Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Category: eded20458

Literacy and Numeracy – Week 6

Way past time to catch up on this work. So week 6 is looking at “Models for Teaching and Learning Multiliteracies”.

Timelines out of whack

Ahh, that’s right, this was the material we had to pre-read in order to complete the assignment that was due in week 5. And look, the trend continues. We’re asked to reflect on the teaching and assessment tasks we’ve observed in our prac. teaching. Which doesn’t start until this week, two weeks after we were meant to complete this week.

Four resources model

This is positioned as an important model for the teaching of literacies. A quote from one of the proponents of this work

Any program of instruction in literacy, whether it be in kindergarten, in adult ESL classes, in university courses, or any points in between, needs to confront these roles systematically, explicitly, and at all developmental points. (Freebody 1992, p. 58)

We’re meant to be introduced to the four resources model through this reading. The initial quick reading of this document for the assignment did not impress me. A reflection on the evolution of a model didn’t strike me as the most accessible introduction to the model, given that it must both introduce and point out limitations in an approach. But perhaps that was just the negative mindset created by the disorganisation. Let’s try again.

The four resources model identifies “four necessary but not sufficient “roles” for the reader in a postmodern, text-based culture”:

  • Code breaker (coding competence)
  • Meaning maker (semantic competence)
  • Text user (pragmatic competence)
  • Text critic (critical competence)

Widely adopted, this particular reading is a review and reconsideration of the four models. It does not discuss “what we meant or intended”….which might make it somewhat harder to use this reading as an introduction.

Some history

The “received wisdom” is that there is no one definition of literacy. It’s culturally and contextually bound. In addition, literacy instruction is not about skill development, but “institutional shaping of social practices and cultural resources”. It’s about “shaping and mastering the repertoire of capabilities called into play when managing texts in ways appropriate to various contexts”.

Perhaps I am too much a product of traditional schooling, but I find this almost complete relativism a bit of a struggle to accept. Especially the bit about “institutional shaping”. I can accept that what denotes the “best way to do X” as being largely shaped by context, but if I’m teaching X in a certain context, my aim is to develop skills. The outcome may perhaps to be to contribute to “institutional shaping of social practices” but my intent is to develop skills, and hopefully an awareness that how I’m teaching students “how to do X” may not be the last word in how to do X. Which I guess is what the authors get to in the end

Teaching and learning literacy, then, involves shaping and mastering the repertoire of capabilities called into play when managing texts in ways appropriate to various contexts.

But then there is this position

In this sense, it is difficult (and what’s more, pointless) to proclaim that “phonics” advocates or “word recognition” advocates or “early intervention” advocates are somehow right or wrong in any absolute sense.

I can see how this quote would frustrate and anger a lot of folk. Perhaps not in some absolute sense, but we’ve certainly been shown some folk who believe phonics is wrong. But then this connects with the authors next perspective

When we refer to something as being “normative,” this suggests that it involves a set of moral and political, cultural and social decisions about how things should be, rather than a simple description of what is.

i.e. prescriptive, rather than descriptive.

Flowing from this cultural construction of literacy is the view that many aspects of the “literacy crises” arise from “economic, cultural and social change” more so than what happens in the classroom.

Am I beginning to give the impression that I have been adversely influenced by the moral and political, cultural and social perspectives of the authors?

Anyway this is the setup for the authors not wanting to promote a single teaching model, the instructional silver bullet for literacy education…”we have attempted to avoid and resist the ‘commodification’ of critical literacy”. The four resource model was intended to both validate practices and provide opportunity and a vocabulary for “productive development”.

There’s been a bit of a shift from roles, to family of practices and other shifts in terminology. Mostly to better explicate the understanding/intent of the framers that literacy is a dynamic and changing set of understandings.

Propose 3 dimensions of literacy capabilities

  1. breadth of an individual’s or community’s repertoire of literate practices.
    “regarded in terms of the range of social activities” that offered in the curriculum. Genres sometimes used as the label. But as always in this discussion, there can be more to it.
  2. The depth and degree of control exercised by an individual or community in any given literacy activity.
    This is where the four resources model applies, it defines the repertoire of practices
  3. The extent of hybridity, novelty and redesign at work.

Depth and breadth embody areas of “significant educational responsibility”. But the 3rd dimension is more difficult an issue.

We take a bit of a side trip now and get into the area that illiteracy is not a “deficit model”. i.e. illiteracy is not a question of the illiterate not having skills, instead they haven’t had access to the communities/experiences in which to develop skills. Education can’t solve unemployment, in equality, illiteracy, these are sociological questions.

But then there is mention of the common problem that folk like Luke and Freebody, and in other circumstances Gardner and his multiple intelligences work, suffer from

Yet the school-effectiveness and school-management fields continue the pursuit of what has become the holy grail of instructional psychologists: a single effective or “authentic” pedagogy.

There is an “industry” within education that want/need simple, efficient, and effective pedagogical interventions that serve all students. But also, at the other end are the coal face teachers (or trainee ones like me) looking for interventions that work for them and their students. The whole fad/fashion problem arises here in education as much so in information systems.

And I can see the authors’ last sentence annoying the hell out of some management folk

What better way to assist teachers’ work and pedagogy in these new times than with complex and critical questions rather than simple answers.


