators should meet their students where they are in order to get them where they need to be.

The statement that I advocate and agree with the most would be, ” the disparities in educational outcomes did not seem to be improving. We agreed that we should get back to the broad question of the social outcomes of language learning, and that we should, on this basis, rethink the fundamental premises of literacy pedagogy in order to influence practices that will give students the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their aspirations.” Most of the time I feel that students often suffer because of the disconnect between the educators and the students. I don’t want to necessarily put the blame on students or the educators but more on the education system falling behind and not keeping up with the diversity of methods that need to consistely be modified and update as the years go on. when things like this don’t happen, the students and the educators both suffer. According to this scholarly article it seems that these authors are on the same page as I am when it comes to trying to find different ways how to frame the curriculum to the changing educational environment.

Like the articles and ted talks that I spend my time researching about the changes in the world and how that needs to translate to education this is exactly what I have not only been trying to express, but to find a way to begin to be the change. ” In responding to the radical changes in working life that are currently underway, we need to tread a careful path that provides students the opportunity to develop skills for access to new forms of work through learning the new language of work. But at the same time, as teachers, our role is not simply to be technocrats. Our job is not to produce docile, complaint workers. Students need to develop the capacity to speak up, to negotiate, and to be able to engage critically with the conditions of their working lives. I know I always speak on the work that I am doing outside of school, but it has been a personal mission for me to go back and help the future leaders of my community to be ready for the real world. A year long program that in my district is now being offered by my team. I believe this is one of the calls to action in regards to what it is we can do inside of the schools. I strongly believe that the structure of some, mostly multiculture schools needs to completely be upgraded. As mentioned in class there isn’t necessarily a need for certain general education courses, especially the ones that have no use once the studies are complete. ” Schools have always played a critical role in determining students’ life opportunities. “ In my strong opinion schools need to focus more on life skills, job/career placement and preparing for the real world.

Overall I believe that the goals for pedagogy are pretty similar with my own throughout. I was pleasantly pleased that it is very clear that new communication media is reshaping not only the way we use language but also how to have that language translate into the way we need to adapt to multiliteracies and education. Of course that comes with so much including social change which the article also mentioned how that is the start of it all. I have high hopes that in due time and a strong influence things will evolve.

Writing, digital tools, & remix

This week we considered the role that technology has played in education, and it seemed we opened a kind of time capsule in considering the readings for this week.  Our agenda:

Thanks to Kelsey for effectively highlighting the ways in which writing has evolved in the 21st century with a thoughtful focus on “Blogs, Wikis, Podcastsby Will Richardson.  This article took us back to a time in which the new affordances of the open web were just becoming apparent.  Certain territory was still uncharted and the road remained “wide open” for pedagogical innovation.  Technology (and digital tools more specifically) have certainly played a major role in the way we think about (and teach others) how to write.  What does it mean to write in a networked world, and in what ways do/should those new affordances transform our writing pedagogy? Kelsey was able to enhance the nature of our discussion by intergrating key questions (and some fun polling) along with an insightful clip from Richardson’s TED talk presentation.  This helped us glimpse a snapshot of our concerns/perspectives on key issues regarding technology in the classroom.  Kelsey was able to spurn our reflection, highlighting our collaborative thinking about the use of digital tools in writing practice.

And thanks to Ganeldye for opening up a discussion of Antero Garcia’s article on the power of remix in learning.   Remix means making something new from preexisting materials; it involves the crossing genres to create a unique  new perspective.  Traditional messages and stereotypes can (and should) be questioned/inverted in the process.  Through remix our students can come to understand production, ownership, and sharing practices of intellectual/creative work.


How can remix lead to a kind of liberatory experience?  What kinds of power implications tie into remixing?  In what ways does the engagement of remix in writing facilitate a dialogue with other cultural producers?  How is this (in itself) a productive interplay?  We thought about the way that remix can be harnassed as a teaching pathway or tool for a more profound consideration of culture and perhaps, a more inspired writing assignments.

Some Equity Unbound invitations:

Your to-do list:

Up next are some readings that consider multilingual contexts for learning how to write and multileracies in a global learning context.

