The WAC Clearinghouse

CCCC 2001 in Review: B.8 On the Next Street Over: Connecting Literacy to Our Selves, Our Neighbors, and New Media

Chair: Jim McWard

Joan Karbach read "Connecting Multiple Intelligences, Genres, Literacies." She began by reviewing.Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and the work of Mina Shaunessesy and Shirley Brice Heath to merge native tongues and expressive writing to consider the genre's effect on students from different language groups. Karbach moved from her theoretical background to explaining the process of her "Heritage Papers." She uses writing assignments that enable students to consider writing a tribute to ancestor. Visual literacy is practiced with creating a family tree and a coat of arms. Karback began to break down genres of writing according to Gardner's types of intelligences. Visual-Spatial connects to family trees and coat of arms, Logical-Mathematical connects to written summary, etc. Her method was more exciting than the too general conclusion that this approach gives students "more insight into their lives."

Virginia Nelson "Fresh Perspectives on Old Literacies" began to read her paper only seconds after Karbach finished. Her rapid reading speed made it hard to permeate her thinking. Mainstream literacy (close to academic literacy?) blinds students to other literacy and other cultures. Her main point seemed to be that literacy processes should also encourage tolerance in a rapidly changing society, and she focused on some of the particular problems with creating new, more socially aware literacies. Based on unpacking assumptions of bias in classes, Nelson used Paulo Friere's notion of situating literacy work in individuals and communities. She explained that writing about identity encouraged her students to link to characters (fictional and non-fictional) in the various narratives she used her first-year writing classes. Students in Nelson's classes talk about the characters and do role playing in ways that allow them to critically analyze behavior and to better understand their own biases. Paraphrasing Patricia Bizzell, Nelson concluded by arguing for more minority voices in our classes.

Maureen Fitzpatrick presented "Connecting Cybertexts, Virtual Genres, and Hyper Students." Fizpatrick started by handing out a nice handout with links to assignments and an outline of her talk. Fitzpatrick advanced the idea that computer literacy is more like literacy in general. She moved us away from technical thinking towards acts of comprehension and expression to develop an interactive literacy with media, hypertext, and student ideas about meaning making. She noted that the phrase, "the traditional web page" seems odd but used it to advance her sense of teaching with multimedia that goes beyond a pretty billboard to a point where students work "to nurture digital literacy for the 21st century." According to Fitzpartick, "Hypertext exploits the 'surplus' of meaning in language and the key lesson is that the "author is not in control." Nonetheless, Fitzpartick showed control as she engaged ideas from Paul Ricouer and notions of rhetorical shifts to move from James Kinneavy's centrality of text to a place where the "user" (writer and/or reader) is at the center of writing activity. She then moved on to discuss Jay David Bolter's sense of "Writing Space" and hypertextuality to show how important ideas of literacy are changing. On the horizon, Fitzpatrick looked toward the evolution of computers becoming literate as the next step in artificial intelligence. Instead of a robot or android that is almost human, Fitzpatrick's sense of artificial intelligence is simply centered on technology that interacts with us in human ways. She concluded by pointing out discourse qualities in Berner-Lee's notion of a semantic web to support both her future seeing and current pedagogy. [WH]

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