So, we’re meant to reflect on the four resources model and how it applies to literacy/numeracy in our teaching areas. This was meant to be contribution to our first assignment, submitted quite a few weeks ago. Let’s try again. Again, I’m finding this hard due to the mismatch between the purpose of the reading above (a “researcher” reflection on an idea) and its use as an introduction to an important model.

And as I search further and further, I’m yet to find a resource that effectively explains the four resources model in a way that I can apply to other contexts, like my teaching areas. Is this simply a combination of my experience and these two areas being somewhat more prosaic and not – at least to one embedded and as unreflective as I – “culturally and socially constructed”?

Mmm, wonder if the textbook we were required to purchase (but are never directed toward) might provide some assistance?

Resources Mathematics IT/coding
Code-breaker Recognition of mathematical symbols (including numbers), terminology and operations. Ability to read code, statements, operations, syntax etc.
Text-participant Given a mathematical “text” understand what it means. Simlarly, given a (word) problem, relate it to maths. Able to deduce what a program will do. Link requirements to intended code.
Text-user Understand which “branch” of mathematics applies to a particular problem. Be able to explain how/why a particular processes was used.
Text-analyst Understand that mathematics is an abstraction, not the real world. Is the maths used here useful/”true”. Understanding that programs embody programmer assumptions or purposes. That they close down certain actions. e.g. an integrated enterprise system is trying to be the one way of doing everything. And that this extends to programming language paradigms (Perl vs Java vs Haskell etc)

I do wonder how you could effectively reconcile the relativist position embedded in the predominant view of literacy with the need to pass judgement upon answers to the above. Personally, I think my answers are a bit naive, rushed, ill-informed. But I could also find it fairly easy to adopt a slightly different perspective of the above – especially with IT – that is held by a fairly important community, but which I think is wrong. Who’s right? Who gets better marks?

I do hope my attempt at engaging with this subject for the assignment was somewhat more successful.

Am wondering if I should spend more time on this, or be pragmatic. After all it’s already been tested!

More models

So, we’re now told that some folk have connected the four resources model to the “3 dimensions of learning and practice” from Durrant and Green. And with little more than a listing of the three dimenions (operational, cultural and critical) we’re mean to reflect on whether or not this is a good match? In fact, we’re meant to reflect on the connection of these two PLUS the 4 steps of a multiliteracies pedagogy. Which we read more on soon.

Going by this article (which is referenced by the material and is somewhat useful in getting some context) the 3D model combines features of early literacy models with constructionist work to propose a “3D model of literacy-technology learning which brings together…three dimensions of learning and practice; the operational, the cultural and the critical.

The idea is that all three of these dimensions must be addressed so teaching a skill can be done in an authentic context with “a focus on its use in social practices”……I do wonder how much “how to use LMS X” training that occurs within higher education engages with these ideas.

The idea is that they can be mapped with the four resources, but do not exactly overlap.

Multiliteracies and the four resources model

And now this reading

Anstey, M. (2003). Multiliteracies and the four resources model. New York; Sydney: Prentice Hall.

And of course, the link is broken. Oh, and the library system is down as well.

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So, let’s try the second reading

Martin, K. (2008). The intersection of Aboriginal knowledges, Aboriginal literacies and new learning pedagogy for Aboriginal students. In A. Healey (ed.), Multiliteracies and diversity in education. pp. 59-81. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

Wish I had have known about this reading prior to completing another assignment. But it does tend to raise a whole range of questions, for me at least, including:

  • Does the notion of Aboriginal learning styles still hold?
    The above reading mentions specific learning styles and the reading I did on a prior assignment suggested that there was some significant research that suggested they did exist. There was, however, also more recent research that suggested that the notion of learning styles specific or common to Aboriginal people was somewhat mistaken and/or simplistic. In part, because Aboriginal people are so diverse themselves.
  • How different are Indigenous (Aboriginal) Australians’ world views from others?
    The reading mentions the accepted point that good teaching/learning connects with the experiences of the learner. But then, just how different is the experience of the Indigenous learner from the non-Indigenous? This article by Noel Pearson from the Weekend Australian points to some research that suggests there are differences within the Indigenous population. In fact, it identifies two separate Indigenous populations: the “welfare-embedded population” and the “open-society population”. The suggestion is that the “open-society population” achieved improved learning outcomes “regardless of any indigenous-specific educational interventions and perhaps despite them”.

There is some interesting discussion of relatedness within Aboriginal cultures, which gives food for thought. But I do question how widespread a consideration this may need to be. There’s also the problem of much of the cited knowledge/research in this article appearing to be self-citation from an earlier work.

In terms of literacy, there could be questions raised about the story contained within this paper.

Okay, so there is a summary of Harris’ Aboriginal learning styles theory which identifies a number of processes Aboriginal children prefer

  • Learning by observation.
  • Learning by personal trial and error.
  • Learning in real-life activities.
  • Context-specific learning.
  • Learning is person orientated, rather than information orientated.
  • The group is more important than the individual.
  • Learning is holistic – focusing on overal concept before details.
  • Learning relies on visual and spatial skills.
  • Reduced emphasis on spoken language.

The first four or five would seem to be have strong connections with the preferences of many students. Ahh, there is some mention of literature that is somewhat critical of the idea.

