My readings this week, the introductory chapter from Lankshear and Knobel’s text and a library research article on information literacy instruction, have provided me with a lot of ideas and concepts to ponder. The most fruitful insights I’ve acquired from both texts have challenged my perception of “literacy” and what it means in a practical example (a classroom). Overall, Lankshear and Knobel provided me with a theoretical framework and the research article gave me a case study in literacy.
In the introductory chapter to their book, Lankshear and Knobel challenged my understanding of literacy and what it means to be literate. The authors define literacies as “socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content through the medium of encoded texts within contexts of participating in Discourses (or, as members of Discourses)”. Within this definition, discourses are people’s means of expressing ideas/emotions/contributions that serve as group identification and contribution. In my understanding, this can mean a lot of things in the digital age and renders “literacy” an inappropriate term. Etymologically, literacy refers to text and the ability to read and write. Since there are several “new literacies” beyond the constraints of paper and writing tools due to the emergence of cyberspace, I feel that a term like “adaptability” might be more appropriate. As discourses are invented, people must adapt in order to keep up.
My understanding of “literacy” (or “adaptability”) in a sociocultural context stems from the explanations of primary and secondary discourses, the two mindsets regarding the world, and the impact of cyberspace. To me, it seems that to be “literate” is to be of the 2nd mindset with a firmly ingrained ability to adapt to and join secondary discourses.In my own profession (academic libraries), we talk a lot about information literacy. Whenever I teach a class, the goal is to make the students adapt to a culture in which knowing how to find, evaluate, and use information is more critical than ever. In order to be literate, one has to understand and accept the ways in which cyberspace has (and continues to) transform the world as well as a willingness to adapt with it.
Lankshear and Knobel’s text included a couple terms that were previously unknown (or contextually misunderstood by me): Literacy (in a sociocultural context, inevitably) and discourse (beyond speaking and listening offline). My understanding of both terms expanded as they are intrinsically linked. It is impossible to understand literacy without understanding the discourse as well as the cultural context.
The concepts of “literacy” and “discourse” provide an excellent backdrop for a reading of “Information Problem Solving Instruction in Higher Education: A Case Study on Instructional Design”. In this study, the researchers employed the 4C-ID model of instructional design when teaching an online course at Open University of The Netherlands. In short, the students had to use technological and critical problem solving skills in order to complete the course assignments. The results reflected effective learning and student satisfaction, but the preparation of the course was very difficult for the instructors. They concluded that this method of instructional design is an excellent way of teaching and learning, but the instructors need to spend extensive amounts of time preparing.
In reading this study, the text of Lankshear and Knobel serves as the perfect context to evaluate the success of students in the course. Throughout the process, the students were compelled to adapt a secondary discourse in the classroom. Many of them may have had previous experiences in courses that were similar, but the overwhelmingly positive results reflect success across the board. This article holds strong implications for my current work. Specifically, my colleagues and I are always investigating new methods of instructional design in order to grow student skill sets that will stay with them after the duration of a course.
To sum it all up: The readings from this week have increased my awareness of what takes place internally as students (myself included) struggle to adapt to a new course and develop new “literacies”. It seems to be the case that the job of an instructional designers goes beyond simply putting together courses; instructional designers must tailor digital stories to facilitate the development of literacy in students.