Sheffield Literacies and Language Conference 2023



Close up image of a cog mechanism


Registration 8:30 - 9:00 AM (Outside of Lecture Theatre 3)

Coffee, pastries, and welcome with: Dr Karen Daniels (Sheffield Hallam University) and Professor Jennifer Rowsell (University of Sheffield)

Opening Panel 9:00 - 10:30 AM: What are Hopeful Literacies? (Lecture Theatre 2)

Panel: Dr Jessica Bradley - Chair (University of Sheffield), Dr Fiona Scott (University of Sheffield), Dr Chris Bailey (Sheffield Hallam University), Dr Deborah Bullivant (Grimm & Co, UK), and Professor Abigail Hackett (Sheffield Hallam University).

Parallel session 11:00 – noon (60 mins) 2 talks and 15-20 min Q&A

Panel 1: Hopeful Literacies, Lifeworlds, and Media (Workroom 2)

Professor John Potter (University College London) – Wayfaring, Placemaking & Filmmaking: Children’s Play from the Archive, to the Observatory and the Gallery 

This presentation draws on three sources to discuss the relationship between children’s play and  ‘hopeful literacies’. The first of these sources is the ‘Playing the Archive’ project (2017-19) which  brought the Opie archive of children’s games into the contemporary playground to explore ways of  representing them to new audiences, and to document the changing nature of play. The second is the  Play Observatory (2020-22) which created an archive of play during the pandemic and which  contained video submissions by children and parents/carers. The final source is the ‘Nature of the  Game’, an exhibition by Francis Alÿs at the Venice Biennale (2022) which brought together almost  20 years of global video recordings children’s play, made by adults directed and produced by the  artist. 

As well as being of cultural value in themselves, these recordings, across all the projects, represent  children’s interactions with, and assimilations of, popular culture, artefacts, and practices, all of which  draw on their lifeworlds, cultural capital and markers of identity. How can we describe, investigate,  and preserve practices all too frequently dismissed as ephemeral in children’s play, and present them  as ‘things worth knowing’ (after Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Railway Children’)? Examples from all three  sources are explored by reference to theories of third spaces, wayfaring and the post digital, engaging  with the conference theme of ‘hopeful literacies’. Which methods lend themselves best to this kind of  work? What can we learn about children’s lifeworlds, learning and meaning-making by reference to  their play, including in difficult circumstances?

Dr Yinka Olusoga (University of Sheffield) - 'Children may be in Lockdown but their talent isn’t': Children’s Cultural Production, Forged in Pandemic Times 

This presentation examines the HomeCool Kids (HCK) who, during Britain’s first COVID  lockdown in 2020, established their own child-produced online magazine for children.  Originally started by two siblings from Birmingham, with support from their mother, after  their first edition, the HCKs expanded to become a child-led collective. They also became  contributors to an ESRC funded project called the Play Observatory (2020-22), set up to  record the play and leisure activities of children and young people during the COVID-19  pandemic (Cowan, Potter, Olusoga, Bannister, Bishop, Cannon and Signorelli, 2021).  Analysis will attend to themes of identity, intertextuality, participation and entanglement in  children’s transludic practices (Cannon, Potter, Olusoga and Cowan, 2023) and cultural  production. We will consider how, via the forging of these collective spaces for self expression, children were able to explore playfulness, hopefulness, seriousness, and  connection. Discussion will draw on three sources of data. Firstly, the magazines themselves,  which were written and edited by children. Secondly, a silent film created by one of HCK  contributors for the Play Observatory, in which she visually communicates her experience of  lockdown. Finally, an online ethnographic interview which was carried out by the Play  Observatory with the two children who founded the HCK, and their mother. The HCK  demonstrates that children can provide their own insightful commentary on the challenges  and opportunities of pandemic and post-pandemic life. We must ask, how do we, as adults in  the home, in schools and wider settings, support children everywhere to forge similar spaces,  adding different voices and perspectives?  