Okay, now onto some material around multiliteracies and teaching, including

  • The two “prompts” for multiliteracies: diversity in cultural and linguistic literacies; and, the influence of new technologies.
  • Role of teachers as designers of learning processes and environments.
  • Focus on design and the components of situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice.
  • Articulation, by teachers, what they bring to learning/teaching, how to connect with students and mediate tensions.
  • Overt consideration of the differences in backgrounds.

Pedagogical model for multiliteracies

And now we get a summary of some of the work mentioned in the above reading….I am increasingly annoyed by the apparently disorganised way in which much of these concepts are introduced..

This is Cope and Kalantzis (2001) pedagogy for multiliteracies mentioned above

  1. Situated practice – learner is doing
    Which seems to be to get the students to engage in some known literacy, probably with little real knowledge. Some scaffolding.
  2. Overt instruction – learner is reflecting
    Provide instruction that helps the learner develop insight into the literacy.
  3. Critical framing – learner is reflecting
    What have they learned, the purpose of the activity…cultural context…
  4. Transformed practice – learner is doing
    Create a new design using improved knowledge.

An alternate description here in the bottom image “the ‘how’ of multiliteracies”. Which seem to have significant links to the authors Learning by Design pedagogy

  1. Experiencing
  2. Conceptualising
  3. Analysing
  4. Applying

5 elements of a Literacy Toolkit

And now onto this reading

Rivalland, J. (2000). Finding a balance for the year 2000 and beyond. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. February Newsletter. 4 pages

Proposes a literacy toolkit with 5 components (i.e. we need to help students develop these in order for them “to survive in an ever increasingly complex world”).

  • Make meanings of and compare a range forms and modes of texts.
  • Decode and encode effectively.
  • Read and write fluently.
  • Critically analyse texts to recognise whose views are being presented.
  • Adapt reading and writing processes to different text forms, different subject areas, and different modes.

At this stage, I find it interesting to reflect upon these requirements and comparisons with the literacies – especially technology literacies – demonstrated by the teaching staff of the course. Oh, and then lets apply the following list of 12 points associated with “what we need to teach”

  1. Teacher talk which is clear and precise enough to focus children on what is being learned;
  2. Oral language activities which develop awareness of sounds, listening, speaking, complex oral
    language structures, vocabulary and knowledge about the world;
  3. Comprehension and composition of a range of text forms through teacher instruction, modelling,scaffolding and metacognitive instruction;
  4. Systematic practice through engagement with a variety of oral, written and multi-modal texts using a range of effective instructional strategies;
  5. Explicit instruction in code-breaking techniques, which include phonological awareness, letter
    recognition, letter-sound correspondences and sight word recognition;
  6. Frequent practice, in reading aloud to develop fluency and in writing to develop automaticity;
  7. Encouragement of invented spelling to help children develop understanding of phonemes,
    phonemic segmentation and spelling relationships, with strategies to support the move to
    transitional and conventional spelling;
  8. Games and computer activities which will provide practice to support the development of children’s ‘literacy toolkit’;
  9. Regular analysis of a range of texts to help support children’s understanding of how texts are
  10. Critical analysis of texts to look at whose interests are being served by those texts;
  11. Regular assessment, to monitor the progress of children, and to help make decisions about ongoing teaching; and
  12. Regular sustained time for literacy learning. (Rohl et al 2000)

How we teach

  • Will change according to the needs of students and the literacy experiences they bring to school. …i.e. know as much as possible about the children we teach
  • Need to give them experience of the literacy practices which will allow successful participation in school.
  • Not to de-value the ways of talking they bring to school.
  • Help them move between the ways of talking based on contextual need.
  • Use what they know to engage them in reading, writing and critically evaluating texts.
  • The activities have to be cognitively demanding.

My Response

We’ve been asked to

What does Rivalland say about how we teach? Do you agree/disagree? What are some of the implications for teaching in your work context/s? Share your responses on this week’s Discussion Forum. Talk with your colleagues about your interpretations.

The advice on “how we teach” provided by Rivalland evokes in me a serious case of deja vu. It appears to have a significant connection with the constructivist, especially social constructivism, perspectives and theories that have been embedded in most of the readings we’ve been pointed to within the program. Which might be said to boil down to, at some simplistic level,

  • Know and value what your students know and their context.
  • Design activities that use that context to develop new learning.

Do I agree or disagree? In general, I agree with the advice. It is certainly a perspective that will inform how I approach teaching. My response changes, however, when we start talking a little more theoretically. I retain some qualms about constructivism and how it is conceptualised and described (or not as the case may be). If pushed to cite a theoretical perspective that informs my practice, I’d rely on connectivism and argue that it also supports the simplistic “boiling down” from above.

Given that I won’t actively experience a local school context (with students) until tomorrow, any comments I make on the implications for my work context are liable to be limited. As an aside, it could be argued that the study material for this course is not showing a good understanding of its students context in that it is assuming that by week 6 we have gained experience in schools. When for most of us this doesn’t happen until week 8.

