Response to Chapter 1: “Sampling ‘The New’ in New Literacies” by Lankshear & Knobel
The sociocultural aspects of “new literacies” described in this chapter immediately grabbed my attention and caused me to reflect on an experience I had last semester. In my online Games and Learning course, the readings were posted online and two students were asked to read and annotate the pieces in advance, using the annotation tool hypothes.is. Later, when the readings were assigned to the whole class, the pair that had annotated the texts in advance were assigned to lead the discussion and respond to their peers’ comments and questions, again using hypothes.is. Although, the lead pair were not the only ones that responded to comments, as lively, and informative discussions often took place in the margins, between the students, as well as with the instructor, who closely monitored the discussions. This practice amounted to a type of social reading, which was a very new experience for me, as well as others in this course, and one that I argue qualifies as a “new literacy.”
I then considered the question of what made me think of this practice as a new literacy? A question that Lankshear & Knobel asked in the opening of this chapter. In my undergraduate study of philosophy, new material was approached in the following, typical manner. One read the assigned text individually, made notes, and then attended a lecture where the material was covered by the instructor and students’ questions were addressed. At the end of each week, two students were assigned to lead a symposium where the week’s material was discussed in open debate. The instructor was, of course, present during these symposia and would monitor the discussion and clarify important points, as required.
Both of these methods of approaching new material should lead to sociocultural literacy as spelled out by Lankshear & Knobel in the following definition, “Sociocultural definitions of literacy, then, have to make sense of reading, writing and meaning-making as integral elements of social practices.” And indeed both methods should lead to this end if practiced diligently. For me, being introverted, the new method has some advantages, once I learned to open up enough to merely highlight and annotate the terms, and passages, that I would normally focus on when reading individually. My peers would often define terms, or concepts, that were new to me in ways that I could better understand the material. For example, one my peers in the aforementioned Games and Learning course had a background in psychology and when we were socially reading pieces focused on learning theory his background and specialized knowledge was most helpful. Also, the instructor being in a position to follow along while the class was working through the reading and clarify critical points enabled me to better understand the material. And quite honestly, Leading symposia with shiny, new knowledge, which was still quite unstable was difficult for me with my personality. It appears that I learned a new literacy, which is social reading, one that I personally find superior to the old method.