Professor Abigail Hackett (Sheffield Hallam University), Dr Vishnu Nair (University of Reading) and Warda Farah - (Un)making meaning; expanding possibilities for body, language and childhood at the unruly edges of the Anthropocene

Children’s language and literacies always happens somewhere. In this paper, we share our collective thinking and imagining in relation to language, place and the body, arguing that children’s improvisations with sounds and words do not unfurl in a vacuum, but in places that are loaded with the far-reaching politics of culture, power and belonging. Contrary to formalised environments for language-learning, these are often places that foster community making and foreground belonging, sound-making and movements. We propose more-than-human theories of children’s language as one tool for moving towards hopeful literacy futures that resist the entanglement of language and literacy with notions of human exceptionalism and narrow colonial views of child development (Kromidas, 2019). By picking at the fraying edges of this logic, we hope to tell stories about what is happening in relation to children, language and place “despite” (Tsing, 2015) capitalist logics of progress. We show how multiple semiotic practices of children labelled as having speech, language, and communication disabilities disrupt ideologies of oralism and unimodality and provide evidence for “nonnormativity” and embodied meaning making as expansive communication (Canagarajah, 2023). Thus, this paper makes a case for celebrating the deep entanglement between language, body, disability and the world, breaking with a tradition of seeking to simplify and generalise models of language development, where place tends to be viewed as a neutral backdrop or controllable variable in how language (be it spoken, gestured, or assisted through communication tools) happens.

Panel 2: Hopeful Literacies and Language in Schools (Lecture Theatre 2)

Professor Julia Gillen (Lancaster University) & Professor Cathy Burnett (Sheffield Hallam University) - Glimpses from the kaleidoscope: Research Mobilities in Primary Literacy Education in England 

Primary literacy education in England is a controlled domain of activity, with a strong measure of coherence around Department of Education documents around policy, curriculum, training and professional development. Research, often termed evidence, is drawn upon in particular ways. Our project is examining how research related to primary literacy education, (RPLE), in all its forms, is mobilised and reshaped as it moves. In today’s environment, communications are recontextualised and remediated in various sociomaterial assemblages. Our aim is to investigate which topics, approaches, methodologies and social actors are of particular significance in the RPLE landscape in England today, and which are relatively marginalised and how. ​

In this presentation we will give glimpses from some of the findings of our project. As our kaleidoscope moves, variegated findings come into view, while the perspective of the researcher is always implicated. We will share some visualisations drawn from the following entanglements with data:

  • Teachers’ viewpoints on how they themselves understand and engage with RPLE gained through interviews, focus groups and lifelogging, gained in 2021& 2022.
  • A Corpus Linguistics investigation of newspaper discourse, displaying what themes of RPLE are publicly available and how these have shifted, or not, from 2017-2022.
  • Sociomaterial explorations of a relatively dynamic discourse on Twitter, 2019- 2022, examining how topics ebb, fall, move and disappear.

We will be open to discussing with the audience how our methodology might be illuminating what they perceive as contributing to forging hopeful literacies.

Professor Tiziana Mascia (University of Urbino) & Dr Juli-Anna Aerila (University of Turku) - From Profiling Readers to Structuring Educational Paths: Guiding Principles for Effective Programs Promoting Reading Motivation and Literacy

The decline in reading motivation among students is a critical issue, necessitating the promotion of hopeful literacies through comprehensive and effective programs. Evidence suggests that motivation, engagement, and reading skills are interconnected, and that reading for pleasure can enhance these aspects while fostering broader social involvement. Despite these benefits, the percentage of students engaging in recreational reading has decreased in several European countries (Mullis et al., 2017; OECD, 2021). In today's educational system, which emphasizes reading for assessment purposes and relies heavily on standardized tests (Levin et al., 2023) there is a tendency to adopt a traditional text-centred method. Therefore, there is a need for an integrated approach to literacy education, which encompasses both reading for pleasure pedagogy and digital literacy in the school curriculum (Cremin et al., 2023; Elinet, 2022).

In response to these challenges, the project Leggere per piacere: Good Practices to Motivate Reading has been developed in Italy. This initiative offers a specialized training course for teachers, librarians, and educators, concentrating on the fundamental principles of reading for pleasure pedagogy. The program is tailored to different age groups and emphasizes understanding the unique needs and interests of young readers in order to boost their reading skills and enjoyment across various formats, including digital media. This approach includes supporting less advanced readers, promoting active citizenship, and encouraging student autonomy and choice.

