“New Literacies” – part deux

In the last post I picked out a couple of the themes from New Literacies that immediately struck me. Here are a few other concepts in which I could also see parallels with professional learning.


to take cultural artifacts and combine and manipulate them into new kinds of creative blends.

flickr photo by Diane Duane http://flickr.com/photos/dianeduane/5349841 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Here the authors discuss the art and craft associated with taking media such as text, imagery, audio, video and remixing it into new forms; a ‘New’ literacy practice they argue, made more accessible once the media are in digital form. I’d suggest that remixing is also a strand within professional learning, where a teacher identifies a potential resource or strategy, then individually or in association with colleagues, repurposes that for use in the context of her/his students’ learning. Strictly speaking that’s not remixing of course, however in order to and restructure it to make it appropriate for our students’ needs, we might break it down into its constituent parts, amend or append certain elements, then reassemble it for use, that is then indeed close to remixing. That may take our learning into new places, requiring us to appropriate new knowledge or skills. Analogue remixing might have involved taking clippings from new articles, pasting them onto a sheet, highlighting certain aspects (or redacting them), adding provocations, the photocopying the final product for sharing with students.

Everything is a Remix Remastered (2015 HD) from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Digital media offer a greater range of possibilities, but in addition to the pedagogical and content knowledge required to produce a useful resource, technical knowledge will also be required (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). Professional learning might then be manifest through remixing, or from the other direction, remixing may demand professional learning.

Ties and networks

Two interlinked ideas also caught my eye. Granovetter (1973, 1983) argues that individuals who have many weak ties have greater access to information than those who may have a few, strong ties. This is premised on the notion that those with whom we are strongly linked in our networks (friends) are likely to have access to the same sources of information as we were – we share similar ideas, values and opinions … and friends. Weaker ties (acquaintances) on the other hand are more likely to be less like us and therefore linked to different sources of information. In professional learning terms then, this implies that the more people we follow on Twitter, especially when we choose people with different backgrounds, the greater the range of information to which we have access. Of course it would be more prudent to seek a balance of stronger and weaker connections; those with whom we have little in common are less likely to be in a position to provide specific support appropriate to our needs; or we for them. Perhaps those weaker ties are the ones more likely to generate those serendipitous, unanticipated ideas which might reveal unexpected opportunities?

In a related topic, Welman et al (2006) see a shift from people belonging to groups with strong intra-personal links, to forming weaker connections through networked associations. The focus switches from the tightly-knit group to the loosely connected, networked individual, who has real-time access to an eclectic range of sources and resources.

Targeted social networking sites

Twitter and Facebook are general social networking sites in that they are not constructed on a particular theme or with a specific theme in mind. There are hundreds of social networking sites created for particular groups of people, whether expectant mothers, thrash metal aficionados, World of Warcraft players, the LGBT communities, baking buffs … or even those with an interest in education. Academia.Edu and Education World are just two examples. The question is, why have educators gravitated to a general social networking site like Twitter which caters for the masses and has features which in some senses seem to restrict, rather than encourage the free exchange of views. In a targeted educational SNS, surely it is easier to find and connect with people with whom you might learn; you would be aggregating around a common interest. That was one of the intriguing questions which set me out on this path to a PhD.

In conclusion, I just need to leave myself a reminder that there are some sigificant authors referred to in New Literacies (and other books I’ve read recently) whose work I need to explore further: John Seeley Brown (on social learning); Howard Rheingold (network awareness and virtual communities); James Paul Gee (affinity spaces); Jay Cross (informal learning). If a name keeps cropping up, it might be smart to pay it some attention.

Granovetter, M., 1983. The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited. Sociological theory 1, 201–233.
Granovetter, M.S., 1973. The strength of weak ties. American journal of sociology 1360–1380.
Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., 2008. Remix: The Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 52, 22–33. doi:10.1598/JAAL.52.1.3
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.
Wellman, B., Quan-Haase, A., Boase, J., Chen, W., Hampton, K., Díaz, I., Miyata, K., 2003. The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 8, 0–0. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2003.tb00216.x


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