Literacy in the 21st Century: Emergent Themes

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Louisville]On: 19 December 2014, At: 17:30Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>Peabody Journal of EducationPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:</p><p>Literacy in the 21st Century:Emergent ThemesJohn W. MillerPublished online: 22 Jun 2011.</p><p>To cite this article: John W. Miller (1998) Literacy in the 21st Century:Emergent Themes, Peabody Journal of Education, 73:3-4, 1-14, DOI:10.1080/0161956X.1998.9681883</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of theContent should not be relied upon and should be independently verified withprimary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of theContent.</p><p></p></li><li><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone isexpressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f L</p><p>ouis</p><p>ville</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>30 1</p><p>9 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p><p></p></li><li><p>PEABODY JOURNAL OF EDUCATION, 73(3&amp;4), 1-14 Copyright 0 1998, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. </p><p>Literacy in the 21st Century: Emergent Themes </p><p>John W. Miller </p><p>Literacy education and the preparation of literacy educators has long been marked by variant and extreme philosophies. The phonics versus sight vocabulary controversies of the past have evolved to the phonics ver- sus whole language debate of more recent origin. The call for balance be- tween the extremes represents still another position. Denton (1998) described the middle ground as follows: </p><p>The most difficult task facing policymakers is to understand that the strong feelings on both sides of the reading debate may not be truly re- flective of the choices before them. It is not a choice between teaching reading through phonics or whole language. A good whole-language program must include phonics. And good direct-phonics instruction, while essential, is only one part of an effective program. </p><p>Policymakers should seek to walk the fine line between the more sin- gle-minded positions on either side of the reading debate to promote an approach that really is based on strong evidence of effectiveness. The practice of teaching reading, like the practice of scientific medicine, never should cease to be, in the most positive sense of the term, a work in progress. (p. 6) </p><p>JOHN W . MLLER is Dean of the College $Education, Florida State University, Tallahassee. </p><p>Requests for reprints should be sent to John W. Miller, Dean, College of Education, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-3010. E-mail: </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f L</p><p>ouis</p><p>ville</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>30 1</p><p>9 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>J. W. Miller </p><p>Some view balance as a compromise between two differing points of view, one that accommodates neither and seeks a middle ground that does not exist. Others view balanced instruction as an approach to literacy in and of itself, one that recognizes differential student needs as requiring a variety on instructional modes and resources. As the new millennium rapidly ap- proaches, it is appropriate to consider these debates, and others, incontext. </p><p>The overriding purpose of this special double issue of the Peabody Journal of Education is to examine literacy from a variety of conceptual, societal, psy- chological, and historical viewpoints. The turn of the century is not neces- sarily a critical historical marker in education in general, or literacy education specifically, but it is a milestone. As it may seem that at this point in time the future of education hangs critically in the balance, an alternative is perhaps that the postmodern era has taken itself too seriously. It seems that every point in history is the most crucial, at least to those at that point. Historical analysis and predictions for the future may wellbe a relevant and tempering process. I hope that the analyses provided demonstrate that there are many recurring theories and that the debates are not all new. </p><p>If there is a single theme that emerges from the following articles, it is the strong sense that current literacy instruction is controlled by, the result of, and inextricably interwoven with the sociopolitical context in which it exists and perhaps even creates. Virtually every article in this double issue, regardless of its purported focal point, relates to the theme of social issues and politicization. This is true, whether or not the organizing construct is school reform, teacher preparation, atypical learners, methodological vari- ations, or technological innovation. No summarization of these works could ignore, or even minimize, the strong sense of literacy as a sociopolitical process. </p><p>Even the provided definitions of literacy clearly focus on the relations of the social issues. Edmondson and Shannon, in their article in this issue, note: </p><p>We must reinvent literacy education for public democracy because pri- vate democracy and its social institutions can no longer shield many Americans from the harsh realities of the economy. . . . The problems we face are all human artifacts, and therefore can be changed. At their core these problems are about power. </p><p>In their article on technology and literacy education, Labbo, Reinking, and McKenna point out that </p><p>for over 10 generations in America a traditional concept of literacy as the ability to read and write on a page has dominated schooling . . . in this not-so-distant past during industrial and print-based economic years, </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f L</p><p>ouis</p><p>ville</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>30 1</p><p>9 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Emergent Themes </p><p>students learned functional uses of literacy and a body of knowledge that directly applied to workplace positions. . . . However, in the emerg- ing digital economic era, spurred by recent proliferation of technology tools and resources in the form of affordable desktop computers . . . tra- ditional concepts of what it means to be and to become literate are be- ing challenged. </p><p>Stahl, in his article on understanding shifts in reading and its instruc- tion, cites Degan, who seems to view literacy instruction as a means of achieving larger societal goals and achievement in reading and writing to be secondary to those larger goals. From an international perspective, Verhoeven notes the changes that technology has brought to our concepts of literacy. He quotes Levine regarding the enormous range of the poten- tial application for computers, which has inevitably led to a redefinition of what is understood to compose basic literacy. </p><p>The socioeconomic prospects of redefining literacy are noted by Mikulecky and Kirkley in their article on literacy instruction for the 2lst-century workplace. They state: </p><p>Demands and skills differ workplace by workplace but [it] seems appar- ent that technology and the