Saturday, June 29, 2013

Exploring literacy, identity and learning lives in educational transitions #elel2013

Another day, another conference and I am now at the Everyday Language, Everyday Literacies Conference #elel2013taking place in Sheffield, UK. Øystein Gilje started the day with a keynote talk on Exploring  literacy, identity and learning lives in educational transitions. It drew on the Local literacies and community spaces project, which is centred on the Grorud valley, Norway. His focus (and the focus of the project) was learner identity: “learning lives”. I haven't been able to locate the website for this project yet, but I'll add that when I do. The Grorud Valley is a new conurbation on the outskirts of Oslo, which people from various parts of the world and from Norway (including Oslo's inner city) have migrated to.
Whilst close to Oslo, it is also close to the countryside. It is a place which is identified as having social and cultural clashes, "another place", with a problematic identity. Gilje identified Oslo itself as a divided city. However, the Grorud valley has become a particular focus for discussion on immigration and disquiet about change. The researchers looked at how the Grorud Valley was presented in local and national media.
A key question was how young people dealt with educational transitions, e.g. moving into schools in teh valley, and moving out of the valley into e.g. university. Gilje described some existing  initiatives that had been set up in the region e.g. to prepare young immigrant learners for school.
The Learning Lives project looked at cohorts 5-6yrs, 15-16 and 18-19, with 20 informants (and their families) in each cohort, between October 2010 and December 2011. This timespan included the 2011 massacre of young people and the Oslo city centre bomb, and the speaker talked a little about the impact of that on him as a researcher.
Researchers followed the participants in the Grorud Valley and through their transitions. So they were looking at how the young people constructed their learner identities across contexts, including looking at the sites of knowldege and the Valley as a social place. This included asking parents to reflect on their child as learner. The team of four researchers were also concerned with the choices the young people had to make as learners. There are limited choices between primary/secondary and upper secondary education, and a lot more between upper secondary and tertiary education. The first cohort (5-6 years) is when the children go from kindergarten to school.
The speaker followed 24 children from 3 kindergarten and (at the upper age level) followed 12 media students and 12 skincare students (to vocational education), 6 apprentices in garage, and a colleague followed 12 students into academic programmes. Data was collected through observation, interviews, questionnaire and artifacts created with the participants (e.g.drawings, maps, scrapbooks) which stimulated reflection. Analysing the data was a complex procedure and the speaker talked a little about how it was coded, with some aspects being routinely coded e.g. place, type of practice.
The speaker showed a couple of video clips, firstly "Martin", who wanted to be a film maker, talking about how and why he had remixed in a video. The context was a media class "which allowed him to perform a learner identity, bringing in identity as a rap artist" and allowed the students to draw on their knowledge from outside the classroom, and also learn about Ibsen (as Hedda Gabler was a key cultural element in the video). The speaker compared this with a clip of a 5-6 year old using a computer programme to learn to spell the word "fox", then following classmates' practice in clapping and hanging up her headphones (which was a signal in class for students to move to the next task). This is a learner identity where learners are being managed tightly, and fulfilling expected roles as learners, in contrast to the example of creating a video in the media class.
The speaker finished by identifying the varying learning contexts, the current and developing identity, and in particular the "timescale" element. On a matrix with matrices of past/present and macro/micro he identified a phylogenetic (wider environmental/cultural) level, sociogenetic (roughly specific socio-cultural context) level, microgenetic (specific literacy event) and ontogenetic (personal level). Within this matrix they are seeking to gain insights into learning identities at different times, in different learning events, to form a picture of a learning life. I'm blogging this quickly, so as usual I cannot guarantee that I captured teh speaker's intentions accurately.

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