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Article

Donna E. Alvermann and William Terrell Wright

Naming is a curious practice. It entails rudiments, now mostly taken for granted, that serve to categorize everyday literacy practices across fields as diverse as cultural anthropology and the management of multiple Git profiles. As a term unto itself, adolescent literacies is not immune to the vagaries of naming. In fact, it serves as an excellent example of how commonly named concepts in education embed the field’s histories, debates, pedagogies, and policies writ large. Conceptualizing literacy in its plural form raised eyebrows among academics, researchers, practitioners, publishers, and indexers concerned with the noun–verb agreement in phrases such as “adolescent literacies is a subfield” of adolescence. For some, the very notion of literacy extending beyond reading and writing is still debatable. With each passing day, however, it becomes noticeably more evident that multimodal forms of communication—images, sounds, bodily performances, to name but a few ways of expressing oneself—are competing quite well in the marketplace of ideas that flow globally with or without a linguistic component attached to them. Aside from the naming process and its attendant political overtones, the practice of treating youth between roughly the ages of 12 and 17 as a monolithic group has been common in the United States. Largely traceable to a time in which developmental psychology dominated the field of literacy instruction (in the early to late 20th century), designating youth as adolescents equated to viewing them as some a normative group devoid of racial, class, gender, and any number of other identity markers. Even with the sociocultural turn in early 21st century and its abundance of studies reifying the socially constructed nature of adolescents, the term persists. Its adhesive-like attraction to literacies, however, may be weakening in light of research that points to youth who are agentic and dynamic game changers when it comes to participating in a world grown more attuned to the need for collaboration based not on hierarchical standing but instead on working through commonplace tensions too complex for any one solution.

Article

As contemporary societies continue to integrate digital technologies into varying aspects of everyday life—including work, schooling, and play—the concept of digital game-based learning (DGBL) has become increasingly influential. The term DGBL is often used to characterize the relationship of computer-based games (including games played on dedicated gaming consoles and mobile devices) to various learning processes or outcomes. The concept of DGBL has its origins in interdisciplinary research across the computational and social sciences, as well as the humanities. As interest in computer games and learning within the field of education began to expand in the late 20th century, DGBL became somewhat of a contested term. Even foundational concepts such as the definition of games (as well as their relationship to simulations and similar artifacts), the affordances of digital modalities, and the question of what “counts” as learning continue to spark debate among positivist, interpretivist, and critical framings of DGBL. Other contested areas include the ways that DGBL should be assessed, the role of motivation in DGBL, and the specific frameworks that should inform the design of games for learning. Scholarship representing a more positivist view of DGBL typically explores the potential of digital games as motivators and influencers of human behavior, leading to the development of concepts such as gamification and other uses of games for achieving specified outcomes, such as increasing academic measures of performance, or as a form of behavioral modification. Other researchers have taken a more interpretive view of DGBL, framing it as a way to understand learning, meaning-making, and play as social practices embedded within broader contexts, both local and historical. Still others approach DGBL through a more critical paradigm, interrogating issues of power, agency, and ideology within and across applications of DGBL. Within classrooms and formal settings, educators have adopted four broad approaches to applying DGBL: (a) integrating commercial games into classroom learning; (b) developing games expressly for the purpose of teaching educational content; (c) involving students in the creation of digital games as a vehicle for learning; and (d) integrating elements such as scoreboards, feedback loops, and reward systems derived from digital games into non-game contexts—also referred to as gamification. Scholarship on DGBL focusing on informal settings has alternatively highlighted the socially situated, interpretive practices of gamers; the role of affinity spaces and participatory cultures; and the intersection of gaming practices with the lifeworlds of game players. As DGBL has continued to demonstrate influence on a variety of fields, it has also attracted criticism. Among these critiques are the question of the relative effectiveness of DGBL for achieving educational outcomes. Critiques of the quality and design of educational games have also been raised by educators, designers, and gamers alike. Interpretive scholars have tended to question the primacy of institutionally defined approaches to DGBL, highlighting instead the importance of understanding how people make meaning through and with games beyond formal schooling. Critical scholars have also identified issues in the ethics of DGBL in general and gamification in particular as a form of behavior modification and social control. These critiques often intersect and overlap with criticism of video games in general, including issues of commercialism, antisocial behaviors, misogyny, addiction, and the promotion of violence. Despite these criticisms, research and applications of DGBL continue to expand within and beyond the field of education, and evolving technologies, social practices, and cultural developments continue to open new avenues of exploration in the area.

