Literacies and education

Literacies refer to the meaning-making practices we use to access and interact with the world, through texts, materials, and sign systems. Much more than reading and writing words, literacies are the practices with which we navigate all information and thus, they inform all our actions. Everything in the world is communicative after all; and all things draw upon signs.

Perry, M. (2020)

Pluriversal literacies: affect and relationality in vulnerable times.

Reading Research Quarterly.

Through a consideration of literacies in theory and international policy, this article pushes at the edges of existing frameworks of functional and sociocultural literacies. In critique of existing policy directives, the author explores an approach to literacy that engages in the affective and posthuman relationality of human and environment and in the plurality of literacies globally that are overshadowed in prevailing models of literacy  education. The author was motivated by a commitment to literacy education responsive to a world that is unsustainable in its current practices, to a world that faces increasing fragmentation and vulnerability (socially and ecologically) while certain types of expertise, technologies, and global infrastructures continue to proliferate. As a mainstay of education and a tool of social change, literacies are inseparable from policy and practices of sustainability, equity, and development.

Pluriversality is a concept emerging from decolonial theory that provides a counternarrative to contemporary Northern assumptions of the universal. Building on a history of ideas around pluriversality gives sociopolitical and ecological momentum to affect and relationality in literacy studies. The author challenges normative constructions of literacy education as Eurocentric and neocolonial, effectively supporting a pedagogy that normalizes certain practices and people and, by extension, sustains inequity and environmental degradation. Through interwoven research projects, the author highlights the contentious aspects of functional and sociocultural approaches to literacy and the possibilities of moving beyond them. In doing so, the author describes and demonstrates the practical and political implications of affect theory and relationality in literacies education in a plural anthropocenic world.

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A project website to a research project that fed the 3 publications below:

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Nelson, L. Perry, M. & Rogers, T. (2020)

Scales of Offlineness: Theorizing (digital) literacy engagements.

The Journal of Literacy Research. (52:1)

In this Insights essay, we propose a new concept of offlineness that builds on current language around digital practices, yet addresses an element of young people’s experience that is not adequately represented in current research or educational discourse. This work is informed by a recent cross-national arts-based research project that highlighted the limitations of the discourse ascribed to the nature of young people’s engagement with digital literacies. We propose a (re)theorization, which builds on a critical review of current conceptual research and digital commentaries. Theorizing offlineness as a continuum between online and offline practices is tantamount to a paradigm shift toward more nuanced understandings of young people’s digital practices. It offers researchers and educators a more precise way to speak to young people’s digital experiences, providing a productive tool to (re)construct learning and inquiry spaces in literacy research and education.

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May 3, 2020

Digital platforms alone don’t bridge youth divides

It’s taken for granted in many if not most school environments today that digital technology should be integrated throughout the curriculum to enhance not only communication and creativity but also equal access to resources and opportunities.

Digital skills are considered critical for youth navigating the world — and for gaining mobility. Mobility is understood to mean both the nimbleness to communicate and enter into cross-cultural forums or dialogues (into new kinds of cultural “spaces” through internet platforms or digital technologies) and the capacity to move across socio-economical and cultural groups in everyday life.

A young person’s representation of their digital day.
While it’s critical for literacy educators to support student inquiry through digital media, is it the case that because young generations grew up as “digital natives” the tools of technology are inherently preferable today for fostering creativity? And when digital technologies foster mobility into new spaces, how do youth experience this?

As researchers who study what it means to be creative and literate today, we wanted to explore these questions and to gain insight into how young people think about digital media and their young digital lives.

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Perry, M., Collier, D., & Rowsell, J. (2019)

Reframing the Digital in Literacy: Youth, Arts, and Misperceptions

In E. Morrell and J. Rowsell, Stories from Inequity to Justice in Literacy Education: Confronting Digital Divides. Routledge. pp. 71-86

In a climate where our pedagogical practices are increasingly digitized across all levels of schooling and public pedagogies, this article draws on a study on the nature and scope of young people’s engagement with the “screen.” Across two cities in Scotland and Canada, 30 youth took part in a participatory arts-based project guided by the question: To what extent do the digital practices of these young people reflect common assumptions about access and engagement to digital and global literacies? This chapter presents the findings of this study, shedding light on the complexity and diversity of digital engagement and the misconceptions of “screen-obsessed” youth. The authors argue that by focusing on the “digital” in education, we are working with an outdated perspective and as a consequence, very often missing more urgent, relevant, and productive questions of educational space, ethics, safety, curriculum content and engagement in an era where “offline” is an historical and redundant concept.

