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3.7.1 Funds of knowledge / cultural capital

3.7.1 Funds of KnowledgeRecognising that children are ‘immersed in practices relating to popular culture, media and new technologies from birth’ (Marsh et al, 2005: 5), Marsh et al suggest that educators need to ‘respond to the challenge this presents by developing curricula and pedagogy which enable children and young people to build on their digital ‘funds of knowledge’ (Moll et al. 1992). Here, they draw from the concept of funds of knowledge developed by Moll et al., (1992) which emphasises the rich range of knowledge and experience that children have from home and community-based experiences from birth, funds which need to be tapped into by schools to enable learners to build on existing skills and knowledge.

Concepts developed by Bourdieu can also be called upon to understand the way in which some pupils’ home literacy experiences are more readily compatible with those of school than others. Cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1990) is a concept that refers to the cultural knowledge, skills and experiences that people accrue throughout their lives. Comber and Barnett (2003), Carrington and Luke (2003) Marsh (2003) and Compton Lilly (2007), for example, illustrate the nature of cultural capital as it is instantiated in literacy experiences in homes and suggest that many schools do not recognise or build upon this capital in satisfactory ways.  This is clearly the case in relation to digital literacy capital, as demonstrated in Karen Wohlwend’s (2009) account of children from print-centric early years classrooms in the US, who long to play with the new technologies and media that are part of their everyday experiences outside of school. She details how one child, thwarted by the limitations of the toys on offer in the classroom, drew his mobile phone:

‘He gave an oblong piece of paper rounded corners and pencilled a 3 by 3 array of squares below a much larger square to represent a numeric pad and an LCD screen. Additional phone features (receiver, compact size) were emphasized by adding play actions: he held the opened paper flat in the palm of his hand, raised his hand to his ear, talked into the paper for a few seconds, then snapped it shut with one hand, and tucked it into his pocket’. (Wohlwend, 2009:125)

The five- to seven-year-old `early adopters’ in Wohlwend’s study used paper and pencil to create mobile phones, iPods and video games in order to bring their own cultural worlds into the early years classroom in the face of technological neglect.

3.7.1 Funds of KnowledgeIn a UK study investigating 4 and 5 year-old children’s perceptions of reading, Levy (2011) identified that the 12 young children she studied were developing broad constructions of reading literacy within their home settings, which involved engagement with multimodal screen and paper-based texts.  Yet, as the children moved into their Reception year at school, definitions of reading became dominated by a ‘schooled’ discourse that focused on the need to decode printed text in reading scheme books. Many of the children subsequently lost confidence in themselves as readers, because their out-of-school literacy identities did not match those of school. In a review of the relationship between home and school literacy practices, Marsh (2010) characterised the differences as follows, outlined in Table 6:

Table 6: Differences in home and school literacy practices (Marsh, 2010)

Literacy as experienced in many homes Literacy as experienced in many early years settings and schools
On-screen reading extensive On-screen reading minimal
Multimodal Focused on written word and image
Non-linear reading pathways Linear reading pathways
Fluidity/ crossing of boundaries Limited to written page
Multiple authorship/ unknown authorship Known, primarily single authorship
Always linked to production Analysis and production separate
Embedded in communities of practice/ affinity groups Individualistic 
Shaped by mediascapes Little reference to mediascapes
Child constituted as social reader Child constituted as individual reader
Reading integral part of identity construction/ performance Reading constructs school reader identities (successful or unsuccessful in relation to school practices)

Teaching that values children’s cultural capital also enables children to engage with popular culture in the classroom in meaningful ways. The digital turn in the study of children’s popular cultural practices, has led to a series of projects examining the inclusion of digital literacy texts and practices in the curriculum. Reviews of this area of work can be found in Burnett and Merchant (2011), Levy and Marsh (2010) and Levy, Yamada-Rice, and Marsh (2013). But it is also the case that themes, images, characters and so on from popular culture can inform the subject matter of the digital texts produced in classrooms, leading children to draw on their experience of films, TV and cartoon characters for example  to inform their construction of new images and characters.

For References see 3.7.5 References/Links to Further Resources

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