Making Literacy Real: Theories and Practices for Learning and Teaching

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Joanne Larson & Jackie Marsh

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  • With Contributions From

    Barbara Comber, Kate Cosgrove, Patricia Enciso, Lynn Astarita Gatto, Pamela Hubbard, Michele Knobel, Gunther Kress, Colin Lankshear, Kevin M. Leander, Guy Merchant, Karin Murris, Kate Pahl, Jennifer Rowsell, Brian Street, Vivian Vasquez and Karen E. Wohlwend

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    About the Authors and Contributors

    Joanne Larson is Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education and Chair of the Teaching and Curriculum Program at the University of Rochester's Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, USA. She received her PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1995. Larson's ethnographic research examines how language and literacy practices mediate social and power relations in literacy events in schools and communities. She is currently collaborating with Rochester community residents on a participatory action research project examining changes associated with transforming a local corner store into a cornerstone of healthy living. Her book Radical Equality in Education: Starting Over in US Schooling (2014) makes the case for beginning with assumptions of equality instead of inequality in education. She is the editor of Literacy as Snake Oil: Beyond the Quick Fix (2nd edn) (2007) and co-editor with Jackie Marsh of Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy (2013). Larson's journal publications include research articles in Research in the Teaching of English; Written Communication: Linguistics and Education; Journal of Early Childhood Literacy; and Discourse and Society.

    Jackie Marsh is Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield, UK, where she conducts research on young children's play and digital literacy practices in homes, communities, early years settings and primary schools. Her recent publications include Changing Play: Play, Media and Commercial Culture from the 1950s to the Present Day (with Bishop, 2014) and Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy (edited with Larson, 2013). Jackie is an editor of the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

    Barbara Comber is a Research Professor in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her interests include literacy education and social justice, teachers’ work and identities, place and space, and practitioner inquiry. She has recently co-edited the International Handbook of Research in Children's Literacy, Learning and Culture (Hall, Cremin, Comber, and Moll, 2013) and Literacies in Place: Teaching Environmental Communication (Comber, Nixon, and Reid, 2007). She is currently conducting three Australian Research Council funded Linkage projects – ‘Ethical Leadership: How Educators Address Learning, Equity and Accountability’, ‘Educational Leadership and Turnaround Literacy Pedagogy’, and ‘New Literacy Demands in the Middle Years: Learning from Design Experiments’.

    Kate Cosgrove is an Assistant Headteacher in Mundella Primary School, Sheffield, UK. Kate, a former musician with a degree in architecture, is a late entrant to teaching, and she has a strong professional interest in literacy and technology. She was involved in the JISC-funded research project ‘Digital Futures in Teacher Education’ (http://www.digitalfutures.org).

    Patricia Enciso is Professor of Literature, Literacy and Equity Studies at The Ohio State University where she teaches courses in sociocultural theory and mediating multicultural literature, and conducts research in student learning through innovative arts-based pedagogies. She is co-editor of Reframing Sociocultural Research on Literacy: Identity, Agency and Power (2007), and co-editor of The Handbook of Research on Children's and Young Adult Literature (2011), and has served as co-editor of Language Arts, the leading US journal for teacher research and current issues in preK–middle-grade literacy education. Professor Enciso serves as incoming President for the Literacy Research Association and Research Director for the National Council for Research on Language and Literacy.

    Lynn Astarita Gatto is Assistant Professor and Director of Elementary Education at the Warner School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester, USA. She is also executive director of Horizons at Warner, a summer enrichment program serving urban students in kindergarten through eighth grade on the University of Rochester's River Campus. Gatto's research interests include critical literacy practices, urban education, and classroom discourse. Prior to joining the Warner School, Gatto taught in the Rochester City School District for 33 years, where she was recognized both locally and nationally as an innovative teacher and for her success with urban students. Most notably, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the Toyota Tapestry Award, and the Disney American Teacher Award. In 2004, Gatto was named the New York State Teacher of the Year. Gatto has served on the research committee for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and as a council member of the National Science Teachers Association. Currently, she serves on the editorial board of Language Arts and is an active member of the Healthy Kids School Action Team for the Greater Rochester Area Health Foundation.

    Pamela Hubbard is an early childhood educator with 25 years of teaching experience in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and a Master's degree in Developmental Reading from the University of Iowa. She is co-author of a chapter in Reclaiming Reading: Teachers, Students, and Researchers Regaining Spaces for Thinking and Action (2011). Pam currently teaches kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School in the Iowa City Community School District.

