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Social Literacy Perspective
Brandt and Clinton view literacy as a participant in local practices (Brandt & Clinton, 2002). They argue that literacy is not an outcome of local practices since there are social structures and technology in the global society that affect the acquisition of literacy skills. Literacy depends on technologies and agents of transformations which it cannot determine their directions.
Literacy practices are not usually invented by those who use them, but are invented by individual agents who may be in another far away society. Since literacy practices serves multiple interests including those in the larger society, their inventions influences the literacy practices in other regions across the globe. According to them literacy depends more on the powerful technological advances on literacy practices.
Therefore any technological transformation in literacy practices that is made, affects the functions, meanings, uses as well as values of literacy across the globe. This therefore implies that local practices in literacy adopted by a particular society are usually as result of responses to decisions that may have been made in regions far away from the local society.
Although technological transformations play a major role in determining the outcome of learning, this perspective does not provide the significance of other factors in the social environment that influence learning. Technology may not play a major role in helping a learner acquire morals, values or even attitudes which are the social goals of learning.
Richard Darville’s theory of democratic adult literacy views literacy as aimed at developing people’s capacity to participate consciously in the society (Darville, 2001). He acknowledges that there exists an interrelationship between learning and the social environment of the learner which includes the learner’s life within and outside the classroom.
This therefore implies that literacy learning is influenced by political, social, religious, and economic among other aspects of the society. One of the theories that Darville uses to support his democratic theory of literacy is the Practice theory. This theory focuses on how learners relate to texts and how they interact amongst themselves during and after acquisition of literacy and even after accomplishing various literacy tasks.
Individual abilities of a learner therefore play a role in determining the actions that the learner takes after acquiring literacy skills. On the other hand, the social environment influences the learner’s perception and attitude towards issues that occur in the society. The social environment would always provide the learner with an opportunity to interact and acquire morals, ethics and values which are in line with the society’s norms.
This perspective limits learning to occur only through written materials and interactions but neglects other important learning resources and the role of other aspects of learning such as learning methodologies.
Conceptual and Historical Perspectives
Olson and Torrence feel that literacy practices should be built upon the oral traditions of the particular society and that acquisition of literacy skills would be better achieved if the existing culture in that particular society is able to sustain the literacy practices (Olson & Torrence, n.d).
This therefore implies that the teaching and learning subject content, methodologies as well as the teaching and learning resources should be tailored to meet the norms and needs of that particular society. It is very important to consider the institutional context of the learner when planning the teaching and learning resources and the learning content.
The institutional context here includes the larger society and therefore the literacy practices put in place to impart knowledge and skills into learners should enable them acquire competencies which meet the developmental needs of that society. This view is true for societies which are still developing.
However, to modern societies, it may be irrelevant as learners are developed to play a global role in development. Modern societies focus on providing learning resources and learning contents which make individuals be flexible to adapt to the challenges in the global environment.
Brandt, D. & Clinton, K. (2002). Limits of the local: Expanding perspectives on literacy as a social practice. Journal of Literacy Research 34(3): 337-356. Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Darville, R. (2001). Adult literacy as social relations: a democratic theorizing. CASAE-ACEEA National Conference 2001- Twentieth Anniversary Proceedings. Ottawa: Carleton University.
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Olson, D. R, & Torrance, N. (n.d). On being literate society: Conceptual and historical perspectives on literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.