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Remixing Literacies: Supporting Syncretic Computational Literacies Through Translanguaging Designs and Enactment

Sat, April 18, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Virtual Room


Objectives. We examine a unit on data interpretation and computational models in a bilingual middle school science class guided by translanguaging pedagogy (García, Ibarra Johnson & Seltzer, 2017). The teacher and researchers designed this unit to leverage not just students’ flexible linguistic resources, but also a range of other social and semiotic resources. Through planned and emergent translanguaging, students recruited and deployed their home and community language practices, as well as literacies from authentic computing communities and STEM domains (including physical and computational models and mathematical representations), bringing forth remixes -- new kinds of conversations about, with, and through code, what we are calling “syncretic computational literacies.”

Theoretical framework. Our definition of translanguaging is expansive, recognizing how students’ linguistic, social and multimodal semiotic resources go beyond use of named languages (García & Li Wei, 2014). We look to the notion of syncretic literacies (Gutiérrez, 2016; Kibler et. al, 2016; Volk, 2013), which highlights the agency of students to negotiate and re-create cultural practices while “mak[ing] everyday genres and texts the object of analysis, understand[ing] their skills, conventions, and purposes, and leverage[ing] these understandings in school contexts” (Gutiérrez, 2016, p. 53). We build on this, proposing “syncretic computational literacies” recognizing that conversations that take place about, with, and through code are not limited to singular disciplines or communities, and that student translanguaging practices and backgrounds are co-constituted with community, disciplinary and computational literacies.

Methods and data. The paper will share the results of a retrospective design narrative (author, 2002) of an activity in which students explored statistics about the outmigration of people from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. This activity was meant to support a larger unit on interpreting and modeling data in a seventh grade science class. In the unit, students were provided opportunities to translanguage using spoken and written language (varieties of Spanish and English), physical manipulatives, movement, visual representations, and code. Student work, interviews with students, teachers and researchers, and field observations were collected. With this data, we also conducted a content analysis of student work (Neuendorf, 2016) and close analysis of student talk (to surface themes related to the students’ syncretic literacies) (Erickson, 2004).

Results and significance. Statistics education has focused mainly on statistical literacy, modeling, interpretation, and communication (e.g., Garfield & Ben-Zvi, 2007; Tishkovskaya & Lancaster, 2012) in ways that leave little room for students to translanguage—recruit their languaging resources—for reasoning about and with disciplinary content. Preliminary results suggest middle school students’ translanguaging around post-hurricane migration statistics promoted meaning-making in syncretic ways. Students integrated conjectures about imagined migrants’ motivations (transportation, family connections, etc.) along with understandings about proportions, numeric representations, and code (particularly the “pick random number” block in Scratch). Valuing the flexible use of materials, language, and meaning-making modes of the translanguaging classroom enabled multilingual students to develop syncretic computational literacies. For CS education to meaningfully broaden participation, we must respond to students’ translanguaging, ensuring both the “how” (pedagogy) and the “why” (content) reflect and promote students’ syncretic computational literacies.