Literacies not Content

Note: This post is part of the LCC Literacy and Education Faculty Learning Community discussions.

A lightbulb going on to represent an

I just had an A-HA! moment.  We’ve been talking about literacies – plural, vernacular and formal, and learning.  Leslie’s been telling me “literacy IS learning” and that’s been stuck in my brain for a couple of weeks now and I’m beginning to see how indeed, it is.  There’s an HVAC literacy that some of our tech careers students acquire. When they learn their tech field they become HVAC-literate.  So now I’m trying to think in terms of my students becoming economics-literate and what does that mean, and what other literacies do they need to know to become economics-literate?  Algebra literacy? Rational choice literacy? ??

That then lead me to ask “do we acquire literacy or do we become literate?”  Which is when a light  bulb went off:  a huge, huge problem in teaching and higher ed is the prevalence of “content transfer thinking”.  We think and talk about courses and learning with this embedded notion of transferring knowledge to the student. The teacher knows and transfers that knowledge to the student. We think the materials and layout in the LMS or textbook *is* the course. It’s not. The course is an activity and experience. The  course is an act of learning which means it’s a becoming for the student. If we think of learning not as “acquiring knowledge” but rather think of all learning as “becoming literate in/at something” then it becomes apparent how stupid the transfer model is.  You can’t “transfer a literacy”.  You can only facilitate ” becoming literate”.