Muddling through the blogosphere

NCTE Keynote with Ernest Morrell


Ernest Morrell is opening the session with 4 discussion questions:

  • What will be demanded of students in terms of literacy in the 21st century
  • In what ways is the nature of literacy changing?
  • How should the discipline of English change in response to the changes in literacy?
  • What are the ways that your students practice literacy when they are not in class?
    • filmmaking
    • video games
    • virtual worlds – adopting different identities


  • “Historical Memory” – Important to teach students that once they post something, it’s there forever
  • Very complicated now to figure out what is reliable information
  • Switching from the “you need to learn to do this by yourself” to “you need to learn to do this collaboratively.”

Dynamic, challenging time for teaching English and literacy – and meeting increased literacy demands. Teaching 21st century literacies can help us to address many of these challenges while providing opportunities for youth to produce socially and academically powerful texts in ways that were not previously possible – democratizing access to literacy.

Big Question: Motivating students – Expectancy Value Theory of Motivation – 1) Motivation is measure of how confident you are in your ability to perform a task and 2) motivation is measure of how relevant the task is to you. Value + Expectancy = Motivation


Elementary Students: Teatro- Theater of the Oppressed (Pablo Freire)- Education for humanity’s sake. Elementary students out of Watts neighborhood of L.A. doing tableau on violence in their neighborhoods. Actors (students) then invite audience in to dialogue. Students were producing both academic text and socially relevant text.

11th Grader English Students – Great Gatsby unit on critical media literacy & the American Dream. Students analyzing images in 50 Cent and Seventeen and learning to read images. Between the gangster image and glamour image, teens die due to inability to read the media. Critical media literacy is a citizenship skill! The American Dream tied to wealth, not citizenship. Assignment = counter media campaign (e.g., female athletes, tough guy tutoring younger students) If you don’t like the media, make a new media – that’s the difference with 21st century literacy. Students must learn to de-construct images – and to create their own.

Critical media production: documentary filmmaking – ( – Students documenting cultures of their communities. Link between academic literacy and documentary filmmaking. Students become experts on their topics. Requires a high level of literacy to produce a documentary.

Teaching film and television:

  • Watching a film in English/Language Arts class (The Odyssey/Godfather example). Using an epic text that talks about ideology of western civilization. Students use analysis of film to inform their analysis of text. Looking at camera angles to “privilege” certain characters. Having students write essays around popular culture.
  • Spoken word and hip-hop in the English classroom – If young people are engaged with it, it’s important to talk about. Hip-hop reflects problems we have in society. It’s one of the few youth-created popular cultural forms. Involves complex uses of language and literacy. The Poet in Society Unit – poetry is cool again. But everything we do is mediated by the poetry of our time. Think of T.S. Elliot as a social activist, writing apocalyptic poetry about the demise of civilization. Assignment: comparing Grand Master Flash to T.S. Elliot.

Involving students in researching their own communities, with goal of making world a better place. Using an Inconvenient Truth, for example, as a key piece, moving kids beyond their own issues to issues of world. Engaging in research to make the world a better place = Youth Voices.

Critical Minds Project: English class for 9th grade, low-performing students – “A Day in My Life” was first prompt for these east L.A. students. Turned essays in photo essays > digital film.

“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” Marshall McLuhan

“The question is not whether English will change, but how it will change.” Ernest Morrell

To see Ernest’s PowerPoint: (user=profmorrell; password=morrell).

I’ll send out a Tweet as soon as I’ve uploaded the podcast for the session.


  1. Wow, Gail. Thanks for all of this wonderful window into your NCTE event. Thought I had you in my blogroll and bloglines but I guess I didn’t. Look at all I’ve been missing. Hope your web presence work is going well and informing all your other NWP work. I’ll be back here to read more.

  2. Thanks, Susan! Ernest’s talk was wonderful; really nailed the need for students to have access to multi-media literacies.

    I have 18 teachers joining me tomorrow for our Summer Tech Institute, so lots of activity should be coming out of the blog part of our web presence:-).

    See you in San Antonio,

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Skip to toolbar