Monday, June 14, 2010

Bruce and Bishop: New Literacies and Community Inquiry

I have just had the opportunity to read Bertram (Chip) Bruce and Ann Bishop's chapter for the New Literacies Handbook "New Literacies and Community Inquiry".  Sorry I can't give you a better reference than that. 

It is typical Bruce, in that it, in a careful (and yet seemingly effortless manner) he (and Ann) take the reader on a gentle journey reflecting in great depth upon Dewey's contributions to our world and expanding our understanding about literacy, technology, community and the meaning of inquiry.  I always marvel when I read one of his pieces--How does he do it? 

The opening paragraph really says it all.  Chip and Ann--I have to quote it!

Community inquiry research focuses on people participating with others, on the lived experiences of feel, thinking, acting, and communicating.  It sees literacy as part of living in the world, not simply as a skill to be acquired in the classroom.  Inquiry is central, because as people live, they encounter challenges.  Through inquiry, people recognize a problem, mobilize resources, engage actively to resolve it, collaborate, and reflect on the experience.  Making sense of experience in this way, and doing so in concert with others in embodied historical circumstances, is fundamental to learning.
While Dewey is central to the story, Chip and Ann have also turned to Jane Adams (a contemporary of Dewey) as a complimentary pragmatic voice.  Reading this piece and talking to their colleague Jeanne Connell (also at the University of Illinois) who is doing work in Adams and educational philosophy, I am convinced that I have to read more about Adams soon. 

From a very person perspective, I am asking myself--what are the implications of this piece and its focus on community inquiry for my teaching and my research? 

1.  It takes me back to work I did with Sarah Kuhn on Thinking with Things in Qualitative Research...and the question of:  How do researchers, particularly qualitative researchers, appropriate technologies for their work?
2.   How does apprenticeship in qualitative research serve as a form of technology itself, one that defines the ways technologies of research will be encountered?  How does this apprenticeship establish the rules of technology useage?  As researchers mature, how do they appropriate technology?
3.  How do classes serve as communities of inquiry?  Are we providing good thorny problems of civic value?  How does coursework engage students as democratic communities engaged in understanding problematic concerns?
4.  How might Chip and Ann's discussion of technology as lived experience serve me in thinking about the technologies of qualitative research?

Chip--as always, it's been a good read!

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