I chose to read this week’s texts starting with Multiliteracies and then move to Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” and I am happy with my choice. Reading the last article definitely stirred a reaction from me — which I am assuming was Prensky’s point in using a condescending, and uninformed tone — which motivated me to write about it right away. However, I’ll get to that at the end of this post.
Multiliteracies Multiliteracies is a collaborative effort and substantive piece of writing aimed at identifying many historical and social influences and events shaping literacy today while also addressing what a Multiliteracy pedagogy should entail.
Myriad concepts, constructs and terminology are introduced in the first two hundred pages of the text, some I’ve encountered before, many I have not. Reading this text presented a challenge in that ideas introduced and discussed are somewhat removed from applications to teaching practice, but I need a place to ground my thoughts and experiences as a teacher, and so far, this text seems to be a good start. While the collection of authors of Multiliteracies address an extensive list of components of a multiliteracy pedagogy, certain items were more compelling than others and I will focus on what Cope and Kalantzis call the “paradox of pluralism”.
Paradox of Pluralism In Chapter 10, Cope and Kalantzis address the concept within Multiliteracies of designs for social futures. They address what they call the paradox of pluralism by stating, “The paradox here is that the technologies of connection and communication, technologies that glory in global reach and local exoticism, intensify the significance and poignancy of differences” (p. 233). The solution it seems, according to Cope and Kalantzis, is to ensure that cultural makers shift between cultural selves or groups with ease and be able to negotiate this regularly. I’m not quite sure I understand exactly what this may look like, or even if I have their proposed solution correct; I will have to think more on this.
“Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” As a teacher who actively seeks new paths to using technology in my classroom, I find, along with others I’m sure, that the distinctions “Digital Immigrants” and “Digital Natives” are misnomers, and naive ones at that. But this article was published in 2001, so perhaps Prensky was just jumping the gun. After reading Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, I thought it best to make a list of my contentions. First, however, I would like to state that I think Prensky’s intention is to generate some emotional reactions to his message, and I do agree that students’ brains are different than they used to be and that teachers should consider this when teaching; however, Prensky’s message is a little naive in its application to the actual classroom.
3. With technology, teachers need to entertain (or “infotain”) students. Yes, engaging students with the content is necessary for understanding, retention, and transference, but the call for teachers to entertain students sounds like we are there to put on a show for them. What message does this send to students and parents? If it’s not fun, then it’s not worth knowing? Interest drives attention, but learning is hard work, messy and wrought with failures; and sometimes it is not fun in the immediate, but it is rewarding later on in life.
4. Gaming is applicable for each subject area. This points to a frustration I have with writers and “thought leaders” (see Prensky’s bio at the end) who attempt to apply a technological pedagogical method to each subject area, yet the content area of English/Language Arts seems to be missing from the articles. There probably is some sort of connection between gaming and English/Language Arts, but I struggle to see it in a meaningful way. Most writing mentions how games are great for learning in math, science, and social studies, but no mention, even in Prensky’s article, about the teaching of literature and writing. I would like to see my content area represented more in literature that makes the claim this or that technology has applications to each subject area.
It is articles like these that concern me as an educator because typically the loudest voice gets the most attention. I think it is important to critically evaluate any new methodology or technology that comes into the classroom before assuming it is going to be the panacea to failure.