Reading… the undefinable monster!

For my Learning with Digital Stories class (INTE 5340), I am tasked with reading the first chapter of New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning by Colin Lankshear and Michele Nobel.

At first glance I was apprehensive about the book because of the seemingly dry title.  The first few paragraphs turned out to be an engaging review of the historical way the terms “reading” and “literacy” transformed.  There was a captivating idea from 1960’s that “Illiteracy was seen as a major impediment to economic development…” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008, p. 8).  As time went on, even decades later, it was society that was to blame for people’s illiteracy.  The government (or the society running it) could not possibly be the sole factor in determining if a person is literate or not.  If the availability of programs to aid in the literacy of individuals is present and accessible to all, there cannot be a measure put in place that says you must be literate.  This is in direct opposition to many of the liberties that American citizens had fought for during these times the ideas were emerging (around the 1970’s).

Politicians have in the past, and will always, reference education in their campaigns.  Education is a unifying experience (nearly) all people participate in during their lifetime.  When the No Child Left Behind Act passed “literacy” came to the forefront once again.  This time, the word literacy replaced several broad categories that didn’t appear to be very measurable.  When Australia began, “…providing incentives for workers to participate in work-related and work-based literacy programmes…” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008, p. 13), the bar was set for other countries to follow in their footsteps.  What would have made for a compelling argument would have been the addition of statistics to back up the positive results of such incentives.

The development of new technologies has been a driving force behind the need to reevaluate the way people learn (Lankshear & Knobel).  As Amy Cuddy, explained in her TED talk about body language “…our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes…” (2012, June), there is more to literacy than is on the surface.  The evolving nature of technology and its effect on individual’s ability to retain and apply knowledge is an ongoing process.  Psychological effects (even nonverbal ones) shape how people understand the world around them.   These views are formed both internally as well as externally through everyday interactions.

The social viewpoint also played a key role in literacy development, as the chapter came closer to modern day views.  According to Lankshear and Knobel , “to participate effectively and productively in any literate practice, people must be socialized into it.”(2011, p.16)  Language (and literacy in this case) is continuously growing and evolving.  The malleable nature of literacy forces the constant need for further examination and reflection into not only the definition of these words but best teaching practices.

It is my hopes that the next few chapters help to further clarify the deeper meaning or psychological effects of individual’s environment on the idea of literacy.  I found this to be an enjoyable chapter to read.  My hope is that there is more clarity of how “new” literacies are shaping individuals present day.


New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning Ed by Colin Lankshear and Michele Nobel. McGraw-Hill Education 2008.

Cuddy, Amy (2012, June).  Your body language shapes who you are.

***A note as to why the picture of the book is not the most current edition: Because I signed up for this class the first day that it began, I was unaware I would be required to purchase a text.  I have not yet received mine in the mail, so I used a digital copy (second edition) until my book arrives.  When comparing the first chapter with the pages I found from the third edition they seemed identical.  Just thought I would clear the air.

One thought on “Reading… the undefinable monster!

  1. remiholden says:

    Two brief reflections Annie.

    First, you’ve clearly summarized your experience reading the first chapter (and of the 2nd ed. – thanks for the clarification, nice reading hack!). Your attention to detail and use of evidence is a nice model for others.

    Second, I’m really appreciative of your commentary about how “Language (and literacy in this case) is continuously growing and evolving. The malleable nature of literacy forces the constant need for further examination and reflection into not only the definition of these words but best teaching practices.” This course is committed to challenging and expanding our notions of literacies and social learning practices. As for “best teaching practices,” I tend to err from defining something as best, as such a qualification often changes based upon context, audience, setting, and the such. Perhaps we will collectively shape some “useful” or “meaningful” learning practices – yet whether they’re “best” or “better than” any other would likely be up for debate.


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