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#CWCon from Afar: Gee’s Affinity Spaces & Situated Learning Interrogated

I have been following Computers & Writing Conference this week on Twitter at the #cwcon hashtag. Among the most livetweeted talks was James Paul Gee’s keynote, “Writing in the Age of the Maker Movement.” Gee, famous for research on gaming and literacy, spoke broadly about teaching writing from a situated learning perspective. In his talk, he emphasized the need for “goal-based action” in learning to write, where students see writing as a way of “doing” something. He advocated learning situated in “affinity spaces,” where a group coalesces over a “common endeavor” (Gee, 2003, p. 192). I have Storified the livetweeting of the talk here.

Before I respond to the talk, I want state a caveat: I wasn’t there. I am relying on livetweeting, and therefore my comprehension and interpretation of Gee’s talk is limited by the points that were livetweeted. I could have missed points in his argument, which would then skew my interpretation in an erroneous direction. I apologize in advance if I misinterpreted Gee.

I want to respond to a few key claims livetweeted, so I’ve selected the first tweets I could find in the #cwcon stream that documented each of these claims. I have embedded them below. (more…)

Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies: The Reading Wars as Evidence of Horizontal Knowledge Structure

This post is a consolidated form of the 8-part series I posted from April 16-May 30, 2013 as part of a class seminar on literacy. I have done a rough edit to attempt to make the posts more cohesive; if some issues are unclear, please refer to the original posts. Thanks again to all who commented and encouraged me during this endeavor. A special thanks to Dr. Carol Hopkins, who supported me in this project.

The Reading Wars of the 1990s were documented by the exchanges between Edelsky and McKenna, Robinson, & Miller in Educational Researcher. This theoretical conflict between Whole Language and Traditional Literacy represents what I call a “traditional academic feud.” A traditional academic feud is a social phenomenon in an academic field of study where two or more groups theorize about or describe a single phenomenon in categorically different ways. That a traditional academic feud eventually achieved “war” status is a curious phenomenon–but perhaps no more curious than the fact that academic feuds occur in the first place. In this series, I plan to explain 1) why the academic feud of the Reading Wars occurred, 2) why the feud escalated to a war, and 3) why a similar feud developed recently in the reading comprehension field (this element of the thesis was abandoned due to time/space constraints), and (if I am brave enough) 4) how we might avoid wars and have more productive feuds in Literacy Studies. (more…)

Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies Part 8: Knower Code and Conclusions

Note: This is the eighth and final part of an eight-part series which satisfies a term paper requirement for a class seminar on literacy. Note that all citations in quotations can be found in the bibliographies of the linked items.

In this last post, I will demonstrate how Literacy Studies satisfies the final feature of horizontal knowledge structures–that of having a “knower code.” I will also show how this feature contributed to the Reading Wars. In a revision of my thesis, which originally contained a second analysis of the debate I highlighted in post six, I will conclude by reviewing the main features of horizontal knowledge structures and argue that they are the primary mechanisms that facilitated the Reading Wars. I will then offer suggestions based on this analysis on how we might avoid wars and have more productive feuds in Literacy Studies. For the sake of clarity, I refer to McKenna’s first article as “McKenna et al., 1990a” and their rejoinder “McKenna et al., 1990b.” Citations from quotes in the M-E discourse are not linked. They can be found at McKenna et al., 1990a; Edelsky, and McKenna et al, 1990b.

9. “Choices between competing claims to insight are based more on a ‘knower code’, that is to say, on who is making knowledge claims rather than on what is being claimed and how.”

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Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies Part 7: Empiricism

Note: This is the seventh and part of a multi-part series which (eventually) will become a term paper for a class seminar on literacy. Note that all citations in quotations can be found in the bibliographies of the linked items.

