Tony Gurr

How to Make a Mushroom Omelette!

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Technology, The Paradigm Debate on 29/08/2011 at 11:24 am

Yesterday, I did a post on Literacy – and (hopefully) showed that the research and thinking around this most slippery of concepts had done more than a bit of “mushrooming”!

I forgot, however, to paste in this image – duh!

At the end of my feeble attempt to synthesise the work of many far smarter individuals than I, I think I ended up logging 4 (or 5 – depending on the wind) Uber-literacies, 10 Sub-literacies (that was a bit of a cop out – just google to find many, many more), 38 Literacy-like abilities, 8 Digital (or “New”) literacies (again, there’s more where these came from), 5 Fluencies and also said we need to think about the notion of Multiple Literacies and Learnacy.

That’s a lot of ingredients!


And, guess what? A few of you agreed with me when I said – Mmmm, ALL of them make sense”!

The problem was that I was asked…how do we “teach” them all…

The secret? ……You DON’T!

One of the things I have often said about “good teaching” is that:


However, many of us (even the most dedicated) are often overwhelmed with a desire to:

…whenever we see “lists” like this (this was not my intention, BTW)!


As teachers and educators we initially say I already have enough on my plate – how the hell can I fit all this in”?

We think about it for a while – and slowly start to move through some version of the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle! The problem is often that we often reach the point of “acceptance” by asking the question:

How do we TEACH them all?

I say again – we DON’Twe CAN’Twe SHOULDN’T!


We all know – in our heart-of-hearts – that we can never make a “real difference” to our learners by teaching them “about” stuff. Being successful in both pedagogy and andragogy is truly about “Learnacy” (our own) – and the impact we have on how our learners feel, think and act.

  • Is literacy enough?
  • Is teaching enough?
  • Is content enough?
  • Is technology enough?
  • Is fluency enough?
  • Is learnacy enough?

No! But – together all of them will give us a better shot and achieving the “impact” we know we need to have.


So, what’s the “recipe”?

STEP 1 – Read, learn and discuss more about “traditional literacy” and the newer “literacies/fluencies” – and what they “mean” for your learners and your learning-and-teaching context!

STEP 2 – Be the change you want to see in education! (nuff said – who is going to disagree with Gandhi)!

STEP 3 – Begin with the end in mind (Go on – click on it – dare you)!

STEP 4 – Just do it!

STEP 5 – Start small, begin slowly and focus on doing a few things “differently” and “well” (Rome was not built in a day…)!

STEP 6 – Know that for real improvement in learning and teaching, we need to build in a “curriculum perspective” into our planning (what do they say – “a lack of planning is almost as if we were planning to fail”)!

STEP 7 – Remember that for real change in learning and teaching, we need to build in an “assessment perspective” into our planning (after all, we all know that if it ain’t “tested”, it don’t get done)!

STEP 8 – Use technology – but remember learning is not about the hardware, the software, or the webware…it’s the “headware”, dummy!

STEP 9 – Review, evaluate and upgrade – Microsoft does not still “control” the world because it always gets-it-right-first-time (actually, it hardly ever does), it does well because it learns from our frustrations and pumps out upgrades faster than you can say “where’s my credit card”!

STEP 10 – Remember “best practice” is seldom ever enough – it is, more often than not, about somebody else’s solution to somebody else’s problem. Surely, it’s better to heed what Covey tells us about the “end” and “bearing it in mind” – and look for “Next Practice” for ourselves!

STEP 11 – Know thy learners, their needs and their current “headware” (you never know – you may not have to “teach” as much as you thought)!

STEP 12 – Damn! Why can you never think of a 12th Stepwhen you need one! Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference


Does this all mean we can come up with a decent mushroom omelette? Maybe not straight away……after all…

Go back to STEP 4!


P.S: A couple of you also asked about “Orality”. This is a really neat idea – that never really “caught on” in more recent literacy discussions, sadly. Orality has been around since we stood upright and, many would claim is the basis of language (and literacy) itself.

The notion was given serious attention by Walter Ong in his 1982 book “Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word” (he also had some pretty cool things to say about “the future of literacy” and “the end of the age of literacy”).

Personally, I think people just had “trouble” getting their tongues around the word (it is a strange one) – and opted for “Speaking” or “Communication Literacy” (and even “Story-telling“) as the easier options! Even my spell-checker doesn’t want to recognise it…

As an interesting side-bar – one of the things that Ong discussed was the idea that “secondary orality” is again on the rise! You guessed it – because of that pesky Internet!

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