Literacies and Exigencies: Navigating the Landscape Now and in the Future

Literacy educators are working in an educational landscape that feels more fraught than ever before. Over the last year, we have faced new challenges such as  pandemic learning loss, increased political polarization, and the accelerated mainstreaming of artificial intelligence tools. We also continue to navigate seemingly inescapable strains on learning, such as bureaucracy and inequality. To respond to these complex challenges, we need to consider the fundamental purposes of literacy instruction: What do our students need at this present moment? What do we value as literacy educators? Should those values change? If so, how?  

Our keynote speaker will be Jonathan Alexander, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. In his recent Inside Higher Ed article, he wrote, “While many instructors worry about students using these programs, such as ChatGPT, to generate ready-made essays, others are taking a longer view, asking themselves what they value most in the teaching of writing and how those values might best orient our understanding and use of text-generative AI.” 

We encourage proposal submissions that engage this longer view. We invite you to contemplate how to grapple with AI in the writing classroom, focusing on the affordances and limitations of these technologies. How do we impart to our students the value of reading and writing in a world in which this work can be done for them with just a few keystrokes? 

These are big questions, so we are calling on all literacy educators from various fields and institutions, including writing studies, reading instruction, creative writing, community writing, information literacy, student support, and others, to join us in responding to them. We look forward to discussing how to adapt based on changes in student preparedness and proficiencies while also highlighting new ways that students are engaging in reading, writing, and other literacies in a variety of platforms and genres.

We will also feature an online workshop led by Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks, titled “Being and Becoming Writers in an Age of AI: Reconnecting with Our Values and Exploring the Intentional Integration of Digital Literacies.” Kristen Hawley Turner, PhD, is Professor and Director of Teacher Education at Drew University in New Jersey.  She is the founder and director of the Drew Writing Project and Digital Literacies Collaborative and author of numerous books and articles on teaching and digital literacy.

Dr. Troy Hicks is a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University, where he serves as Chair of the Department of Teacher and Special Education and directs the Chippewa River Writing Project. Framed by NCTE’s Definition of Digital Literacy and four key questions that can be used for planning instruction they articulated in a recent article, Turner and Hicks will share examples of typical lessons and invite participants to engage in innovative versions of those lessons, where technologies play a role but where literacies are the heart of the instruction.