New literacies as a mathetic tool

Are you just literate or already a new lit?

So far literacy was defined as:
“The ability to read, write, speak, and understand words. “
Using ICT, multimedia and other devices makes clear that we use no longer just words.
Growing up with Internet and being literate means being confronted with movies, sounds, pictures, words and sometimes even moving objects and smell. All working together to explain something, but also make the learner eager to read.

This new situation of literacy is called “ new literacies”. It is defined as:

The new literacies if the Internet and other information and communication
technologies include the skills, strategies, and dispositions necessary to successfully use and adapt to the rapidly changing information and communication technologies and contexts that continuously emerge in our world and influence all areas of our personal and professional lives. These new literacies allow us to use the Internet and other ICT’s to
identify important questions, locate information, critically evaluate the usefulness of the information, synthesize
information to answer those questions, and then communicate the answers to

Leu, D., Kinzer, C., Coiro, J., Cammack, D.(2004) Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the internet and other information and communication technologies. In R.B. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading, fifth edition. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Gradually it becomes clear that most learning takes place outside schools, under teacher independent conditions. That's what mathetics tries to investigate. In learning that way students encounter new literacy elements and learn to use them for their own benefit.

It is, according to Leu e.a., clear that there are some basic elements to keep in mind:

1. Internet and other ICT's are an important context for literacy and learning.

2. It requires new skills, strategies and dispositions to fully exploit its learning potential

3. it provides special opportunities for multilingual learners and schools in an increasingly globalized world.

Mathetical learning has been designed and researched in the European project "Eisweb". In the project "Viseus", development and research is going one step further, including multilinguality as a key point in vocabulary and language learning.

The projects also finds his grounding in research regarding language acquisiton, cooperative learning, practice proof concepts like some ideas from Freinet, evidence from neuropsychology and cognitive load theory. A special dictionary has been constructed, where children can, using all tools of new literacies, define concepts and relationships themselves, by actively exchanging with others. They do not consume but define their own words. This process emphasizes highly on higher order thinking skills, in his latest revision, as well as critical thinking and handling information.

Several European countries are working at this project. During 2009 the first research results will be available. The language environment, including the dictionary, will be available in 2009 for European schools.

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Is there a net generation or just buzz?

Many books and reports were published, showing the audience that we have a "net generation". This generation has, in the author's view, typical characteristics and is sometimes quite different from the elder generation before.

Tapscott, Prensky, Obliger and others belong to the most wellknown advocates of that net-generation theory.

The German educationalist Rolf Schulmeister doubts the existance of such a generation. In his publication "Gib'ts eine Net Generation? (Is there a net generation?) he points to the fact that there is hardly valid research evidence that underpins the claims from the authors.

Although Schulmeister presents considerable research for his claims, the quality of the research is divers and not fully comparable. It's also difficult for him to avoid the trap of journalistic generalisations and ill defined concepts. That makes it difficult to follow him in his conclusions that the concept of a net generation is just a buzz. He will need more evidence, grounded by solid theories, to throw away the bathtub with the net tubbies in it.



Ambient learning

Confusing sometimes is the amount of terms used to describe merely the same phenomenon.

One of those phenomena is "ambient learning" , also called "ubiquitous learning" and sometimes described as "pervasive learning". It relies to an old idea of ambient intelligence, formulated in the late 1990s.

Pervasive learning, ambient or ubiquitous learning relies to the concept of
"always ongoing" education. It is a social process, that connects learners to
communities or devices, people and situations, so that learners can construct
relevant and meaningful learning experiences that they author themselves, in locations and at times that they find meaningful and relevant. (siobham thomas)

One of the technologies much in use is the RFID chip. This enables users to put intelligence in objects: toys, paintings in a museum, trees and almost every object. Even in human beings. Children could walk through a wood and hear the names of the trees, the way they grow, how old the trees are etc. Paintings in a museum could tell a story, either for children or adults.

One of the experimental applications is for instance the pilot in which people do not need any longer to exchange visit cards: with a simple gadget they can touch each other and exchange all the knowledge. Later they can put it in the computer. For young people it's a thrilling gadget, to be used in disco's. Just touch the object and you know each other's basic facts.

Real world and virtual world are meeting into a new synthesis. Of course we knew already recorders, dvd-players in musea etc., but this application could have a high interactive potential.
In language education, mathematics, history, geography it could play a very interesting role.
There still is little research available at this moment about the (non)sense of pervasive learning.

Ambient learning strongly supports mathetic behavior. Parts of intended
learning, normally provided by a teacher, could be communicated with the object itself.

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