5.1.3. Engaging with the worlds

Paulo Freire compared reading words to reading the world (Freire: 2018), and Street (2016) emphasise the importance of doing things in the world with reading and writing –  literacy is about acting on the world, or getting things done. We therefore need to encourage our learners to approach literacy learning – and in particular the learning of digital literacies – as a means of getting things done in the world that they would like to accomplish. This might be anything from participating in a school parents’ evening, to registering at a dentist,  to emailing their Member of Parliament or democratic representative.

This makes the kind of participatory approaches that Freire and others championed extremely appropriate for literacy learners  and digital literacies enable this kind of approach in ways Freire could only have dreamed of.  It is now more possible than ever to go beyond what Cope and Kalantzis memorably call the ‘bounded classroom’ (Cope and Kalantzis: 2019). It has always been a good teaching approach to focus on the places and localities learners live in and habituate, but as Pennycook (2010) points out, the internet is itself a ‘local’ place – or rather, many localities – that people in a real sense live and work and socialize in. It is also where people create and work on identities,  something our learners, too, are actively engaged in, and which may form an extremely important element of their lives.

So, to conclude –  if we want to go beyond mere survival with regard to digital literacies, if we want to really engage, and help our learners engage,  with these new communicative, and constantly changing designs and practices, if we want to thrive in this new world of digital literacies, as practitioners and designers of learning experiences we need to:

  • embrace multiliteracies and multimodal means of communication,
  • include sociolinguistics as a key aspect of both professional knowledge and teaching,
  • move towards participatory models of teaching and learning that see diversity not as an obstacle but as, instead, a foundational principle of our pedagogies.