Previously on My Neverending Blog…

In my last post, I suggested that Whole Language and Skills-Based Literacy–the two opposing viewpoints in the Reading Wars–were languages constructed with weak conceptual grammar, where the fundamental phenomenon–that is, reading–was defined differently by each language. Whole Language, represented by Edelsky (1990) , defined reading as a “sociopsycholinguistic process” (p. 8), whereas Skills-Based Literacy, represented by McKenna et al., 1990a and McKenna et al, 1990b , defined it as constellation of skills working in concert (p. 3). These differing definitions, symptomatic of weak grammar, and the feuding relationship between the theories, also a feature of weak grammar, account for the next two features of horizontal knowledge structures, which deal with empirical research within disciplines.

Aside: In retrospect, I should have collapsed these features into a single feature, making the final total of horizontal knowledge features eight. Maton & Muller (2007) seem to suggest two main features for knowledge structures: grammaticality and verticality. It may be that the features I have abstracted here are corollaries of these two larger features, which are represented as features six and five respectively in my list.
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Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies Part 6: Power and Weak Grammar

Note: This is the sixth part of a multi-part series which (eventually) will become a term paper for a class seminar on literacy.

After my last post, I started discussing the issue of Integration with some colleagues in linguistics via Twitter (in case you haven’t heard, we’re trying to start #lingchat). There are three Tweets I would like to respond to because they raise problems and objections to my analysis that are productive. Thankfully, Purdue’s OWL has already provided a resource on how to cite Tweets. Unfortunately, they’ve only done it for MLA, so I’m extrapolating an APA citation below.

Aside: I want to personally thank my Twitter colleagues @grvsmth, @NemaVeze, and @wgi_pr31ea for raising questions on this matter. Our discussions have been both productive and instructive for me. And while I argue against some of their claims here, I have great respect for their views and scholarship.

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Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies Part 5: Integration and Proliferation

Note: This is the fifth part of a multi-part series which (eventually) will become a term paper for a class seminar on literacy.

Introduction
In my last four posts, I discussed the classification of Literacy Studies as a horizontal knowledge structure (proposed by Bernstein) and provided evidence of the same with samples from the McKenna et al. and Edelsky discourse during the Reading Wars. I argue that the Reading Wars are a traditional academic feud in a horizontal knowledge structure, and an analysis of the Reading Wars from a Bernsteinian perspective can reveal how and why the feud occurred. In this post, I will analyze Feature 5 that I outlined in my first post.

In the table in my second post, I provided representative examples from the M-E discourse that illustrate the features of a horizontal knowledge structure. I have numbered each feature for ease of explanation. For the sake of clarity, I refer to McKenna’s first article as “McKenna et al., 1990a” and their rejoinder “McKenna et al., 1990b.” Citations from quotes in the M-E discourse are not linked. They can be found at McKenna et al., 1990a; Edelsky, and McKenna et al, 1990b.

5. “Integration and subsumption of past ideas [occurs] within each language. However, the capacity for such development across languages is limited.”

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Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies Part 4: The Reading Wars Cont.

Note: This is the fourth part of a multi-part series which (eventually) will become a term paper for a class seminar on literacy.

In my last three posts, I discussed the classification of Literacy Studies as a horizontal knowledge structure (proposed by Bernstein) and provided evidence of the same with samples from the McKenna et al. and Edelsky discourse during the Reading Wars. I argue that the Reading Wars are a traditional academic feud in a horizontal knowledge structure, and an analysis of the Reading Wars from a Bernsteinian perspective can reveal how and why the feud occurred. In this post, I will analyze Features 2-3 that I outlined in my first post.

In the table in my second post, I provided representative examples from the M-E discourse that illustrate the features of a horizontal knowledge structure. I have numbered each feature for ease of explanation. For the sake of clarity, I refer to McKenna’s first article as “McKenna et al., 1990a” and their rejoinder “McKenna et al., 1990b.” Citations from quotes in the M-E discourse are not linked. They can be found at McKenna et al., 1990a; Edelsky, and McKenna et al, 1990b.

4. “‘Each language [has] its own criteria for legitimate texts, what counts as evidence and what counts as legitimate questions or a legitimate problematic'” (Bernstein 1999, p. 163) (more…)