Given those limitations, some potential questions that I have:

  • How possible is it to achieve a good understanding of our students and their context?
    I am quite a bit older than them and come from a different context. I’m only going to be there for 8 or so weeks, for a few days a week. While I’ll be able to draw on the insights from my mentor teachers, there will also be a great deal else I need to be getting on with. Not to mention that my mentor teachers may hold very different views about the value of social constructivism and may also have generated many different interpretations of the students and their context. Achieving this to some end is the purpose of one of the assessment items.
  • How diverse are the students?
    It’s possible that there will be up to 150 different students in the classes I’ll be involved with. Theoretically, that’s 150 people and their contexts to get to know. Getting to know (or even remember) 150 people well is not likely to happen in 8 weeks. Which suggests falling back onto stereotypes or categories.
  • How flexible can I be within existing constraints?
    In EPL I won’t be teaching my class. I’ll be helping out in someone else’s. I’m observing and learning from what they are doing. I will be able to teach a class or two, but within the context/culture they have already set up. In addition, add in constraints from school priorities, the timetable, existing school architecture, NAPLAN etc. and the flexibility required to change in response to students context is somewhat reduced. Not to mention the potential application of the “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”.
  • Can I actually work around the limitations of my own knowledge?
    The ability to recognise student diversity and manipulate learning experiences to connect with those contexts requires a lot of knowledge. Rivalland recognised this herself

    Instead it appears that teaching literacy requires highly skilled teachers who have the knowledge, sensitivity and capacity to adapt their teaching methodologies to the differing contexts and conditions in which children grow up.

    I don’t have this knowledge yet. Initially, I’ll be struggling to fit into the school, get a handle on where the classes are up to and how they are run, remembering some of the content, trying to fit the requirements of Portal tasks into EPL etc. Some of those Portal Tasks will help, but in the end, I’m still a beginning teacher. My knowledge is not the same as someone with more experience.

  • Where are the concrete prescriptions or examples?
    Much of the literature we’re being introduced to within this course is largely theoretical and/or descriptive. It’s the four principles of this, the 16 forces of that, the XYZ model of alpha, describing particular aspects of literacy, multiliteracies etc. Given it’s reliance on a similar social constructivist “like” perspective, it’s not surprising that I find a certain amount of coherence. The trouble is that all this description doesn’t feel like it’s providing sufficient scaffolding to help me achieve some practical outcomes. Particularly practices that are likely to help me within the context of a Queensland-based high school.

    While recognising that this type of request has the potential to degenerate into a search for the “one true approach”, that’s not what I’m asking for. Rather than the one true approach, I’m after examples that have been used within the local context, some reflection on why they did/didn’t work, and some connection with the broader theory we’ve been introduced to. Where is the practical TPCK around literacies that would help address the limitations of my knowledge? It does appear that the next reading might be a start in addressing this.

Developing multiliteracies

And yet another model

Stewart-Dore, N. (2003). Developing multiliteracies. Education Views. April 25.

This reading commences to provide some more practical strategies. It proposes another four phase pedagogical model for reading and then has some practice advice within those phases

  1. Accessing knowledge – engaging learning.
    i.e. connect with what they know. Various brainstorming, cataloguing approaches are mentioned. But these don’t necessarily encourage reflection. Two possibilities are: K-W-L and reflective diaglogue journals.
  2. Interrogating meanings- comprehending critically.
    Fact/Fiction position statements etc are mentioned. Most are connected to reading.
  3. Selecting and organising information – connecting understandings.
    Graphic organisers, note-taking.
  4. Representing knowledge functionally and critically – synthesising learning.
    Content plans, graphic organisers etc and other writing aids.

I think I’ll leave this for now.

Literacy and Numeracy: Week 4

Week 4 of the literacy and numeracy course.

Hot topics in literacy and numeracy

So, literacy, especially reading, is important. At least back in 2004 when this interview was undertaken. It is of one of President’s Bush advisors.

Another point about about how poverty and its impacts, in this case with such children living in households where reading is not a priority. Also suggesting limitations in terms of discussions in the house. At 4/5 this can be a gap of twice the size, by 12th grade it can be 4.

Reading is not a natural activity.

No improvement program is not equally beneficial for all kids, there is no magic bullets.

Point about a lot of middle/high school kids not being active readers.

Find this comment interesting

You know, programs that taught kids to guess from pictures or from surrounding context. The evidence indicating that that is actually counterproductive is pretty massive.

I have a 6yo son who’s learning to read, and guess what type of books they are using? Books with big pictures that provide context for the couple of words at the bottom. So the point seems to be that such approaches are not inherently wrong, but they do not – by themselves – provide the necessary building blocks.

Teaching reading

And now we are onto a government report from 2005. Going a bit beyond what is asked, I think. Looking at “contemporary understandings of effective teaching practices”.

Suggests two broad approaches.

  1. Whole language.
    So this seems to be the approach criticised by the previous interviewee. It’s the constructivist approach. Ahh, they even have references for the inappropriateness of constructivism as an operational theory of teaching: Ellis (2005); Purdie & Ellis (2005); Wilson (2005). Argument is that this approach is not useful for students with learning difficulties or from low SOE.
  2. Code-based.
    Focuses on explicit teaching of the structure and function of language. The aim being to provide students with the ability to “reflect on and consciously manipulate the language”

Oh, more bashing of constructivism

Sasson (2001) refers to constructivism as ’… a mixture of Piagetian stage theory with postmodernist ideology’ (p. 189) that is devoid of evidence-based justification for its adoption as an effective method of teaching

and Wilson (2005)

We largely ignore generations of professional experience and knowledge in favour of a slick postmodern theoretical approach, most often characterised by the misuse of the notion of constructivism.