This presentation focuses on the main stages of the research conducted by authors, which provided the guiding principles upon which the project was based, particularly on the profiling of the reader and the structuring of the educational path realized over the course of a year. Furthermore, we will discuss the main findings that have emerged so far from the training course itself, which is designed for teachers, librarians, and educators and incorporates multidimensional and dynamic approaches to promoting literacy that integrate emotional aspects, behavioural habits, social components, and cognitive strategies. These measures are aimed at fostering a comprehensive literacy environment that nurtures the reading experience for all learners, both individually and in class groups. By seeking to promote the deliberate cultivation of reading for pleasure pedagogy, this project aims to build a hopeful future for literacy where reading motivation becomes a collective responsibility that extends beyond the mere acquisition of reading skills.

Dr Tianyi Wang (University of Sheffield) - The dynamics of interpreter’s intercultural literacy and the multiplicity of their roles in mediating cultural differences 

This study aimed to understand the dynamics of intercultural literacy from the perspective of positioning theory. It investigated the manifestation of two interpreters’ intercultural literacy in relation to their positionings when they translated culture-bound terms for a cross-cultural collaborative teacher professional development project. By analysing interpreter-mediated interactions (approximately 315 minutes) and interviews (7 pieces), this study showed that both interpreters were expected to shoulder multiple or even sometimes contradictory duties when translating culture-bound terms. This made their positionings shift between those of transmitters of information, cultural insiders and constructors of shared understandings between interlocutors in the process of interpreting. Notably, interpreters’ intercultural literacy, for example, their sensitivity to cultural differences or competence to establish proper cross-cultural relationships, was found to fluctuate according to their different positionings in cultural translation. Notably, the lack of training in this specialised field obliged interpreters to rely mainly on their personal experiences to judge which roles they should play in the face of cultural differences. This situation added to the fluctuations in the manifestation of their intercultural literacy. The present study has pointed out the importance of understanding the complexity and dynamics of intercultural literacy and raising interpreters’ ability of properly positioning themselves in the intercultural communication.

Dr Abigail Parrish (University of Sheffield) – Everyone speaks English anyway: Hope, disruption and language learning narratives in the secondary classroom

Anyone who has ever been involved in school-level language learning in England will have heard the refrain ‘everyone speaks English anyway’, or faced questions around ‘the point’ of learning a modern foreign language (as they are termed in schools). Numbers of exam entries have fallen almost every year since the study of a language was made optional at age 14 in 2004, and the subject is often described as being ‘in crisis’. Against this background, it is easy for language teachers to lose hope. However, in this presentation, I draw on questionnaire data gathered from around 3,000 students to disrupt this narrative and show how many students are interested in both languages and language learning, and cite many and varied reasons for their interest. Using data relating to students’ self-determined motivation, their choices and their views of multilingualism, I discuss how changes to way school-level language learning is viewed, based on the perspectives of the learners themselves, could forge more hopeful narratives around young people’s languages and multilingual literacies.


Noon - 1 PM (Outside of Lecture Theatre 3 - go outside and enjoy a walk in Weston Park)

Keynote #1     1:00 - 2:00 PM (Lecture Theatre 2)

Professor Michael Dezuanni (Queensland University of Technology) - Minecraft, #booktok and the hopeful socio-material literacies associated with peer pedagogies

In this talk, Michael discusses how Minecraft Let’s Plays on YouTube and #booktok videos on TikTok offer opportunities for learning via ‘peer pedagogies’.  He argues that these examples represent opportunities for ‘hopeful literacies’ because they enable children and young people to pursue their passions and interests, to participate in fandoms, and to learn. To date, little attention has been paid to pedagogical relationships promoted by fandom and what we might call ‘impassioned learning’; and there has been little focus on how children and young  people learn from and with social media ‘microcelebrities’. Michael contextualises peer pedagogies within the tradition of public and media pedagogies, before discussing the examples of Minecraft Let’s Player, Stampylonghead and #booktokker books.with.lee.

Coffee Break & Head of School of Education Welcome 2:00 - 2:30 PM (outside of Lecture Theatre 3)

‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ Arts-based participatory workshop 2:30 - 4:00 PM (Workroom 1)

Harriet Hand (University of Bristol) & Mark Shillitoe (Delft International School)

Please bring something small that has a memory attached to it.

Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf? Is a participatory workshop that has been designed specifically for The Sheffield Literacies Conference 2023. The workshop will invite participants to explore themes of fairy tales, hope and literacies using arts-informed techniques that draw upon the art, design, and pedagogical practices. The session will be collaborative offering opportunities for participants to explore and experiment through movement, text, image, and object-based encounters.

This workshop will:

  • Bring together all attendees to think about the theme of hopeful literacies
  • There will be arts-based activities and reflection conversations
  • The workshopers need to set up the space, meet with other keynotes, and create art with group.

Wine Reception 4:30 - 5:30 PM (Workroom 2) 

Chair Dr Cheryl McLean, Rutgers Graduate School of Education - Announcement of Sheffield Language and Literacies Conference PGR Prize Winners

Talks by PGR Prize Winners

Professor Mia Perry – Book launch for Towards Pluriversal Literacies: When words are not enough for sustainable futures

Conference Dinner 6:30 PM Lokanta Restaurant, 478-480 Glossop Road, Sheffield, S10 2QA (please check with Jennifer and Nick at the conference if you are attending as we need to keep track of numbers)


Registration, Coffee and Pastries 9:00 - 9:30 AM (Outside of Lecture Theatre 3)

Keynote #2 9:30 - 10:30 AM (Lecture Theatre 2)

Dr Khawla Badwan (Manchester Metropolitan University) - Hopeful literacies in the face of literacy monsters: meaning and mattering beyond the narrow linguistic tale

This post-Covid 19 educational response to children’s literacy education is both troubled and troubling. Its discourses tends to be pathologising, narrowing, and problematic, leaving us with more powerful ‘literacy monsters’ (Thiel & Kuby, 2019) than the ones we grappled with before the pandemic. This keynote asks what happens if we continue to see literacy as a monolithic, neat concept which validates certain texts and practices that do not always align with the creativity, diversity and unboundedness of children’s embodied literacies. After that, the talk explores how current literacy discourses remain entangled with what Finnegan (2015, 14) describes as, ‘the partiality of the narrow linguistic tale’ that stubbornly insists on centring the ‘standard’, the ‘cognitive’ and the ‘intelligible’ while turning the back on the ‘divergent’, the ‘non-standard’, and the ‘messy’. This leads to a discussion about the need to move beyond meaning to explore mattering in literacy education. The talk ends with arguing that attending to mattering not only opens up new avenues for research and education, but also generates new arrangements that are both hopeful and merciful.

Saturday parallel session 10:30 – 11:30 AM (60 mins) 3 talks and 15-20 min Q&A

Panel 1: Reimagining Literacies and Filling Up with Hope (Workroom 1)

Professor Mia Perry (University of Glasgow) – When words are not enough: Pluriversal literacies for sustainable futures

This presentation lays out the argument for and the key tenets of pluriversal literacies. Firstly, the conceptual framework of the pluriverse is outlined, and in doing so, the critical and political implications of this approach is foregrounded. This is followed by an exploration of literacies as fundamental semiotic practices that enable humans to engage, interact with, make meaning with, and read the world.

Based on the above foundations, I critique the prevailing norm of print (“schooled”) literacy as insufficient for an equitable and sustainable world. But more importantly, I lay out an alternative vision and framework for literacies education that shifts what it means to be literate in the many places and practices of our world.

Everything in the world is communicative; all things draw upon signs. But signs are not just language-like. And what’s more, language alone cannot sustain a person, a community, and certainly not the multi-species interdependence and biodiversity which we fundamentally depend upon to live. Drawing together research that spans the global north and south, this presentation connects the disciplines of literacies studies with semiotics, philosophy, sustainability studies, and geopolitics. Finally, this presentation introduces specific literacies (including print, faith, bodies, land, water, and materials) as examples of the myriad literacies that are needed to sustain an entangled human and more than human world.

Professor Uta Papen (Lancaster University) - Unfulfilled hopes: Why have sociocultural and practice-based approaches to literacy struggled to influence policy?