Read: Teaching Writing in the Multilingual World  by Paul Kei Matsuda (Jessie’s selection)

Read: A pedagogy of multiliteracies designing social futures by Cope & Kalantzis (Tom’s selection)

Blog #7 Due- Reflection on the Matsuda & Cope/Kalantzis readings 

Enjoy you week, and please take care!

Sincerely,

Dr. Zamora

 

 

Understanding Multiliteracies

This week we were asked to look at A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures by the New London Group, and Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World by Paul Kei Matsuda. These were dense readings that concerned themselves with the idea of multiple languages, their history in academia and the benefits they can provide to it. While I went through both articles thoroughly, I have to honestly say I was sort of lost at the former article. I grasped its basic concept of pedadogy and how a conference between field experts yielded interesting discussions, but there was much to comb over and it is kind of easy to get lost in all of it. The other article however I understood better, and it could be because I can relate to its subject.

In his article, Paul Kei Matsuda goes into great detail about the history of writing composition classes, and the influx of people from other countries and their difficulty with grasping the material. What struck out to me throughout the article was the dominating perception that English is considered the primary language, and all others are grouped into ‘secondary’. While I understand that English is the primary language of this country, I feel that the statement still undervalues the high amount of cultural diversity we have now. In fact, calling it ‘secondary’ almost seems harmful to those who speak another language before English, and in the literacy field that could create a cause for concern. Matsuda paraphrases this sentiment when he says “Today, with the globalization of economy and information, teaching writing to college students is not just about preparing students for academic, professional, and civic writing within the national boundary; it is also about preparing students – both domestic and international – for he increasingly globalized world that has always been, and will continue to be, multilingual.”

“In U.S. higher education, the term ESL has traditionally been used in reference to both international ESL students and resident ESL students, although the distinction has not always been clear.” This is an example of how these distinctions can create harm in education. It is one thing to be someone from another country, and it is another to be someone who can speak multiple languages. The latter having the benefit of understanding linguistics better than international students, something that international students do not have. By having both groups in the same learning environment, it creates a focus on students who primarily speak English and create a larger gap between those who never grew up in the same region. I’m recently taking general linguistics, and there I learned it takes more than understanding what words to say, but knowing the fundamental structure in which language is based on, including lexicons, semantics, pragmatics, phonetics and others. That is a lot of information to expect others to understand, and while this kind of information is innate to native speakers, it asks a lot of others. Matsuda argues that there should be carefully designed areas for these two groups to learn better at a pace that benefits their knowledge.

This does not extend to only foreign countries, but even to our nation in general. Matsuda points out “”For users of different varieties of English, such as users of African American Vernacular English or Singaporean English, the knowledge of English structure that they have stored in their heads may be different from that that is in the heads of students who grew up speaking a dominant variety of U.S, English.” This perfectly illustrates the dominance of linguistic knowledge dictating a form of speaking, and that knowledge is not readily available to teach nor is it simple to teach. Regardless, there is a clear line of who can benefit from the structure of current academia than others.

Matsuda also talks about how knowledge carried over from second language writers can reap many benefits to how our curriculum is structured. At one point he mentions the idea of translations as a possible resource for writing, but also discusses how far that ability can go (translations are never 1:1). There is also the idea of writers expanding their mental capacity to understand a broad range of language. I look at this and think that by understanding more than one language, it encourages writers to think about how writing can fluctuate between languages, find the underlying core within them and share those ideas without being restricted by language. Second language speakers already do this on a normal basis (I know I do when I have to translate information from one language to another), so it begs the question as to why aren’t we utilizing this ability more?