reorganization of work have transformed and increased the literacy demands in many occupations, especially in bu.sinesses intent on paying developed nation wages while competing in the global economy. . . . The implication of these changed skill and remu- neration patterns have increasingly polarized society. </p><p>In essence, the multiplicity of social contexts and the changing global en- vironment have forced an entire reexamination of what it means to be liter- ate. This is perhaps put best by Radencich in her article on multicultural issues of literacy education, when she notes that, because of the impact on lit- eracy acquisition of forces within and outside the school, the topic of literacy in a multicultural society is hard to disentangle from the broader societal context. These and other interesting patterns in the definition of literacy emerge and intertwine with sociopolitical issues throughout this issue. </p><p>The Assembled Work </p><p>Each of the authors approaches literacy from his or her own unique ref- erence point, but even these reference points provide only blurred distinc- tions. Some authors inspect literacy from a largely historical context, others from a policy and reform context; others examine the impact of tech- </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f L</p><p>ouis</p><p>ville</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>30 1</p><p>9 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>J. W. Miller </p><p>nology, others the plight of struggling learners; and still others write from a methodological context. </p><p>Robinson, Baker, and Clegg identify analogous patterns in the history of education generally and the history of literacy education specifically. They emphasize the wide swings of fadism across not only decades but centu- ries. In their article, they speak to the politicization of literacy education and note that the seemingly constant bickering and arguing in the literacy community over almost every development does little to advance the field. Lynch-Brown and Tomlinson also use historical analysis to identify emer- gent trends in the area of literature for children. Their retrospective por- tends an uneasy future of literature for children Influenced by technological developments. Globalism and its impact on literacy are also prevalent in their analysis. </p><p>The emphasis on technology will be the centerpiece of several of the ar- ticles in this double issue, and it is a related issue in numerous others. Labbo et al. describe its impact on schooling. In technology-transformed schools, they maintain that teachers will appreciate the distinctive forms and functions of digital literacy. The teachers will participate in a dynamic social environment as they collaborate in flexible teams to accomplish communicative and professional goals. They will critically assemble, ana- lyze, and synthesize digital information by strategically navigating through data sources and using supportive features of software to foster their own lifelong learning. </p><p>Labbo et al.'s work-centered approach still includes heavy emphasis on the concept that digital literacy occurs in the pursuit of other goals, occurs in societal contexts, and requires the ability to be a lifelong learner. Labbo et al. stress the relation between technology and literacy through a utilitarian, work-centered view of changing literacy needs with an emphasis on four components of digital literacy. In a related way, Mikulecky and Kirkley relate literacy instruction to workplace needs in the 21st century. Their economic perspective on the nature of jobs available and the type of literacy skills required to hold them clearly defines literacy in a pragmatic way. They view needed changes in liter- acy and literacy instruction as created by global economic change and re- sultant differences in the workplace skills required for meaningful employment. Bloome and Kinzer examine the issues of technology re- lated to literacy instruction from quite a different perspective. They raise questions about the social and cultural dynamics that define knowledge, literacy learning, and pedagogy in particular in light of recent claims about the role of technology and literacy. Their tendency is to downplay some of the predicted effects and recognize the economic and political ramifications of technology-centered literacy instruction. </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f L</p><p>ouis</p><p>ville</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>30 1</p><p>9 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Emergenf Themes </p><p>The authors of three articles focus specifically on the relative needs of dif- ferent groups of learners. Quick looks at the education of younger children and their emerging literacy from a range of perspectives, but the emphasis on sociocultural context is clear. Methodological debate is also raised, but again with an emphasis on the societal impact. She emphasizes Head Start and ather social projects from the educational reforms of the 1960s that are still in existence. Radencich addresses multicultural issues surrounding lit- eracy in the context of societal forces that positively and negatively impact multicultural education. Mathes and Torgesen examine the literacy needs of special education students and find that these students require carefully planned instruction, which would benefit all learners as well. </p><p>Some of the articles deal with debate on the relative effectiveness of varying methods and approaches. In essence, these debates generally re- duce to whole language versus something else. The something else typi- cally, but not always, is phonics. Proponents of whole language, critics of whole language, and those arguing from a middle ground all eventually return to a cultural debate over literacy and empowerment-first of the reader, and then of society. Even those arguing for moderation and for finding a middle ground end up making largely political assessments of literacy. Stahl notes this when he points out that </p><p>the politicization of recent years interferes with effective instruction be- cause it hardens viewpoints and forces educators to adopt unreasonable tenets concerning instruction. One result of the movement is that teach- ers have a great many beliefs about reading instruction, some of which are tenable and some of which are not. </p><p>Again, what appears on the surface to be a methodological debate is de- scribed from a sociopolitical perspective. </p><p>Although many of the articles become enmeshed in the relations between literacy, politics, policymaking, and educational reform in an ancillary way, others move directly to it. Verhoeven approaches literacy in Europe from a demographic and sociological perspective, formulating policy issues to be considered for the future of European literacy, on specifically those bases. Edmondson and Shannon, in their article, emphasize social policy and the context for literacy acquisition under current and past U.S. governmental administrations, providing perspective for a broadly based definition of lit- eracy as a method of empowerment and social t...</p></li></ul>