Randy Bomer’s Keynote about New Literacies

Notes from Randy Bomer‘s keynote at MRA 2008:

“Writing Transformations: How New Literacies and New Times Invite Us to Rethink Composition”

  • Literacy is changing, literacy as design
  • Obstacles: accountability measures and deficit thinking
    • If we are constantly trying to fill in gaps, we are not moving into the future. Looking at education from a deficit model results in damaging education.
    • You cannot move toward the future from a deficit model
  • Spotting deficit thinking
    • “these kids”
    • “s/h/they have no language/culture/experience
    • “culture of poverty”
    • finger-wagging to parents
      • Varieties in deficit thinking
        • Individual ability/genetics
        • Culture
        • Poverty
        • Language
        • Mass and popular culture
    • Examples
      • Paying kids in NYC for grades to “compete” with what they could earn on the street
      • Motives for teaching that see children as coming from deficient lives
      • See the book: The Evolution of Deficit Thinking edited by Richard Valencia
    • New literacies are not just about machines.
      • Texts call attention to how they are made, how they work materially, and why
      • Thinking about the design of text and interaction with it
      • Spencer Schaffner‘s “five paragraph essay” picture (can’t find image online yet, here is his blog)
      • Habits of minds and material
    • Design as a literacy practice
      • Two phases of the writing process:
        • Generating writing in the notebook — used design as a way of thinking about content
        • Publishing — used design as a way to think about how to publish their work
      • Examples of student work
        • Map of the zoo with narrative annotations
        • Story that was drawn out into a graphic novel/comic page, and by drawing was able to add more detail
          • Bomer claimed that the students wrote more on the days that they drew, and students generated more by working in two modalities
        • Brought in pictures and used cropping Ls
        • Transferred pictures that were cropped and focused in on small components
          • Mother’s image from one image
          • Necklace from another
        • Texts in new literacies may be single pieces that are loosely joined
        • Making Journals by Hand by Jason Thompson or Memory Keepsakes or Artists Journal Sketches by Lynne Perella
        • Design Decisions
          • What pathways are the readers going to take?
            • Box, journal, notecards

Rather than see these children and what they could do from a deficit model, we enabled them to produce texts that mattered to them and developed new literacy practices.

Reflections:

As Bomer talked, I appreciated his perspective on new literacies as “avoiding the deficit” model of thinking. This adds a new twist to the discussions of new literacies that I have been reading about recently, both because it honors the socio-cultural perspective that NLS has developed over time and also addresses issues about about accountability and assessment by hitting it head on by using the research on deficit thinking to support the idea that approaching literacy in reductive ways really contributes to poor literacy practices.

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