Having emerged in the 1980s, sociocultural and practice-based approaches to literacy, also known as New Literacy Studies (NLS), nowadays are an established research field. Based on in-depth research conducted in different contexts and countries the NLS have much to offer to teachers and policymakers. And yet this impressive body of work has had little impact on policy. Taking as my example England, I ask what research has shaped literacy policy in the past 30 years and why sociocultural and practice-based studies have been ignored. Thus, I address the theme of ‘hopeful literacies’ by thinking about why hopes for the NLS to shape literacy education have not turned into reality. My focus is on the initial teaching of literacy in primary schools. I discuss three factors which I believe contribute to our struggles to influence policy: the policy environment itself and how it has changed; the wider economy of literacy research and what knowledge counts in the interface between research and policy; and, finally, the role of the media and public discourse in the relationship between research and policy. I end my contribution asking where the field might want to go. Should we continue to hope for policy influence? Or are we better off seeking hope elsewhere, for example in alliances with teachers or in collaborations with researchers from different disciplines?

Dr Lisa Bradley & Professor Mia Perry (University of Glasgow) – Material literacies: Making sense with matter through building boats

This presentation builds on the foundations of pluriversal literacies and explores new research in literacies of matter, specifically working with wood, metal, and plastics in youth and community contexts through boat building. The significance and vibrancy of materials in literacies education is fundamental, as it takes place in classrooms, families, communities, and online. A movement of new materialism has lent a renewed attention to the agency of materials and the implications of them in our teaching and learning lives. However, the majority of existing research in new materialism and literacies takes up the materials that mediate our teaching and learning in relation to how it contributes to objectives of social justice and print literacy. Our concern here is with a literacy of matter not for enhanced print literacy or social justice, but for the purposes of reading and engaging with materials. We explore and illustrate a practice of material literacy pedagogy that is intended to teach the ability to decode matter in order to understand its form, nature, make-up, meaning and relationship to the world.

Drawing on theoretical tenets, interactive activities, and illustrations of recent research, this presentation presents a tangible application of pluriversal literacies as occurring in the Archipelago Folk School, working in 3 diverse locations across Scotland. We chart a new course in pluriversal literacies that is required to unshackle literacies of matter from literacies of print and in doing so, supports a socio- ecological justice in education.

Panel 2: Searching and Finding Hopeful Literacies (Lecture Hall)

Dr Michelle Honeyford & Dr Jennifer Watt (University of Manitoba) – Thinking with Place-Writing and Walking as Hopeful Literacies 

A city of makers and forgers, Sheffield may also be the greenest city in the UK. Its history as an industrial and manufacturing centre coalesces with its aesthetic imagination and natural location, attracting urban walkers and ramblers with an annual Walking Festival. Thus, Sheffield is a fitting site to consider how place-writing and walking forge hopeful literacies for relational futures. 

  Focusing on place in literacies research draws attention to how land and environmental injustices are interwoven with social inequities (Tuck & McKenzie, 2015). Across the social sciences and humanities, place-writing has taken an experimental and sociomaterial turn. Exploring the complexities of place-as-assemblage invites the forging of various forms of text-as-assemblage (Cresswell, 2019). Understanding place as a gathering of parts calls for horizontal discourses of place-writing (Barthes, 1978): descriptive, nonlinear, open-ended, paratactic, poetic, fragmented, emergent, montaged (Cresswell, 2019). Non-representational approaches to walking methodologies similarly emphasize the dynamic interconnectedness of human- material relations. Particularly hopeful to us are collaborations of scholar-artists who are walking-with land, place, and others in solidarity and ethical response-ability (Springgay & Truman, 2018), and for whom walking is a life practice of kinship relationality, which re-imagines and enables renewal in relationships denied and damaged through legacies of colonialism (Donald, 2021). 

We propose a tentative framework for place-writing and walking as research-creation, drawing on concepts, methods, examples, and questions emerging from the literature and our own research practice. Our hope is to create a space at the conference to think-with and across creative practices (Manning & Massumi, 2014) as literacies researchers, walkers, and writers.

