RE: [xmca] dynamics of learning and development

From: <ERIC.RAMBERG who-is-at>
Date: Thu Nov 29 2007 - 06:32:28 PST


Yes, thanks for the addition. When will the handbook be available?


                      Smagorinsky" To: "'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'" <>
                      <> cc:
                      Sent by: Subject: RE: [xmca] dynamics of learning and development
                      11/29/2007 07:56
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,

Just one addendum: Two friends and I are editing a Handbook on Adolescent
Literacy (Guilford, 2008). When writing the intro and defining literacy,
when all was said and done and after reviewing much writing on the topic,
returned to Scribner and Cole's definition from way back in 1981:
This review suggests the importance of Scribner and Cole's (1981) insight
that literacy is a social and cultural practice, i.e.,
a recurrent, goal-directed sequence of activities using a particular
technology and particular systems of knowledge . . . [a set of] socially
developed and patterned ways of using technology and knowledge to
tasks. . . . [Literacy consists of] a set of socially organized practices
which make use of a symbol system and a technology for producing and
disseminating it. Literacy is not simply knowing how to read and write a
particular script but applying this knowledge for specific purposes in
specific contexts of use. The nature of these practices, including, of
course, their technological aspects, will determine the kinds of skills
("consequences") associated with literacy. (p. 236)

I haven't found anything better. Peter

Peter Smagorinsky
The University of Georgia
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2007 8:14 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] dynamics of learning and development

In my personal quest for understanding on this subject I keep returning to
the grand text of the "Psychology of Literacy by Scribner and Cole. I have
the 1999 reprint. The importance this text plays for me is I see it as a
culmination of the many ethnographic studies undertaken to understand
cognition in context. It has help me greatly in my understanding of
working with the students who attend my school with their varying degrees
of disabilities. I submit quotations from Chapter 14 for your

"In this book we have made a seemingly relentless descent from the general
to the specific. We began with grand and ancient speculation about the
impact of literacy on history, on philosophy, and on the minds of
individual human beings; we ended with details of experiments on mundane,
everyday activities that would, under other circumstances, probably escape
our notice or our interest. Instead of generalized changes in cognitive
ability, we found localized changes in cognitive skills manifested in
relatively esoteric settings. Instead of qualitative changes in a person's
orientation to language, we found differences in selected features of
speech and communication. . . .we believe it is important that we have
identified skills that are associated literacy learning. . .To give a
satisfactory account of the nature and significance of the differences we
found-and failed to find-we would need to draw on some well-specified
theory of cognition. . .no such theory was at hand. Within anthropology
and sociology, we encounter theories of the "Great Divide" variety. . .a
dominant trend is to consider cultural inventions, such as literacy, as
unrelated to basic processes of intellectual development; literacy may
influence how society does its work but not the structures of mental
operations (piagetian theory). we made progress in finding terms more
suitable for specifying culture-cognition relationships than the antimonies
offered by existing theory. . . We call this framework a "practice account
of literacy" to emphasize that it is neither a formal model nor a grand
theory but a preliminary attempt to bring new question to our enterprises."

any thoughts?

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