changing nature of literacy

Before disappearing from this space for the christmas break, I was just reading a few of the other course participants’ blog posts and this one by Chris made me smile… and then I found myself rethinking what I’ve been thinking for a very long time (well who ever stops thinking what they already know, right? we just add to the mix, we never ‘move on’ – everything important we already learned by the age of 5…), but anyway, ‘literacy’ has been my pet theme since I did a research project on it in an earlier life, and I was taken, back then when I first got deeply into higher ed, with two fields at once – medieval book culture and Halliday’s sophisticated and fascinating theory of language (that just made ‘language’ per se so much more interesting than anything we were ever told about it in school)…. and I’ve remained interested in both ever since.

What I wrote my thesis about way back then was an amusing and extraordinary phenomenon in early 14th English manuscripts, such as the splendiferous Luttrell Psalter….

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where the marginal imagery started to really take off and occupy more and more of the page ‘real estate’… and where that imagery became hilariously bawdy and bizarre (from a 20th century perspective on reading medieval illuminated manuscripts, as filtered by a century of construing book painting in terms of a particular set of ‘fine arts’ discourses)…

anyways, I’m finding now that whatever I see here in our shared MOOCdom, I can’t help but interpret through the filters already implanted in my mind from those earlier educational explorations, which left far more than a trace – they’re my framework. So when I read Chris’ post, thoughts about the pertinent analogy there were quickly overtaken by my usual set of thoughts, stemming from Halliday‘s lovely way of describing three simultaneous operations of language development – how the individual’s language repertoire grows and changes through their life, how a language as a whole, in the collective mind, changes over the centuries, and how any particular text unfolds and its context and meaning changes with each new word and sentence.

I guess I’ve just been ‘trained’ to (well, I like to) take a very long term view of change – I’m just not caught up in the current wave of hype about how the digital environment ‘changes everything’ or forces us to ‘rethink everything’… it modifies things very significantly, sure, but I don’t see a technology (or suite of new technological developments) completely changing the whole game.

I just find it more interesting I guess to look a long way back, and forward, to make sense of what’s happening here and now… what’s fantastic about this digital environment from my point of view is that we can so quickly and easily observe so much of what is going on in all three dimensions or ‘scales’ of operation – the production of each new text being contributed and read; personal development as new media are experimented with and mastered; and collective cultural development as this digital literacy phenomenon emerges and grows rapidly…

I’m just seeing what’s going on in terms of changing opportunities and media for literacy, and literacy (digital or otherwise) as usual, as just part of what we do with language – a major part of what we learn to do in this lovely little bit of life we enjoy for such a brief moment 🙂

pacem et concordiam ad omnes

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provoking comment

and while I learn more about twitter (which my research assistant this morning also very kindly taught me a thing or two about today, and introduced me to TweetDeck… which I’ll get back to some day when I need to avoid my day job some more, but right now I’m wanting to get back into some actual work – but just before I do I just have to note that the e-learning provocateur’s post that I read today (as I was munching on my lunch after my fruitful meeting with said research assistant this morning with whom I was actually doing some work, before we got onto the frivolous topic of tweeting, she being the expert and I the utter novice) has stuck in my mind and my mind being what it is these days I figure best strike while proverbial iron’s hot or the thoughts will be thinner than air by the time I get home tonight so here I am posting again – I was planning for just one a day, I feel now like I am binging, like I’m eating the whole packet of timtams in one go… a reference all Australians will immediately understand but others may need explained) well anyway, I just want to comment on one of the many points Ryan makes in his post because it echoes something I was saying to my twitter expert friend and assistant in crime this very day, in qualified defence of moocdom, namely… about the cMOOC.

We are clearly in what George Siemens refers to as a cMOOC, not an xMOOC – or at least, some of us are. That is, one where the focus is on connected, collaborative learning rather than broadcast. I mean, as I was thinking aloud this morning, it is a month before lift off and I have already learned stuff because we’re talking to each other, and I fully expect now that this has set the scene for the whole course – most of the learning we experience will be generated by our own interactions. This interests and pleases me, because the learning experience is the very aspect I joined to investigate. I am thinking of other points raised in Ryan’s post, such as the anticipation within and around the higher ed sector that moocdom will be rapidly occupied by those who have for so long been excluded from higher education, or who have found it absurdly inaccessible (remote, expensive, linguistically challenging), even as the empire repositions itself to remain the font of all knowledge for the foreseeable future – I expect there will be interesting comebacks ahead!

What I’m really keen to observe in this mooc experience we’re about to fly off into is its linguistic nature, the degree of multi-modality, and the potential of the medium to help or hinder those attempting to engage in what is for them a second, or still quite foreign language… there is so much potential for this moocy medium to be brilliant in multi-lingual contexts, and so much likliehood that it won’t be! I wonder when the first multi-lingual mooc delivery will be… there are already moocs playing out with study groupings conducted in languages other than English, but given that the big gun providers are US and UK based, the delivery will be in the firm grip of English for quite some time to come I guess.

there is a lot of commentary about moocs of course (and I’ve just got a grabbag snippet on my moocdom page on this blog, excerpts from a much larger set of bookmarks I’ve been gathering the past few months) – but surprisingly little about the language (or have I missed a ginormous discussion somewhere? – there is this interesting post about the geography of moodcom, but what really seriously is there about the linguistics?) One person I’m aware of who’s discussing the implications is Paul Prinsloo, but the topic will be on my mind throughout this course – be warned!