Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe extended Deborah Brandt’s project of collecting literacy narratives from others by focusing very closely on Literate Lives in the INformation Age, the title of their 2008 book. They present the case studies in a more straightforward and obvious way than Brandt, offering up four profiles, two women, two men, two early career professionals, two high school students. Their choices, in other words, were careful and well designed. The four stories, however, were similar: “self-sponsored” literacies like website design, game design, other software skills well beyond the basic word processing. Hawisher and Selfe conclude that these four all found these literacies “to be far more compelling, far more germane to their future success than the more traditional literacy instruction they have received in school” (415). And where Brandt offered only a vague suggestion that teachers understand the complexities of literacies more fully, Hawisher and Selfe more boldly proclaim that educators “must begin to recognize and integrate” the new literacies in to the classroom. They say teachers will need to “change their attitudes about literacy in general” (419), and that teachers should work collaboratively to develop meaningful assignments that will engage students in the literate acts relevant to the 21st century.
I’ll be interested in hearing if students found that the literacy narratives represented more or less mirror their own experiences, or whether these four case studies are more exceptions than rules. I’ll also be interested in hearing what students, as writers and teachers, think about the bold claims Hawisher and Selfe end with.