    Michele Knobel is Professor of Education in the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education at Montclair State University, USA, and an internationally recognized researcher and scholar in the area of literacy education, new literacies, and digital technologies (see New Literacies: Changing Knowledge in the Classroom (with Colin Lankshear, 2006); A New Literacies Sampler (ed. with Colin Lankshear, 2007); The Handbook of Research on New Literacies (ed. with J. Coiro et al.); and New literacies: Everyday Practice and Social Learning (with Colin Lankshear, 2008). She worked at the Queensland University of Technology from 1995 to 1998 before moving to Mexico where she continued researching and writing on teacher research and new literacies whilst working at distance for Central Queensland University. During 2001–2002 she was Assistant Professor and Associate Research Specialist in the Department of Education at the University of California, Irvine, and joined Montclair State University in 2003. Her early work focused on the everyday literacies of adolescents within school and out-of-school settings. During the past decade her work has increasingly focused on the nature and conduct of teacher research and, particularly, the emergence and take up of new literacies and their implications for literacy education and teacher education.

    Gunther Kress is Professor of Semiotics and Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. His interests are in communication and meaning (-making) in contemporary environments, with the broad aim to continue developing a social semiotic theory of multimodal communication; and, in that, to develop an apt theory of learning and apt means for the ‘recognition’ and ‘valuation’ of learning. Some books along the road are: Language as Ideology (1979) and Social Semiotics (1988) (both with Bob Hodge); Before Writing: Rethinking the Paths to Literacy (1997); Reading Images: the Grammar of Graphic Design (1996) and Multimodal Discourse: the Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication (2001) (both with Theo van Leeuwen); Literacy in the New Media Age (2003); Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication (2010).

    Colin Lankshear is a freelance educational researcher and writer based in Mexico where he is a permanent resident. He is currently a half-time Professor of Literacy and New Technologies at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, an Adjunct Professor of Education at Central Queensland University, Australia, and teaches short courses in Mexico, Canada, and the USA. His current research and publishing focus mainly on literacy and other social practices involving new technologies. He is a member of research teams on projects funded by the Australian Research Council and the Australian government, investigating factors associated with low female participation rates in information and communication technology (ICT) professional occupations and ‘Success for Boys’, respectively. Recent books include New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning (with Michele Knobel, 2011) and Cyber Spaces/Social Spaces: Culture Clash in Computerized Classrooms (with Ivor Goodson et al., 2002), and he is joint editor of The Handbook of Research on New Literacies (2008).

    Kevin M. Leander is an Associate Professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University. Leander has a special interest in changes in literacy as social practice through new media technologies. Leander is co-leader of the Space, Learning, and Mobility group at Vanderbilt, with work funded by the National Science Foundation. SLaM research examines spatial thinking in professional work and in designed activities for youth, in and out of school. Leander is most recently engaged in thinking about and designing new learning environments, including hybrid environments that traverse online and physical spaces. Together with colleagues in The Netherlands, Leander also examines the socialization and identity practices of migrant youth through new media.

    Guy Merchant is a Professor of Literacy in Education and research lead for the Department of Teacher Education at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. He specializes in research into digital literacy and is particularly interested in the inter-relations between children and young people, new technology and literacy. He has published widely in journals such as Language and Education, British Journal of Educational Technology, and Learning, Media and Technology. Guy is an editor of the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

    Karin Murris is Associate Professor at the School of Education, University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. Her research interests include philosophy of education, philosophy with children (P4C), Reggio Emilia, early literacy, childhood studies, and children's literature. Karin pioneered the use of picturebooks for P4C and, trained by Matthew Lipman in the US, she helped conceptualize and implement the teacher education of P4C in the UK (http://www.sapere.org.uk) before moving to South Africa in 2009. She has published many professional articles and academic papers (see: https://uct.academia.edu/KarinMurris) as well as books: Teaching Philosophy with Picture Books (1992), and (with Joanna Haynes) Storywise: Thinking through Stories (2002) and Picturebooks, Pedagogy and Philosophy (2012; Routledge Research in Education Series). Teaching Philosophy with Picture Books formed the basis of an early literacy research project in West Wales in 1994/5. Karin set up a network for P4C in Southern Africa in 2011 (http://www.mindboggles.org.za) and organized the 16th international P4C conference in Cape Town in 2013 (http://icpic.org).

    Kate Pahl is a Reader in Literacies in Education at the University of Sheffield, UK. She has written, with Jennifer Rowsell, Artifactual Literacies: Every Object Tells a Story (2010) and Literacy and Education: Understanding the New Literacy Studies in the Classroom (2012). Her forthcoming book Materialising Literacies (2014) is concerned with literacy in community contexts. Her research includes community-engaged research with a focus on literacy and language, musical heritage, and art. Recent projects include ‘Fishing’, ‘Transmitting Musical Heritage’, and Language as Talisman’, all funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council's Connected Communities program. She teaches on the Ed D in literacy as well as courses on participatory research with children and young people at the School of Education, University of Sheffield.

