ENG 5310 Readings, Week 2: Literacy Narratives

                Literacy is understandably a major concern of both education and rhetoric, and with all that has been written on it, writers are bound to differ.  As interesting as the readings for this week were, I found myself disagreeing with most of them.

                For instance, Kress in the article “Multimodality” talks about the Western undue emphasis on the “written word” and how oral societies are perceived as “less civilized” than written societies.  This raises interesting questions about what constitutes “civilization,” but Kress instead takes the opportunity to examine other modes of persuasion.  Though the points about the rhetoric contained in material objects were good ones, I could not help feeling that their effect was over-emphasized, and that the western “undue emphasis” was not so undue after all.

                Bryson, however, agrees fully with Kress, and talks about the “Literacy Myth” at great length.  However, the literacy narratives from the Applachian students seem to directly contradict this notion.  Though Bryson points out—justly enough—that narratives are themselves fallible and portray more the subject’s preconceptions than the reality, it still seems that if narratives are going to be used, they should be relied on.  Bryson seems to prepare the narratives only to downplay their importance. Though I agree that literacy, whether with computers or words, does not equal economic success, at the same time I would argue that economic success is much more difficult to achieve without them.

                Rueker’s examples in “Exploring the Digital Divide” also seemed to confound his own point about socioeconomic factors.  The examples of Daniel and Carolina point to self-sponsorship, not race, class, or ethnicity, as the determining factor in success.  Rueker himself even recognizes this, though he attempts to hold to the socioeconomic thesis regardless.  Personally, I have held self-initiative to be the most important part of ANY subject—a student’s desire to learn greatly affects their progress.  That being said, it is the teacher’s responsibility to foster that desire, and Rueker’s point—that Daniel’s teachers should have REQUIRED him to exert more and employ more technology—is well-made.  

                Ching and Ching’s article continued this theme.  Again, their point about the importance of socioeconomic factors would seem to be undermined by the example of Randy, a poor boy whose family nonetheless was able to obtain a computer.  But they too, pointed to teacher’s lack of enthusiasm as a debilitating factor in student’s familiarity with technology.  I would agree that this happens to some extent in any subject—my elder brother never did understand the point of English class—but still, teachers are key to this process.  In the teacher’s position, I would do my best to indicate how widely computers are used in careers, and find ways to get students to use technology more creatively.

                With this in mind, Kirtley’s article “Rendering Technology Visible,” was both appropriate and encouraging.  Kirtley’s example of involving students in technology, arousing their interest in the medium and compelling them to question their decisions in using it—without, hopefully, influencing them with her own—was a breath of fresh air and very helpful.  I should very much like to use it in class myself.  While the importance of digital and written literacy may be overblown, that does not negate the importance they do have.  

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