Literacy on the Edge
The narrow focus on print-related skills that characterises literacy in the statutory curriculum for English in primary schools is out of step with the literacies of everyday life. Such literacies utilise an increasingly diverse repertoire of on and off-screen resources and require flexibility, collaboration, creativity and criticality. There is therefore an urgent need to re-work how literacy is thought about – and provided for – within education.
In this lecture Professor Cathy Burnett explores what can be learned by looking beyond the frame of ‘schooled literacy’ and observing what matters to children and teachers when engaging in literacy practices in and out of school. In particular Cathy considers what can be learned by looking at the ‘edgelands’ of literacy pedagogy in classrooms, where children and teachers improvise with available resources and opportunities and construct literacy in ways that sometimes contrast with how it is constructed in the curriculum. She draws on collaborative research projects conducted with primary children and teachers during the past 15 years to highlight dimensions of classroom literacy provision that need to be recognised and nurtured if we are to prepare children effectively for their current and future lives in a world where life is increasingly mediated through text. In an educational context where the standards debate works to fix literacy in certain ways, Cathy makes a case for dwelling on complexity, feelings, relationships, humour and spontaneity, and for paying attention not just to what can be counted but to what counts to children and teachers.
Cathy Burnett is Professor of Literacy and Education at Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University where she leads the Language and Literacy in Education Research Group. Prior to working at Sheffield Hallam University, she worked as a primary teacher, as an actor-teacher, and for Derby City Education Service. Her research has explored what happens as teachers and children take up digital technologies in classrooms, with a particular focus on theorising relationships between on and off-screen activity, and examining material dimensions of meaning-making.
Cathy has produced numerous publications for academic and professional readerships, including a research
review for the Cambridge Primary Review Trust, The Digital Age and its Implications for Learning and Teaching in the Primary School, and the co-edited collections, New Literacies around the Globe: Policy and Pedagogy, Literacy, Media,Technology: past, present and future, and The Case of the iPad; Mobile Literacies in Education. Her forthcoming co-authored book with Guy Merchant, Transforming Literacy with Digital Media will provide guidance and inspiration for implementing the literacy curriculum in ways that reflect the diversity of literacies in everyday life. Cathy is Vice President of the United Kingdom Literacy Association.
Refreshments served from 18:00-18:30. The lecture will begin at 18:30 prompt.