I do wonder why these alternative perspectives on constructivism were not given in the ICTs course when constructivism was introduced. Would have been a more balanced view-point.

And now into the reports comments

These observations by Wilson are consistent with expressed concerns that too many faculties and schools of education in Australian higher education institutions currently providing pre-service teacher education base their programs on constructivist views of teaching.


And this comment on the social background issue

fi ndings from a large body of evidence-based research consistently indicate that quality teaching has significant positive effects on students’ achievement progress regardless of their backgrounds.

Engaging with recommendations

We’re being asked to participate in a group discussion about one of the recommendations from this report. The trouble is that the recommendation #2 that I see in the report, is not the one we’re meant to talk about.

Defining New Literacies in Curricular Practice

Another reading

Semali, L.M. (2001). Defining new literacies in curricular practice.

New literacies are defined as those “that have emerged in the post-typographic era”. Implications being

“post-typographic” points to the fact that electronic texts are destabilizing previously held conceptions of literacy and are requiring students and teachers to examine assumptions about reading, writing, books, and what we know — and think we know — about curriculum practice.

Some reflection to do, but laptop power is an issue. Time to go home.

Literacy and Numeracy: Week 3

So, after a delay due to an assignment in another course and organising a new car, it’s time to catch up on Week 3 of this course. Just as week 4 is starting and the first assignment is due. A few late nights coming up.

Secondary school focus

So, some concrete links to the setting I’ll be teaching in. Am wondering about the structure and content of the course, I don’t feel as if I’m getting much insight from it. Perhaps it says more about me, than the course.

I wish someone would talk to these folk about proportional page width with HTML and Moodle.

Okay, so the point is made about literacy and numeracy in school moving beyond the 3Rs…multimodal, multimedia and – gratuitous Friere quote – “read the words and the worlds”.

If this is the case, then why am I getting such a sense of dissonance between this statement and what I see and hear going on within Australian schools around NAPLAN tests? Perhaps I have the wrong idea of NAPAN?

Literacy after the early years

And onto a reading

Comber, B., Badger, I., Nixon, H. & Pitt, J. (2002). Literacy after the early years: A longitudinal study. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 25 (2), 9-23.

They aimed to produce

  • longitudinal case studies of literacy development among primary-aged kids in 3 low SOE schools.
  • analysis of student development, teacher pedagogies and local application of reforms.
  • resources to extend teachers knowledge.

Findings with 3 focii

  1. What did low SOE students bring to school.
    Students are diverse in the experience, with haves and have nots. Some literacy practices of students not able to used in schools, not recognised.
  2. What did they make of the literacy curriculum .
  3. What is needed to make literacy teaching work.

mmm, I’m not seeing any flashes of brilliance here. A lot of it appears to be known, and I wonder abou the value of such research with a small sample size and that doesn’t give much in the way of evidence/argument about how they reached their conclusions.

In the end the argument is that the following factors make a difference to what children learn

  • recognition – extent to what children do counts and they see that it counts.
  • resources – extent to which schools have resources.
  • curriculum – quality, scope and depth of what is made available.
  • pedagogical – quality of teacher talk, teacher-student relationships and assessment practices
  • take-up – extent to adoption of literate practices by children and what discourses the school authorises
  • translation – extent to which children take practices to new situations.

Am having a sense of “duhh, basically knew that”.

Queensland Education Performance Review

So, getting more practical and examining the state government’s review literacy/numeracy. A review commisioned after 2008 NAPLAN tests and the 2007 TIMSS tests. The review had a focus on primary education.

Mmmm, the last reading was also talking about research at the primary level. I thought this week was focused on secondary schools?

The report emphasised “the importance of high quality teaching and school leadership”.

Mm, much of the report sounds much the same as most of these things in terms of 5 recommendations

  1. primary teachers have to demonstrate through tests literacy/numeracy.
    Government spends money implementing tests, rather than asking why/if existing education practices aren’t sufficient. Nor asking how the new tests will be gamed by student teachers. A bit like the IELTS (english language test) for NESB students. Lots of cramming, pass the test, then revert to practices that contribute to the learning disappearing…..Not to mention the discrepancy between wanting more authentic assessment for students, but inflicting tests on teachers.
  2. More professional development.
    Will it be any better than the old? What are the factors limiting benefits from existing PD?
  3. More funding for specialist literacy advisors.
    Ahh, many targeted at improving NAPLAN performance…..question whether the focus on NAPLAN will impact the quality of the literacy/numeracy skill of students.
  4. Introduce standard science tests at years 4, 6, 8, and 10
    “In principle” support. i.e. too hard for us to do anything, so we won’t.
  5. Review international best practice and importance of leaders.
    New leadership institute….Ahh, talk to Federal government about hosting national leadership development institute.

Australia’s language potential

Another reading

Clyne, M. (2005). Australia’s Language Potential. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. pp. 143-173.