Perry, M. & Seele, K. (2019)

Relationship Matters in Adult Education: The Practice of Literacies In-Between

In Eds. K. Lenters and M. McDermott, Affect, Embodiment, and Place in Critical Literacy Assembling Theory and Practice. Routledge. pp. 203-212.

Relationships, or the practice of the “in-between” spaces in literacy education is the focus of this chapter. Practices, histories, materials (including the words themselves), spaces, and people interrelate to produce the adult literacy classroom. We consider literacies broadly as relating and meaning-making with bodies and materials in the world, and we consider the classroom as an assemblage of multiple moving forces. The relationship between forces is where we pause. Bringing two contrasting perspectives and approaches to this work, we navigate this relational space in practice as well as theory. We put poststructural and posthumanist ideas (e.g. those of Braidotti, Davies, Deleuze) in relation to commitments to etymology and heuristics. Common across this work is an acknowledgement of the materiality of language and the impacts of the spaces in-between (in-between authors, student and teacher, word and object, and so on). Ultimately, this chapter is grounded in the ethical purpose of relationship in adult education that is responsive and relevant to the learners and place that it aims to support.

Perry, M. (2018)

Unpacking the Imaginary in Literacies of Globality

Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education

As global mobility and communications proliferate, ever-increasing exchanges and influences occur across cultures, geographies, politics, and positions. This paper addresses the practice of literacy education in this context, and in particular the nature of engagement across difference and the role of the imaginary in literacies of globality. Grounded in a theorisation of difference and the imaginary in spaces of learning and inquiry, the paper proposes a methodological framework for working across difference that acknowledges and engages with the inevitable but enigmatic resource of often conflicting imaginaries in literacy practices.

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Rogers, T., Winters, K., Perry, M. & LeMonde, A. (2014)

Youth Claims: Arts, Media, and Critical Literacies in the Lives of Adolescents

NY: Routledge

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Perry, M (2010)

Theatre as a place of learning: The forces and affects of devised theatre processes in education.

NY: Routledge

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Perry, M. & Rogers, T. (2011)

Meddling with “Drama Class,” Muddling “Urban”: Imagining Aspects of the Urban Feminine Self Through an Experimental Theatre Process with Youth

Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance. 16(2), 197-213

Perry, M., Wessels, A., & Wager, A. C. (2013)

From Playbuilding to Devising in Literacy Education: Aesthetic and Pedagogical Approaches.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 56(8). 649-658

Taking up drama, scene creation, or performance building in literacy education is a rich area of possibility. This article describes two engaging methods in practice and theory.

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Perry, M. and Medina, C. (2011). Embodiment and Performance in Pedagogy: The Possibility of the Body in Curriculum. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (JCT). 27(3).62–75.

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Wager A. & Perry M. (2015)

Resisting the script: An experiment in assuming embodiment in literacy education.

In Eds. G. Enriquez, E. Johnson, S. Kontovourki, & C. A. Mallozzi, Literacies, Learning, and the Body: Putting Theory and Research into Pedagogical Practice. NY: Taylor & Francis/Routledge

This chapter pursues the possibility of taking up the learner, the participant as a whole body/mind/self; rather than teasing out the physical, the body, or the embodied, from the other contributing aspects of our human experiences. We do this in relation to literacy education, which, as we explain, is present in all aspects of education; the reading, interpreting, and production of texts (e.g. visual texts, physical texts, oral texts) and evident across the spectrum of educational practice. Prompted by Elizabeth St. Pierre (2015), we wonder if we can assume and articulate a perspective on experience in which “mind and body have never been distinct, separate; [so] that the body can never be absent; that it is entangled with everything else in the world” (p.146). St. Pierre questions whether we need “embodiment” as a concept, and although we do not attempt to answer this, we explore, in this chapter, what happens when we try to shake free of it.

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Perry, M. (2015) “Reconsidering Good Intentions: Learning with Failure in Education and the Arts.” In Eds. A. Babayants & H. Fitzsimmons Frey, Theatre and Learning. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 138-152