Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts

Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts

Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts

Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts

Synopsis

In an era characterized by the rapid evolution of the concept of literacy, this handbook focuses on multiple ways in which learners gain access to knowledge and skills. It explores the possibilities of broadening current conceptualizations of literacy to include the full array of the communicative arts.

Excerpt

In recent years the term “literacy” has undergone a notable transformation. In its original sense the term signified the ability to read and write—in other words, the cognitive skills associated with the use of written language. Nowadays, however, one frequently comes across references to “visual literacy, ” “computer literacy, ” “television literacy, ” and the like. This extension of the literacy concept beyond the domain of verbal language is the result of a parallel change in conceptions of the proper scope of education. As the applications of image-based media in both homes and workplaces continue to expand, there is a growing realization that our educational system needs to do more in the way of preparing young people to deal effectively with nonverbal modes of communication—not at the expense of verbal language learning, but as a necessary complement to it. It is this broadening of educational focus that is reflected in the concept of multiple literacies.

The 10 chapters in this part of the handbook offer a theoretical basis for thinking about the integration of the multiple-literacies concept into the educational curriculum. In these chapters, as well as in the broader public discourse on these matters, the term literacy is used in two relatively distinct senses: on the one hand, it may be viewed positively, as an instrument for achieving intellectual growth. On the other hand, however, literacy is sometimes seen in a more negative light, as a means of defense against the potentially damaging influences of mass media. Although both of these aspects of literacy are important, the primary focus here is on the positive side of the phenomenon. In other words, literacy is treated mainly as a foundation for creative engagement with one's social and physical environment.

In Chapter 1, “Literacy for the Information Age, ” Renee Hobbs gives a more detailed account of the issues introduced above. Hobbs begins by pointing out that educators have traditionally taught with television and other media, as audiovisual aids, but not about these media. She then argues that the increasing importance of media messages in die lives of young people calls for a redefinition of the term “literacy, ” encompassing all forms of messages and including critical evaluation in addition to the skills of production and comprehension. Hobbs connects this expanded definition to five ideas which she considers essential components of any program in media literacy: all messages are the result of selection and choice among a variety of options; all messages are reflections of a particular view of social reality; the meanings of messages arise in the act of interpretation by individual receivers; the interpretation of messages is enhanced by an understanding of their economic, political, social, and aesthetic purposes; effective communication depends on an appreciation of the unique characteristics of each medium, format, and genre. According to Hobbs, this way of looking at literacy has significant implications for a wide variety of issues facing educators today, and she concludes by discussing several of these issues, including die relationship between schools and communities, multicultural education; ESL/ bilingual education, the integration . . .

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