One part in particular, Basic Writing, talks about the idea of course placement for second language students/writers and the pros/cons of it. While it is important to create accommodation for these special circumstances, it will be hard to implement because of how curriculums are structured. Meaning while we can add these kinds of classes if possible, it might add extra course load and add more years to college. This is important to think about because while our current setup has students attend college for about five years or more, it damages the stigma of a four-year education and can create social issues for those students. I can personally attest to that feeling. My family background of Latin America heavily assumes that four years of college is enough and any more is considered a waste of time and resources. I started off as an Engineering student, then quickly to a Computer Science Field, and quickly dropping that to pursue a degree in Fine Arts. It wasn’t very late until I decided I wanted a writing degree (I wasn’t too far off, I took a lot of writing courses/core requirements in my time so getting a degree in that wasn’t impossible). But in total it took me about 5 1/2 years to do all this, and I had to drop my idea of pursuing a second degree in writing because my family (not my immediate family, they are supportive) thought I was wasting my years doing nothing, which was already bad for me because I was considered the ‘black sheep’ of us. My college wouldn’t allow me to take the final semester for writing, so I settled for the art degree while feeling half complete. It isn’t so bad, because I’m able to continue my writing studies in a master’s program, but going through that experience and ridicule, I understand why adding extra writing courses might bring its own issues.

One last thing that caught my eye was about the distinction between expert teachers and peer tutors, and how their knowledge can affect writers of second languages. As Matsuda explains, “Peer tutors, who are by definition sympathetic readers but not experts in the teaching of writing or language, may not be able to meet the needs of clients who have an advanced knowledge of the subject and discipline-specific genres yet are struggling to express their ideas in the second language.” I feel this also talks about the difficulty the current curriculum has when administering strategies that do not fit into the norm. Because of the lack of something (resources, education), not a lot of people are able to meaningfully help second-language writers because of how high the hurdle is to convey ideas. The reality is that it will be difficult to implement, and while we can try and push towards this, the reality is that a lot of work needs to go into it, so much so that it almost seems like an abstract dream when thinking about it. After all, just discussing what needs to be done is far easier than trying to implement.

As this Writing Theory class continues and I am exposed to fascinating readings, I continue to question academic structure as it is now. Many things I was exposed to prior seems archaic now, and I feel there were a lot of missed opportunities in some way. I see it as heavily restricted and void of meaningful independent thought, thinking back to my years in school (especially writing), I can mostly recall exams and not much else. I’m grateful for these opportunities to read more about what lies beyond and to think critically of what is in place, so that I can push my knowledge and comfort zone beyond to what I already know.

A One Track Mind in a Multi-Track World

Presentation:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Erna5qSwH9_c18xlKzmPzTRLdNpWhjIz/view?usp=sharing

Written Analysis:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Jg56rVH6lHEIWD15_iKuTrvLuBXUARbp5HjzWAtXF8k/edit?usp=sharing

P.S. My presentation isn’t displaying ALL the features because it was originally made in PowerPoint, so you will see it for what it really is on the day of… 🙂

Photo by slon_dot_pics on Pexels.com

The Internet … Then and Now

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms

After reading Will Richardon’s piece, it is amazing to see how far we have come! The section in Richardson’s “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts” that stood out to me the most had to be Digital Natives. Much of the information from this section still applies today. I still believe that “Today’s students, of almost any age, are far ahead of their teachers in computer literacy.” We are currently in a pandemic that has forced all educators and students to become accustomed to technology. Technology is ever-changing, and educators must stay afloat with new means of communication and research. I also resonated with chapter nine, What it Means. Richardson touches on the importance of collaboration. The web allows students to connect with others outside of the classroom. Yes, there is a safety aspect of this, but collaboration for older students will enable them to receive feedback and be open to new ideas.

How Remix Culture Informs Student Writing & Creativity

Before I began to read Antero Garcia’s “How Remix Culture Informs Student Writing & Creativity,” I knew I was going to agree with the author. I wholeheartedly agree with Garcia’s statement that “We must encourage students to consider remixing more than surface-level content. Race, gender, sexuality–the texture of our individual identities–should be a focus for why we remix.” Remixing allows students to take previous works and bring bringing new ideas to light. There are numerous ways that a story could end. Allowing children to “remix” a text by putting their own spin on it will not only challenge them but increase their creativity. Remixing classic literature permits children to research previous work and explore various topics to develop their writing. One may disagree with a classic’s content with issues such as race, gender, or sexuality; therefore, it provides the chance to rethink past beliefs. Reflecting, I have remixed a few stories in grade school, but I just never knew there was a term for it!