I think, therefore I am . . . what a lonely existence!
I am because I am connected.
We are who we are because we are connected to and through a vast network of family, friends, students, and colleagues. Aspects of ourselves develop and exist at contact points spread across work, home, and our larger communities. Just as aspects of ourselves emerge, adapt, and mediate across a vast web of physical and virtual environments, our literacies develop and grow in these same environments as well.
Reading and writing is the networking of ideas—others’ and our own, the meshing of experiences to understand and make meaning. By definition, learning and teaching is about guiding one another, sometimes ourselves, exploring new ideas and paving new pathways of being. Becoming literate is more than just understanding the meaning of a word or how the language works syntactically. Being literate is a state of immersion, connected to and through the systems in which stories and narratives, texts and media circulate. Literacy is living; living is connecting with other people and places, objects, and ideas.
In thinking about the theme of conexión, imagine using the metaphorical framework of networks to explore, expand, and interrogate the day-to-day teaching and learning realities of literacy education. While thinking about topics like students’ reading and writing, curriculum and assessment, text selection and cultural context, the impact of emotions on teaching and learning, the complexity of navigating different stakeholders, and the need to develop support networks for both teachers and learners, consider and expand upon the following questions:
- If we consider our lives a vast network of connections, what are the common pathways we and our students take? What narratives and genres do we regularly read, write, and teach? What are the pathways, ideas, and stories less traveled? How do we authentically document, measure, and assess literacy practices and networks?
- Why and how are regular or entrenched literacy pathways maintained? How do we find and connect with new nodes and narratives, trailblaze new pathways and media? How do we prompt ourselves and others to engage with new texts? New media? New ideas? How can we help sustain an ever-growing and adapting network of learning and being? What larger curricular structures and day-to-day lesson plans and assignments prompt and support these activities?
- What are the nodes (e.g., people, places, objects, and ideas) that make up the meaningful, and sometimes unaware, contact points in the lives of ourselves and our students? Who and what teaches? Who learns? Who are the other literacy stakeholders? How do we navigate to, through, and sometimes around these nodes? How do we help students navigate them as well?
- How do sociological, emotional, and physical realities impact the creation, expansion, and documentation or assessment of literacy networks? What environments do we need to develop to help students and teachers grow different literate and pedagogical practices?
- How do we make connections with people and ideas that are different from ourselves? What motivates us and our students to read new books, watch new media, listen to and critically engage with new ideas? How do we help students incorporate new, even conflicting, ideas and experiences into their living and learning networks?
- How do different contexts, cultures, environments, and events impact the growth, stability, and adaptation of students’ and teachers’ networks? Friends and family, colleagues and community, administrators and school boards, environmental ecosystems and digital matrices—why and how do they enable and constrain nodes and pathways in learning networks?