Dr Lou Harvey (University of Leeds) - ‘To be is to communicate’: Reflections on voice and the un/sayable

The philosophy of Mikhail Bakhtin has structured my academic research. Always with the concept of voice at heart, I’ve analysed the utterances through which people author themselves in the belief that attentive and theoretically informed listening to this authoring is part of my contribution to a more just society. Despite my professional background in language education, I’ve long looked beyond and besides language in the production and analysis of utterances, and have come to understand voice as fundamentally transrational (Harvey et al. 2021), individually uttered and collectively produced in processes of both meaning-making and mattering. However, after ten years of research with variously marginalised and minoritized people, an adult autism diagnosis and a period of burnout, I now find myself at a professional and personal staging post where the concept of voice means more than I can articulate. In my growing awareness of the extent to which the linguistic, speaking voice is privileged in communication, and that those who do not speak or use their voice in audible ways may be considered less than human (Sequenzia and Grace 2017; Wood 2022), I realise more fully the radical implications of Bakhtin’s understanding that ‘to be is to communicate’ (1981). In this talk, therefore, I reflect on the violence of privileging sayability, considering whether asking someone to speak is always already an inhospitable act, and how attention to the unsayable might contribute to the expanded, hospitable onto-epistemology contained in Bakhtin’s philosophy.

Dr Annegrethe Ahrenkiel (Rosklide University) & Dr Lars Holm (Aarhus University) – Hopeful Language Environments

This presentation critically discusses how dominant understandings of high-quality language environments are based on an ideology of “wordism” where expanding children's vocabulary is a central effort (Blum 2015). Many studies highlight the quantity and quality of adults' language interactions with children as key elements of high-quality language environments. We offer an alternative theoretical and empirical framework for understanding language environments in early childhood education and care (ECEC). Bakhtin (1992) and new-material perspectives (Pennycook 2018, Hackett & Routio, 2019) on language will be introduced as a foundation for reconceptualising high-quality language environments, an approach that is more sensitive to children's actual and everyday language use in interaction with each other and the physical environment.  Drawing on empirical examples from a qualitative video-ethnographic study of children's everyday language interactions in different contexts, the presentation will show how the chosen analytical framework gives rise to different understandings of quality in language environments and language pedagogy. Through the empirical examples, we demonstrate that high-quality language environments encourage children to use language in dialogical and carnivalesque ways that support their development of real-life heteroglossic, communicative competences. Such environments take into account the fact that children´s language use is multimodal and multisensory and involves patient atunement processes that are far more unpredictable than in children’s communication with adults. Finally, the implications of the analyses for language pedagogy will be discussed.

Panel 3: Disrupting Literacies to Find Hope (Workroom 2)

Dr Christian Ehret & Emily Mannard (McGill University) – Making Time Feel Different through Everyday Writing in Control Societies 

Contemporary philosophers and social theorists have identified time as a primary force through which power impacts life in neoliberal societies (e.g. Massumi, 2016). Much of this work draws on Deleuze’s (1992) notion of control societies that mobilize forces of limitless postponement, modulating senses of urgency and desires for control that impact bodies over time. This paper theorizes a dimension of critical literacy that includes self-identifying women’s productions of new senses of time and space through processes of writing: senses that exceed the suffocating organizations that inequitably impact unique experiences of womanhood in control societies. 

With this theorization, the authors participate in a larger movement within literacy studies to consider the affective conditions through which literacies are experienced vis-à-vis the social contexts in which they are practiced (e.g. Leander, 2023;; Ehret, 2019). This paper asks: How do the conditions of control societies relate with moments in which self-identifying women make time feel different through their everyday writing? How are these moments – often overlooked as frivolous, gendered, or diminished as diary writing – political expressions that rupture temporal determinations of womanhood in control societies? 

The authors interviewed four self-identifying Canadian women in their 30s and analysed artifacts of their everyday writing across mediums. Findings reveal the essential role these critical literary practices assume in subverting and (re)writing the affective conditions imposed on women’s bodies in control societies. These findings direct the authors toward continued wonderings around what created time-spaces that evade control through writing can mean for youth and writing education.

Dr Louise Kay & Dr Jessica Bradley (University of Sheffield) – Fostering Academic Literacies: Thinking about and working with theory

The School of Education is made up of a diverse group of students and academic colleagues who draw on multiple theories to underpin ideas around education, social justice, and pedagogy. As a way of engaging students across all stages of study (UG, PGT, PGR), and satisfying intellectual curiosity about the relationship between theory and the real world, we are currently working on a project to establish an online discursive space that focuses on interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives that are applied in and beyond the School of Education. The work responds to student feedback that has identified the need for resources that will help develop academic literacies and learner knowledge, skills and competencies around aspects of theory. This ongoing project will also provide students with an opportunity to actively engage with the wider academic community in an intellectual, inclusive and collaborative way.