    Jennifer Rowsell is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Multiliteracies at Brock University's Faculty of Education where she directs the Centre for Multiliteracies. She has co-written and written several books in the areas of New Literacy Studies, multimodality, and multiliteracies. Her current research interests include children's digital and immersive worlds; adopting and applying multimodal epistemologies with adolescents and teenagers; and ecological work in communities examining everyday literacy practices. Her most recent books include New Literacies Around the Globe (with Cathy Burnett, Julia Davies, and Guy Merchant, 2014); Learning and Literacy Over Time: Longitudinal Perspectives (with Julian Sefton-Green, 2014); and the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Literacy Studies with Kate Pahl (in press).

    Brian Street is Professor Emeritus in Language in Education at King's College London, UK and Visiting Professor of Education, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, USA. He undertook anthropological fieldwork on literacy in Iran during the 1970s, and taught social and cultural anthropology for over 20 years at the University of Sussex before taking up the Chair of Language in Education at King's. He has written and lectured extensively on literacy practices from both a theoretical and an applied perspective. He has a longstanding commitment to linking ethnographic-style research on the cultural dimension of language and literacy with contemporary practice in education and in development. Books include On Ethnography with S. B. Heath (2008), Literacy in Theory and Practice (1984), Cross-Cultural Approaches to Literacy (ed., 1993), Social Literacies (1995), Literacy and Development: Ethnographic Perspectives (ed., 2000), and Literacies across Educational Contexts (2005). He is currently involved in development projects in South Asia and Africa using ethnographic perspectives in training literacy and numeracy teachers in a program known as LETTER (Learning Empowerment through Training in Ethnographic Research).

    Vivian Vasquez is a Professor of Education at American University, USA. Her research interests are in critical literacy, early literacy, and information communication technology. Her publications include nine books and numerous book chapters and articles in refereed journals. Prior to coming to AU, Dr Vasquez taught pre-school and public school for 14 years. She has held appointive and elective offices in scholarly organizations including The National Council of Teachers of English, The American Educational Research Association, The International Reading Association, and The Whole Language Umbrella. Dr Vasquez's awards include the NCTE Advancement of People of Color Award (2013), the AERA Division B Outstanding Book of the Year Award (2006), and The James N. Britton Award (2005). She was also the first recipient of the AERA Teacher Research SIG Dissertation Award (2004). Most recently the NCTE Early Childhood Assembly honored Dr Vasquez with a scholarship in her name – The Vivian Vasquez Teacher Scholarship.

    Karen E. Wohlwend is Associate Professor of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education at Indiana University, Bloomington. She studies play as a literacy and a tactic to critically engage young children's play with toys, filmmaking, and digital technologies in online and classroom spaces. Recent publications include three books: Playing Their Way into Literacies: Reading, Writing, and Belonging in the Early Childhood Classroom (2011); Literacy Playshop: New Literacies, Popular Media, and Play in the Early Childhood Classroom (2013); and Literacy, Play, and Globalization: Converging Imaginaries in Children's Critical and Cultural Performances (with Carmen Medina, 2014). Wohlwend's articles have appeared in Reading Research Quarterly, Gender and Education, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Language Arts, and Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, among others.

    Acknowledgments

    We are grateful to Marianne Lagrange at Paul Chapman/Sage for her confidence in our ability to put together a theoretical work that teachers and researchers, both novice and expert, can use in their practice. We both honor the work of the teachers/teacher-researchers described in this book and shall always be grateful for their help in telling the stories of their classrooms. We also appreciate the generosity of Guy Merchant, Karin Murris, Karen Wohlwend, Jennifer Rowsell, Kate Pahl, and Vivian Vasquez in sharing their insightful research and writing based on the classrooms described. We thank Barbara Comber, Michele Knobel, Gunther Kress, Colin Lankshear, Pat Enciso, Kevin Leander, and Brian Street for their intellectual leadership and for the time they gave to answer our questions.

    We both have a number of individuals to thank. Larson and Marsh thank their colleagues and students for the scholarly inspiration behind their research and practice. It makes all the difference in the world to have a positive work context. Finally, Larson is grateful for the love and support of her husband, Morris Smith, and her three children, Anna, Eric, and Marcus, and Marsh for the unremitting patience of her partner, Julie Hooper. Without them, none of this could be done.

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