Article

Racial literacy includes understanding of the ways in which race and racism influences the social, economic, political, and educational experiences of individuals and groups. It includes being able to engage in competent and comfortable discussions about race and racism. Critical racial literacy focuses on understanding how systemic racism works. Systemic racism is embedded in institutions such as education, employment, housing, health services, religion, media, government and laws, and the legal systems. Critical racial literacy involves praxis (reflection and action) in order to interrupt racism in educational and familial contexts. An important premise of critical racial literacy is that racism can be intentional or unintentional. Racism is complex and occurs on different levels including individual, institutional, and societal and cultural forms. Educators who engage in critical racial literacy reject colorblind and race-neutral approaches. Likewise, reflecting on one’s racial identity is an important part of the process of becoming racially literate. In school settings, critical racial literacy can be used to detect and dismantle five types of racial violence in schools (physical, symbolic, linguistic, curricular or instructional, and systemic) as well as ways to interrupt them. A key focus is on developing racial literacy among educators and students at all levels from preschool through college. Critical racial literacy is important in families. Even young children can be engaged in the teaching and learning process about race and racism. African American and other families of color often have to teach children about racism because it is likely that children will encounter it in schools and society in general. A key part of racial literacy that families of color stress is how to straddle two cultures—their own and mainstream culture.

Article

Jeff Share, Tatevik Mamikonyan, and Eduardo Lopez

Democracy in the digital networked age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” requires new literacy skills and critical awareness to read, write, and use media and technology to empower civic participation and social transformation. Unfortunately, not many educators have been prepared to teach students how to think critically with and about the media and technology that engulf us. Across the globe there is a growing movement to develop media and information literacy curriculum (UNESCO) and train teachers in media education (e-Media Education Lab), but these attempts are limited and in danger of co-optation by the faster growing, better financed, and less critical education and information technology corporations. It is essential to develop a critical response to the new information communication technologies that are embedded in all aspects of society. The possibilities and limitations are vast for teaching educators to enter K-12 classrooms and teach their students to use various media, critically question all types of texts, challenge problematic representations, and create alternative messages. Through applying a critical media literacy framework that has evolved from cultural studies and critical pedagogy, students at all grade levels can learn to critically analyze the messages and create their own alternative media. The voices of teachers engaging in this work can provide pragmatic insight into the potential and challenges of putting the theory into practice in K-12 public schools.

Article

As more linguistically diverse students populate classrooms around the world including the United States, providing them with equitable and rigorous learning experiences through critical literacy has become a pressing issue in the field of education. By focusing on basic language and literacy skills, English language learners (ELLs) have rarely been exposed to critical literacy, a force to empower them as active learners. One of the major reasons is based on the misconception that ELLs, who are learning English, might not have the ability to critique and analyze texts, issues, and realities. More recent empirical studies challenge this misconception by showing the possibilities of ELLs’ engagement in critical literacy practices. The specific frameworks developed by language and literacy scholars have contributed to making critical literacy theory a more applicable and approachable practice. Despite the possibilities shown from recent research in classroom contexts, challenges also exist from both micro- and macrolevels. Challenges include the absence of fundamental critical literacy tenets from the school curriculum and policy, the absence of required critical literacy coursework from many pre- and in-service teacher education programs, and educator discomfort, rooted in misconceptions and false assumptions, with the implementation of critical literacy strategies in their classrooms. Both challenges and possibilities provide directions to the field of critical language and literacy education for future research and practice as ways to address affording equitable access for increasingly diverse ELLs.

Article

Vivian Maria Vasquez

Changing student demographics, globalization, and flows of people resulting in classrooms where students have variable linguistic repertoire, in combination with new technologies, has resulted in new definitions of what it means to be literate and how to teach literacy. Today, more than ever, we need frameworks for literacy teaching and learning that can withstand such shifting conditions across time, space, place, and circumstance, and thrive in challenging conditions. Critical literacy is a theoretical and practical framework that can readily take on such challenges creating spaces for literacy work that can contribute to creating a more critically informed and just world. It begins with the roots of critical literacy and the Frankfurt School from the 1920s along with the work of Paulo Freire in the late 1940s (McLaren, 1999; Morrell, 2008) and ends with new directions in the field of critical literacy including finding new ways to engage with multimodalities and new technologies, engaging with spatiality- and place-based pedagogies, and working across the curriculum in the content areas in multilingual settings. Theoretical orientations and critical literacy practices are used around the globe along with models that have been adopted in various state jurisdictions such as Ontario, in Canada, and Queensland, in Australia.

