A Guest Post by Carolyn Newall from We Teach Well
For those of us who are dedicated teachers of English and literature, literacy has always meant more than the ability to read words on a page. Literacy is the ability to make meaning from those words. To read them, evaluate them, use them, create content with them, understand and make meaning from them.
Literacy is a current buzzword in Education, nowhere more so than when it is attached to words like media and digital. Media literacy and digital literacy are not exactly the same as normal literacy, but neither are they completely unconnected.
Just as normal literacy concerned itself with making meaning out of written texts, media and digital literacy concern themselves with making meaning out of media and digital texts. As such, English teachers can not afford to be elitists and ignore them.
English teachers do not have a specific body of content to impart. They have a never ending wealth of content with which to teach a variety of skills and abilities. The most advanced being the ability to understand and make meaning from the world we live in. And make no mistake, for our students it is a digital world and we need to get ahead of it.
I have been particularly concerned for some time with the importance of cultural signifiers in reading comprehension. That is to say, are there cultural references in the text that make it inaccessible for a student who does not know that cultural context. Indigenous educators across the world have done really important work in this area and created more equitable contexts for their students.
Just as we need to be aware of cultural content we need to be aware of cultural modes of transmission. To create the best outcomes for our students we need to allow them access to modes that they are familiar with. Modes that allow them to display their understandings in new and different ways.
For my own son who suffered from dyslexia but had a visual memory that still astounds me, this would have been a game changer. Despite A grades for all spoken and media presentations, his written work was always poor and consequently his overall score for English was not good. Had he been allowed to make movies, record a podcast, create a social media profile, he could have demonstrated his understanding and analytical prowess far more successfully.
Teaching English is about teaching students to make meaning and communicate it to their audience. Writing essays can not be the only way we judge their prowess. The digital world is not going anywhere and we need to keep up.
On a side note, digital modes are opening up ways for teachers to have far greater impact and to earn extra income as well. But that is a topic for another day.
For now I have provided a complimentary copy, only for readers of the Wingaru Education Blog, of our presentation Teaching Film as Text.
Also If anyone is interested you will find some of our resources, including our free ebook, So You Want Them To Read, for teaching film at our TES store. https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/WeTeachWell
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