The Critical Literacies Divide

Living in the Kashmir Himalayas

It’s not good to take 10 days out of the middle of a course – especially if you travel to the other side of the world and enter what feels like ‘a different universe’. Or maybe it is good –  as a reality check – for keeping grounded.

This photo – which I took last week on a trekking holiday in the Kashmir Himalayas – shows a family in front of their home.  As I passed, the woman was washing her clothes in a mountain stream. She stopped and gathered her children around her for the photo. I doubt she even knows that the internet exists. There was no internet or mobile phone connection once I arrived in the Himalayas and these families were shepherds living in the accommodation shown in the photo. Their living conditions were harsh by our standards. There was no school for their children although an NGO was working in the area to try and provide a school/education for these children/families. But they were skilled at living in these harsh conditions, at tending their goats and sheep, at ‘reading’ the environment – definitely more skilled than me. They could control their animals, goats, sheep, horses with a whistle, cross a raging torrent of a river by running across a fallen tree, light a fire in pouring rain, produce an amazing cake without an oven, climb mountain slopes as if they were a stroll in the park. They did not ask for money. They did not want to ‘talk’. The only thing they asked us for was medicine. Without basic medical services, the potential of sickness (so possible in these harsh conditions) meant that they would not be able to tend their sheep and goats, or climb the mountains, or raise the minimum income they needed to survive. Critical literacies – if at all on the horizon of these people – would be reading and writing and they would be lucky to access even this.

Charalambos Vrasidas raised this issue in a Hotseat discussion prior to the Networked Learning conference 2010.

Would a critical literacy of our networked world be to remember this digital divide and to try and bridge it?

3 thoughts on “The Critical Literacies Divide

  1. Heli Nurmi June 23, 2010 / 7:55 am

    Hi Jenny,
    have been waiting for you comeback.

    I think we should remember that digital divide. We have studied contextual knowledge and this is just it. You have worked all the time. perhaps better than we lazy western people with our computers 🙂

    Midsummer is coming to Finland and all people disappear from towns to summer cottages. So do I … do you celebrate Midsummer in England?

  2. jennymackness June 25, 2010 / 3:44 pm

    Hi Heli – thanks for your message. Hope you are enjoying the summer in Finland. Amazing to think that we have already passed the longest day.


  3. suifaijohnmak June 28, 2010 / 1:58 am

    Hi Jenny,
    I have been interested in your posts throughout, and what a great trekking experience!

    It’s a pity to have missed you for the week in discussion, but it’s nice that you are back.

    So, people in remote and rural areas are smart in reading the environment. May be those are the survival and adaptive skills that they have when they don’t have access to technologies.

    Reading and writing, are the basic skills that people living in the developing countries still craving for. We have often taken these skills for granted with our younger generation within our community, as they are often trained in the traditional school setting. In reflection, we may need to look into these basic skills when connecting with people in those parts of the world – rural areas, developing countries etc.

    See you later.

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