Moving onto “issues connected with new literacies in the English language”. From this and the next reading we’re being asked to engage in a group discussion around the following

  1. What do you believe to be some of the issues surrounding language and global English(es) as raised in these articles?
    Perhaps most obvious to me in this reading, was the influence of broader societal trends. For example, globalisation, economic rationalism, multiculturalism have all had significant impacts on the question of language. In addition, the idea that this is a dynamic, emerging problem, not something that is pre-defined.
  2. What are the implications of this for notions of literacy and numeracy?
    Is there much in particular? Perhaps that these notions will be influenced by the same trends, that they too will form a dynamic, emerging problem.

It’s late and I probably shouldn’t be doing this now, but you get that.

The reading is the 5th chapter of a book, this chapter looks at policy. Starts with the idea of countries based on languages (e.g. European, France etc) arising from policy, including an EC one on minority languages. Leads to the idea that Australia is trying to balance immigrant languages without “sacrificing national cohesion”. Through “a context of mainstreaming cultural diversity” and “promoting unity within diversity”….the chapter looks at the ups and downs of pluralist language policy.

Various researcher abstractions dividing up the evolution of Australian policy.

UP unto the 70s/80s, assimilation was the policy towards immigrants. Bilingual education prohibited.

English language classes for adults started in 1948, bu ESL in schools only in the 60s. Billy Snedden quote “We must have a single culture…We don’t want cultural pluralism”.

But at around this time various factors including the Suez crisis, Britain joining the EC/EU etc generated ideas of Australia as independent state….Then the Whitlam government…..leading to an Australian identity that included cultural diversity….but not uniform, union movement remained concerned about migrant threat to jobs. Also remained difference between some capital as multi-cultural and some regional areas.

Eventually demands for teaching other languages and cultures in schools. Broader societal trends slower, some move with radio stations, especially with multilingual stations set up to education folk about Medibank. Devolution of curriculum planning to schools also helped introduction of community languages.

Through the early 80s, significant expansion of multiculturalism.

Only in 1976 did the census include a question about language, no (good) numbers before that. Linguists began pushing for national language policy. In 1982 an inquiry was held into the need for a “national language”. It generated four guiding principles

  1. Competence in English.
  2. Maintenance and development of other languages.
  3. Provision of services in other languages.
  4. Opportunities for learning 2nd languages.

Some delay federally, filled in by movement in some states. An SA policy identified language maintenance as a right.

Eventually national policy started to be formulated based on a rationale of social justice, long-term economic strategies and cultural enrichment. Policy formulation was responsibility of Minister for Education, hence education focus.

At this stage, economic rationalism enters the picture and the focus turns to short-term economic goals. Education portfolio joined with employment and training. New top-down policy with a focus on English literacy and languages connected to external trade and tourism.

Aside: Got to love the poor OCR of this scan

social mobility and t h e utilisation of their slulls with

Eventually, language policy re-fragmented: literacy, Asian languages, interpretation, translation…suggested that this was in part because of government antipathy to policy development, especially bottom up. First off the rank was Federal policy around economic importance of Asian languages.

Suggestion that many contextual factors in 90s and 2000s prevent development of language policy, including: funding crisis in universities, more broadly economic rationalism and user pays. i.e. no money for translators and other services…suggesting the idea that economic rationalism is the new assimilation. National language policy is seen as a luxury in times of economic restraint.

This creates issues with demographic changes as services not keeping up due to limited funds. e.g. Sudanese arrivals.

Language policy flows from multi-culturalism, so some thought given to that…including Hanson and Howard and the role of fear, economic crisis etc.

Ethical investment and the case for linguistic diversity

Next reading

Singh, M. and Scanlon, C. (2003). Ethical investment and the case for linguistic diversity. Zadok Perspectives, 81: 18-20.

Another great OCR scanning job, apparently WWII was fought in the Pacific between 1942 and 1745.

The Navajo Indian codetalkers used by the use during WWII are used as the evidence for the value of linguistic diversity. And since we have half the languages we had 500 years ago, things aren’t looking good. And that the majority of current languages will be extinct within 2 generations – only about 600 left.

Language death arises from a range of inter-related: political, economic, cultural and social processes. e.g. the rise of the nation state and subsequent cultural homogeneity.

Rise of transnational or global languages and consumerism.

Destruction of local habitats……community survives by making a living from the local environment and a sustainable economic system.

Mentions a range of reasons why language death might be seen as a good thing.

However, point made that language plays a central role in creation and transmission of knowledge. Different languages, different ways of thinking. Also embody intimate knowledge of local surrounds, knowledge that could be valuable.

Of course, I feel this argument about it being economically valuable to be diverse is a losing one. It has to battle the much easier to understand economic value of everyone talking the same language as opposed to a possible, but yet unknown potential benefit.

Has mentioned the importance of some localisation in the overall push to globalisation, i.e. there are different markets. The idea of “linguistic capital”.

IN terms of new technology, the old style “english is language of IT” has been replaced again by localisation.

Mm, interesting comparison. The previous reading used the example of “English only language groups” as a negative example. i.e. folk in the US and other “english” countries campaigning to outlaw other languages in schools and other areas. This reading is using examples of language groups campaigning against “the world-dominating English language” through the use of multi-lingual IT.


Before I finish, I did author two posts to the course discussion forum. May as well share them here.

Google translate and a tendency to homogeneity

Google translate is a fairly good service that offers translations between one language to another.

