It’s All Talk! Oracy, Literacy and Digicy in the Classroom.

25 Jun

While pedagogical fashions come and ago, in educational technology this is especially so. Some things, however, remain the same: and to my mind one of the most vital is the importance of oracy in the classroom. Andrew Wilkinson coined the term oracy in 1965, to place it on an equal footing with numeracy and literacy in educational thinking, and it is useful to use this term as a continual reminder of the paramount importance of talk in the classroom. It so often gets forgotten.

While it might seem strange for a technophile, like me, to be advocating anything so untechnological as talk, it is precisely because, without the talk, none of the technology would be worth a jot. It is because I believe that technology is a great enabler of talk that I am in favour of its use. For example, I believe that flipping the classroom makes sense because it makes space for more talk in the classroom, not less. Less teacher talk, certainly, but hopefully much, much more student talk. It also offers ways for the talk to continue beyond the classroom walls themselves using Skype, for example, or Google Hangout.

My most succesful English literature lessons have always taken place sitting in a circle, talking about a poem or novel, throwing ideas around, with students feeding off each others’ perspectives. My most succesful English writing lessons have taken place in Writers’ Circles, with students talking about each others’ writing. To my mind what helps me to improve on this is the ability to deliver some of the content in other forms, freeing up space for more talk. Talk is important in developing critical thinking because it makes thinking apparent. Question and Answer, talking through the thought process, all help develop thinking skills. Talk is tentative and open to failure in ways that writing is not, and this is what makes it so valuable.

Now lest you think me a rampant Socratic, I must add that I believe literacy has an equally important place in education. The power of the text to foster reflection and its greater rigour, both have important benefits in developing thinking skills. And of course ICTs in the classroom offer many enhanced opportunities for fostering writing that is more authentic and purposeful.

Digital literacies also offer a spectrum of new digital oracies and literacies in between: forms of communication which combine the spontaneity and immediacy of talk with the reflective power of the written word. These digicies, and I hope I’m not coining a horrible new word, range from the rather more oral Skype video-conferencing and vodcasting, through to the more text-based literacies of the email, blog or wiki, and offer exciting new possibilities for cognitive development – what Stevan Hardnad terms the fourth cognitive revolution.

It seems obvious to me that we need to ensure that our classrooms become places where all three: oracy, literacy and digicy are explored thoroughly. To my mind this is why online education will always have a limited place in our educational system, and why hybrid systems will become the norm. I would like to argue that we should start to see digital literacy in the same light as oracy, literacy and numeracy, and that we need to ensure that it is not only taught as an essential literacy, but that is also the norm in terms of mode of expression in the everyday classroom.


One response to “It’s All Talk! Oracy, Literacy and Digicy in the Classroom.


    January 30, 2013 at 7:18 am

    This is certainly the fourth article, of your website I browsed.
    Yet I love this specific one, “Its All Talk! Oracy, Literacy and Digicy in the Classroom.
    The DigiTeacher” the best. Regards -Tim



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