Literacy and Numeracy: Week 4

Week 4 of the literacy and numeracy course.

Hot topics in literacy and numeracy

So, literacy, especially reading, is important. At least back in 2004 when this interview was undertaken. It is of one of President’s Bush advisors.

Another point about about how poverty and its impacts, in this case with such children living in households where reading is not a priority. Also suggesting limitations in terms of discussions in the house. At 4/5 this can be a gap of twice the size, by 12th grade it can be 4.

Reading is not a natural activity.

No improvement program is not equally beneficial for all kids, there is no magic bullets.

Point about a lot of middle/high school kids not being active readers.

Find this comment interesting

You know, programs that taught kids to guess from pictures or from surrounding context. The evidence indicating that that is actually counterproductive is pretty massive.

I have a 6yo son who’s learning to read, and guess what type of books they are using? Books with big pictures that provide context for the couple of words at the bottom. So the point seems to be that such approaches are not inherently wrong, but they do not – by themselves – provide the necessary building blocks.

Teaching reading

And now we are onto a government report from 2005. Going a bit beyond what is asked, I think. Looking at “contemporary understandings of effective teaching practices”.

Suggests two broad approaches.

  1. Whole language.
    So this seems to be the approach criticised by the previous interviewee. It’s the constructivist approach. Ahh, they even have references for the inappropriateness of constructivism as an operational theory of teaching: Ellis (2005); Purdie & Ellis (2005); Wilson (2005). Argument is that this approach is not useful for students with learning difficulties or from low SOE.
  2. Code-based.
    Focuses on explicit teaching of the structure and function of language. The aim being to provide students with the ability to “reflect on and consciously manipulate the language”

Oh, more bashing of constructivism

Sasson (2001) refers to constructivism as ’… a mixture of Piagetian stage theory with postmodernist ideology’ (p. 189) that is devoid of evidence-based justification for its adoption as an effective method of teaching

and Wilson (2005)

We largely ignore generations of professional experience and knowledge in favour of a slick postmodern theoretical approach, most often characterised by the misuse of the notion of constructivism.

I do wonder why these alternative perspectives on constructivism were not given in the ICTs course when constructivism was introduced. Would have been a more balanced view-point.

And now into the reports comments

These observations by Wilson are consistent with expressed concerns that too many faculties and schools of education in Australian higher education institutions currently providing pre-service teacher education base their programs on constructivist views of teaching.


And this comment on the social background issue

fi ndings from a large body of evidence-based research consistently indicate that quality teaching has significant positive effects on students’ achievement progress regardless of their backgrounds.

Engaging with recommendations

We’re being asked to participate in a group discussion about one of the recommendations from this report. The trouble is that the recommendation #2 that I see in the report, is not the one we’re meant to talk about.

Defining New Literacies in Curricular Practice

Another reading

Semali, L.M. (2001). Defining new literacies in curricular practice.

New literacies are defined as those “that have emerged in the post-typographic era”. Implications being

“post-typographic” points to the fact that electronic texts are destabilizing previously held conceptions of literacy and are requiring students and teachers to examine assumptions about reading, writing, books, and what we know — and think we know — about curriculum practice.

Some reflection to do, but laptop power is an issue. Time to go home.

Is high school the next challenge for CS

I’m biased, for other reasons I’m in the process of becoming a high school teacher of information technology/maths. That said, it’s given me the opportunity to think about a problem from a previous live as a University academic in information systems/information technology.

That problem was that, apart from a small period of time around the dot-com boom, the type of students enrolling in these courses was very limited, primarily nerds. This wasn’t a problem because of the students, some very fine people within that group. It’s a problem for Uni IT/IS courses because this group represents only a very small percentage of the population and when enrolment numbers are tanking you worry about this.

The continual response from the University I worked at was to change the program, to make it more attractive. They never seemed to get the fact that by the end of high school, the majority of students have already made their up their mind about IT/IS because of their experiences. And they sure as hell aren’t signing up to do that for the rest of their life.

Which brings us to this quote from an article explaining how on University CS instructor has made his course more interesting by allowing students to work on something meaningful to them. And the quote from someone in the NSF saying that they have the high school CS course to get kids interested, but can’t get it in schools.

This seems to be shaping as the challenge for me in coming years, how to get a program like this into a high school and observe what it does.

Amplify’d from
“We’ll have no problem interesting kids in doing these things,” Cuny said. “The tough part is getting into the schools.”