But if you try to “round trip” the translation – take it from one language, through various others and back to the original language – you encounter some problems.

I heard about this from some presentations by Dave Snowden and tried it for the first time tonight.

I took the phrase

Hello how are you today. Is it raining there?

and used Google Translate to take it from English to French and then fed the French translation (“Bonjour comment allez-vous aujourd’hui. Est-ce qu’il pleut là-bas?”) into Google Translate to go to German. Then the German into Japanese and finally the Japanese back into English. Here’s the final English output

Hello, you specify how today. Is it raining?

For me, in the context of this course, this example reinforces just how hard language understanding is. This suggests that “global english” – possibly defined as a type of english removed of all contextual/cultural references and idioms – is probably not as simple nor useful as some suggest.

Just as Singh and Scanlon argued that the loss of localised languages represent a loss of knowledge, diversity and insight. The loss of cultural idioms and references in global English may represent a similar loss.

Perhaps global English is just another attempt to remove diversity and complexity from the world rather than put in the hard yards to engage and generate value from that diversity and complexity. I do fear, however, given the general nature of human-beings and the pressures of economic rationalism there will be a tendency to opt for homogeneity.

The odd one out

Which of the following three doesn’t fit?

Chicken A cow Grass
Chicken Cow Grass

Your answer?

Might be fun if you posted your answer as a reply before reading too much further.

The theory is that there will be different answers and the differences in answers will be based on the languages and cultures in which people were raised.

For an explanation take a look at this page which also describes where it comes from.

Week 2: Literacy and Numeracy

And lucky last. This is the course I haven’t gotten into as much yet, hopefully that can start to change. And today’s topic is “A Workplace Focus”.


Not off to a good start, am finding the duplication of having both a “Tutorial sheet” and a eStudyGuide apparently providing a learning sequence and the existence of differences between these sequences not helping the learner develop positive attitudes about the classroom environment and its tasks. Not to mention the fact that Topic 2 is apparently using the same Module in the study guide from last week, but I’m unsure where to start. If this is combined with some of the apparent fear and loathing surrounding the first assignment…..I’m also wondering whether the slight greater emphasis on vocational education that I pick up from some of the readings/comments is clashing with my traditional academic focus?

But then, given I’ve just read about the first Dimension of Learning I know that “attitudes and perceptions influence learning” and that there exist strategies to address this, first by “monitoring and attending to my own attitudes”. Though those are meant for the teacher, not the student. In terms of understanding that “attitudes and perceptions towards classroom tasks also influence learning” then I can use “positive talk” (I love this course, really, I do) and “believing that I can get help and resources needed”. But I am currently wondering how well this course would pass an evaluation based on the remaining strategies under DoL #1.

Okay, it seems we should start on page 19 of the study guide.

How adult literacy became a public issue in Australia

So, we start with this reading

Hodgens, J. (1994). How adult literacy became a public issue in Australia. Open Letter, 4(2), 13-24.

11 pages of reading. Looks like at least another 23 pages in another article plus other excerpts, who said education courses were easy?

From the mid-1970s the was an increase in concern about literacy in Australia. e.g. 10% of adults are functionally illiterate. COuld it be because a hidden social phenomenon was identified? Suggestion is that explanation ignores that increase in student numbers in education, especially secondary and tertiary. A trend that started in the 1950s and which lead to a doubling of post-compulsory secondary enrolments from 1976-1994.

The suggestion is that attending education did not meant that this huge and newly diverse population of students were successful. The article is a historical review and attempts to show how this diversity was seen in terms of deficit and deficiency and subsequently shaped literacy discussions.

The 70s and the context

1970s key period in construction of a literacy crisis in Oz. Both adult and school literacy mentioned in media. The late 1960s importation of ideas such as remedial education contributed. Whitlam from 72 places emphasis on equality and rectifying disadvantage. i.e. through unequal allocation of funds. HIghlighting a difference between conservative views of quality learning being sacrificed to achieve equality. Literacy argued as being related to shifts in the social order (by this author).

Literacy or morality

Illiteracy seen as an afflication, disease shame and leading to prison. Goes hand in hand with an increase in surveys and statistics to show scope of problem, but wild differences in results lead to a move to discussion of trends, rather than numbers.

The cause of illiteracy?

Multiple. There’s the biological/pyschological reason. A focus on lack.

Problems in the home. Over-watching of TV in the home etc.

“Most significant claim” is poor teaching in schools. A range of reasons, including adoption of “progressive” ideas.

Then there is teacher education institutions. i.e. trendy courses, that don’t focus on the basics.

The government.


The problem in all of the above is deficiency, in all of the above. The response being to focus on competence.

Mmm, but doesn’t go onto say much about what is wrong with this perspective. NOt a strong finish.

From training reform to training packages

And now this reading

Smith, E. & Keating, J. (2003). From training reform to training packages. Tuggerah, NSW: Social Science Press. pp. 16-39.

Okay, this is looking at the VET system, not sure how it connects with what we’re doing. Nothing in the tute/guide to tell me either. As it turns out, I’m not reading this, just noting the section headings.

