Monday, March 30, 2009

Clay Burell: Literacy Redefined

Clay Burell writes a great education blog on the network. A couple of his recent posts urge us to change how we think about literacy.

First, take a look at Burell's thoughts on an interview with Muhammad Ali. If you've ever heard Ali speak, you know of his brilliance with language. After you watch the video, think about the questions Burell poses here:

And teachers - English teachers, especially, but any teacher using writing to assess understanding and merit in your classrooms - ask yourself, in this age of user-created video and audio, if it makes any sense to keep giving the Muhammed Ali's of our classrooms a D- because they can't write well, when they can speak well enough to be honored, like Ali was, at Harvard and Oxford. The English teacher in me is uncomfortable with this question, but the history teacher in me thinks it's justified: Writing is no longer supreme since the Digital Revolution. It's now on equal footing with Speaking and Graphic Communication. Isn't it?

In another post, Burell features the work of an AP Literature teacher from Pomona, CA. During a unit on The Great Gatsby, he realized the questions that the book posed about the nature of the American Dream might have relavence to his students, whose families have been hit hard by the current economic crisis. The result moved me to tears and earned the students a visit from President Obama.

Take a few minutes to read Burell's reaction to this video. In it, he posits that only anonymous writing can lead to authentic, moving results such as these. he also points out that the Internet, and YouTube specifically, ought to change the way we think about "language arts."


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