Article

Jessica Zacher Pandya and Maren Aukerman

Ethics, broadly conceived, concerns the moral principles that guide what humans do, and the branch of knowledge related to moral principles. Ethics goes beyond simply what is, and endeavors to lay the groundwork for what should be; every pedagogical decision, including whether, what, and how to teach literacy, rests implicitly or explicitly on moral principles. The moral principles of educators and those charged with developing and supporting literacy education matter profoundly for educational decision-making. Relatedly, the issue of justice (social, redistributive, recognitive, representative) is an inescapable one in education, where children’s lives, futures, and flourishing are routinely determined by choices made by those with power. Some of the central ethical principles that may be taken from discussions of ethics and social justice into the specific realm of education include: ahimsa and satyagraha; human relatedness; a moral relationship to place and to non-humans; varied conceptualizations of love; respect for individual freedoms, including the freedom of human flourishing; equality of opportunity; and mutual respect for the multiplicity of differences that exist among people. There are three areas of inquiry that may help educators and researchers examine the moral principles at stake in instructional decision-making about literacy. First is the issue of how, or to what extent, literacy development should be conceptualized as an ethical goal. If it is conceived as an ethical goal, we should ask whose notions of development count, who has access to literacy, and who is included and excluded are all critical questions. Literacy goals should then also be seen as socio-culturally, contextually, and individually contingent. Second is the issue of how literacy teaching may be a pathway to support students in be(com)ing ethical individuals, and/or in transforming society itself to become more ethical. If literacy is understood in this way, ethical individuals should be willing and able to think deeply and carefully about ethics, use print and other media critically and with discernment, and take action in the service of making the world more just. Finally, the act of relating ethically to others (as teachers and students, as readers and writers) in the literacy classroom must be theorized. We must consider treating texts and authors in ethical ways, and consider ethical dialogue as a literacy pedagogy, and honor divergence in interpretation and composing. The intent is not to provide definitive answers, but to indicate some of the ways in which such questions and possible answers may complicate and expand views of literacy education.

Article

The field of transnational childhood and education emerges under intensifying mobilities. These global conditions disrupt universalist educational treatments of childhood as a fixed developmental stage of human being. Transnationality shows childhood to be a psychosocially constructed experience that takes myriad form across diverse cultural, historical, educational, and political contexts. The lives of actual children are caught in colonial and national constructions of childhood and subject to its discourses, politics, and normative enactments through public schooling. The emerging field of transnational childhood and education represents a potentially critical intervention in colonial and national enactments of childhood worldwide. Despite interdisciplinary efforts to reconceptualize childhood, Western educational institutions continue to hold to and reproduce hegemonic and colonial understandings of childhood as monocultural, heteronormative, familial, innocent, and protected. Mass global flows of people, culture, and ideas compel policy-makers and educational experts worldwide to consider transnational childhood as the dominant situation of children in and across multicultural nations. The fluidity of malleable childhood experience is poised to generate new educational arrangements and innovations. Transnational lives of children de-stable normative categorizations and fixed situations placed upon children in and through the mechanisms of early childhood education and national schooling. Researchers of transnational childhood and education engage a range of educational experiences and arrangements of children moving within, across, and outside of formal and national schooling institutions. Increasingly children and families are caught in experiences produced by global, geo-political conditions including: war, forcible migration, detainment on borders, internal colonization, and environmental catastrophe. To respond to the times, families and communities seek out and/or are forced to provide opportunities and alternatives for children outside of school. Increasingly children use emergent digital and other forms of remote and inventive means of education. As research in this area is new, transdisciplinary, and ground-breaking, the study of transnational childhoods and education has the potential to radically innovate and deepen the meanings and possibilities of both childhood and education in a rapidly globalizing, uncertain, and changing world.

Article

In the context of increasing realizations of the fragility of democracy, the possibilities and accomplishments of youth activist projects across material and virtual spaces and sites continue to flourish. Research on this work is situated in the rich scholarly traditions of critical youth studies and critical youth literacies as well as in theories of civic engagement, public pedagogy, participatory politics, cosmopolitanism, and relational mobilities. Many youth projects draw on the resources of arts, digital media, and critical multiliteracies to participate, in material ways, in public and political life. Taking up issues such as citizenship for immigrant youth, homelessness, and poverty, young people powerfully create critical, social, and political narratives that resonate within and beyond their own communities. Theorizing this work in relation to public engagement, spatiality, and mobilities deepens our understanding of those moments when youth in community and educational sites create powerful transmediated counter-narratives about their lives and worlds—the ways they incorporate both local and global understandings to create these new forms of political participation. And the work itself underscores the need for more equitable access to various multimodal and digital resources and the importance of youth access to public and mediated spaces. Schools and educators are called to create pedagogical spaces that invite students’ subjectivities, locations, and creative uses of material resources to engage in local and larger public dialogues, counter dominant cultural ideologies, address multiple publics, and create new forms of political participation.

Article

From the 1960s to the early 21st century, different terms have arisen in diverse research traditions and educational contexts where teachers and researchers are interested in exploring and researching ways of helping learners to learn both language and content at the same time. These terms include content-based instruction (CBI), immersion, sheltered instruction, language across the curriculum (LAC), writing across the curriculum (WAC), and content and language integrated learning (CLIL). Common to all these traditions, however, is the monoglossic and monolingual assumption about academic language and literacy. The dynamic process turn in applied linguistics has changed our view of the nature of language, languaging, and language learning processes. These new theoretical insights led to a transformation of research on LAC toward research on academic languages and literacies in the disciplines. A paradigm shift from monoglossic to heteroglossic assumptions is also particularly important in English-as-an-additional-language (EAL) contexts.