Changes in the Australian economy

  • End of the post war boom
  • Changes in the structure of the economy
  • Changes in technology
  • Changes in the way work is organised
  • Changes in participation in the labour market in Oz
  • Change in jobs for the future

The response to these changes

  • Industry restructuring
  • Industrial relations response: Award restructuring
  • Implications of award restructuring for training

And corporatism and federalism as factors that shaped the form of training reform.

Changes from the late 1980s

  • Enterprise bargaining and Australian workplace agreements
  • The quality movement
  • Working nation: implementation and demise
  • The Karpin report
  • Turn of the century developments – i.e. globalisation etc.

Again a “so what” problem. Yes, all very interesting, but how does this connect with my study to be a high school teacher?

Making the connection

A pointer to an Oz government resource on Workplace literacy. It doesn’t seem that there is much here? No, it’s just the rather confusing user interface used by the government department.

Now a statement of what we will be expected to do (at a minimum)

  • Read competency standards and identify the specific communication skills embedded throughout
  • Relate those communications skills to specific tasks in the workplace (and/or its simulation)
  • Identify learners who may have difficulties with the demands of these tasks
  • Know when a specialist LLN teacher is required and be willing to work with that person
  • Check learning resources for their appropriateness to the abilities of your learners and the Performance Criteria of the Elements of competency (with due regard to the recommended Key Competency level/s, Evidence Guide and Register of Variables also)
  • Design assessment tasks that are also appropriate as above.

But little to no description of what any of this means. What is a LLN teacher? Learning, Literacy and numeracy? What competency standards? Couldn’t see them on the WELL site. Ahh the next section explains, LLN = Language Literacy and numeracy.

Occupational literacy audit

We’re meant to complete a occupational literacy audit for an occupation. It appears this will be related to the first assignment. In fact, it is exactly one of the tasks. Mmm, I can see some intelligent reuse happening here, it’s probably even intended in the course design.

That’s done. 1 of 5 elements for that assignment. I will need to revisit the rubric for the assignment to see how that early work went.

Capturing Key Elements in Multiliteracies Projects

The next bit quotes from key elements in multilteracies from the book “Multiliteracies and Diversity in Education” (Healy, 2008). We are meant to “consider them”. I’m going to interpret that as an excuse to riff, somewhat ill-informed, about them in the following.

They are

  • New learning pedagogy promotes student agency: a say in and control over learning.
    The multiliteracies stuff did talk about “agency” being a key part of its make up. But this seems to suggest something different? Either way, it seems to be sticking with the constructivist orthodoxy that now exists within schools, or at least universities teaching trainee teachers.
  • Learning by Design (Kalantzis & Cope 2005) enables productive text engagement for real purposes and audiences.
    My problem here is I wonder what they mean by “Learning by Design”. Okay, this book excerpt (Kalantzis & Cope 2005) offers this definition

    The Learning by Design approach is also an attempt to imagine and test innovative tools and learning environments in which the blackboard, textbook, exercise book and test are augmented and at times replaced by digital technologies. In the case of Learning by Design, this is not simply a case of ‘digital makeover’ of legacy teaching practices; it is a process of imagining how learning may be different and more effective

    That turns out to be the last of four components. It essentially appears to be a focus on designing learning experiences in which students participate (in a constructivist sense) and a significant consideration of the multiliteracies stuff and the role of technology as stated above. Hence the “real purposes and audiences”. To some extent, Learning Engagement theory might be slight connected as an example.

  • Texts, and the technologies through which they communicate, determine how we interact with phenomenon, idea, message and object – we learn from and contribute to the text environment according to our social and cultural orientations.
    I can agree with that.
  • Texts that exhibit multimodality are designed using collaborations between any of the visual, spatial, linguistic, audio, and gestural information (Kalantzis & Cope 2004b).
    i.e. multimodal media require multiple skills/literacies?
  • Multiliteracies projects provide the scope to bring community practices with text into the classroom.
    I can make some assumptions, but without knowing what is truly meant by “multiliteracies projects” I find it hard to consider this one.
  • Learning by Design has its agendas bound to processes of civic and private activity.
    Again, I need more of an idea of Learning by Design before I can consider that.
  • Student diversity is recognised and celebrated in a learning community ethos.
    yes, that’s good. But again context is missing.
  • Learners have capacities for engaging four knowledge processes: experiencing the known and the new; conceptualising by naming and theorising; analysing functionally and critically; and applying appropriately and creatively (Kalantzis and Cope 2004b). The degree to which these processes are utilised is highly dependent on the learning contexts that teachers design with and for students.
    Okay, that seems a reasonable framework of knowledge processes in terms of literacy, but how does it/is it meant to fit with the rest of the stuff we’re being introduced to?

I have the feeling that I could have done without 20/30 pages of reading about the historical changes that have contributed to literacies, multiliteracies and much more reading about these considerations.


We’re now meant to

Consider the skills you listed in your Occupational Literacy Audit. Now think about students in a secondary school. From your practicum experience, what does secondary school have in place to prepare students for the workplace? How many students have part-time jobs? How many have traineeships? Does your school have Work Education courses? VET courses?

The topic for this week’s Discussion Forum is “What’s the gap between what students know, and what they need to know, to be competent in the workplace?”

Actually, I’m not going to engage. I haven’t been on practicum yet and any knowledge I have of school students and schools is based on very limited knowledge. I don’t think that’s an effective foundation on which to base this activity.

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