This presentation will share our ‘work in progress’ on the co-production of a bank of resources to support student understanding of theory including short films focusing on different interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks including psychology, sociological, historical, and philosophical perspectives (i.e., critical disability studies, cultural-historical activity theory, pedagogies of hope, post-humanism, critical psychology, feminist theory, critical discourse studies). Working in harmony with face-to-face teaching and learning, this resource aims to enhance students’ digital experience through the utilisation of high-quality multimodal resources that facilitate engagement with intellectual knowledge and ideas. 

Giovanna Caetano-Silva, Professor Alejandra Pacheco-Costa, Professor Fernando Guzmán-Simón (University of Seville) - Re/reading Regio Emilia and Karen Barad through children’s language and literacy practices: some pro/positions for early childhood literacies 

Different researchers have thought with Reggio Emilia approach in order to re/think educational practices (Murris, 2016; 2017a; 2018; Lenz Taguchi, 2010). The image of the child proposed in Reggio makes use of a hundred languages—not only reading and writing (Vechi, 2010). This approach also defends the role of the teacher as a researcher (Malaguzzi, 1994) who needs to find ways to emergently listen to the unexpected (Davies, 2014). Posthuman thinking allows us to extend this legacy by reviewing the domination of Humanism in education (Sanza, 2003), the overemphasis of language/representation (Barad, 2003), and by thinking children as phenomenon (Murris, 2016). This study departs from a diffractive montage (Murris & Peers, 2022) as a process of data engagement (Ellingson & Sotirin, 2020). Our data come from a current research project being developed in the city of Seville, South of Spain. Children in this study (4 to 5 year old) come from different socio-cultural backgrounds. We focus on the intra-actions between David, a doll, and a lullaby. Drawing on Karen Barad (2007), we diffractively read this data through agential realism and Reggio’s thinking. Our diffractions allow us to discuss meaning-making through non-representational and more-than-human interactions (Hackett, 2021; Kuby & Rucker, 2016). This discussion supports the understanding of literacy beyond competency and developmental accounts (Murris & Haynes, 2018). With this, our study poses the necessity of developing ‘arts of noticing’ (Tsing, 2015) that welcome the unexpected and the hopefulness of ‘the hundred languages’ by learning to respond to ‘minor gestures’ (Manning, 2016). 

Saturday Graduate Students presentation panel 11:30 – 1 PM (90 mins) (Lecture Theatre 2)

Chair: Dr Cheryl McLean (Rutgers Graduate School of Education) 

Stefan Kucharczyk (University of Sheffield) - Exploring children’s literacy practices and digital curation in Minecraft

This presentation will outline the initial stage of my PhD research which explores children’s digital curation and their engagement with the virtual world-building videogame Minecraft. My research seeks to explore how children’s digital curation – the assembling and showcasing of digital assets (Potter, 2011; McDougall and Potter, 2015) - in their Minecraft play represents an under-researched literacy practice that offers an opportunity to explore more fully children’s everyday literacy practices. 

My research is situated in the context of New Literacy Studies and subsequent research into children’s digital literacy practices. This field of research has, in the last decade, shifted focus to consider children’s digital literacy practices in their own right and the increasingly hybrid nature of children’s literacies (Burnett, 2015). Although digital curation and the stories contained within them has been explored in the context of adult social media use (e.g., Georgakopoulou, 2016), others have begun to acknowledge the role of sandbox videogames such as Minecraft in children’s evolving literacy practices (Bailey, 2020; Dezuanni, 2018). My research intends to take this further by examining the interplay between spatial, temporal and emotional factors at play as children draw upon ideas from different places and times during their videogame play. 

In a time of great social and cultural change, there is perhaps hope to be found in the ways in which children are using the joy of play to navigate uncertain waters. By utilising the spaces and places afforded by digital technologies, they are finding new ways to speak to one another, create new ways of being and make meaning from a changing world.

Angie Hostetler (KU Leuven) - “Keeping a notebook” as a utopia of ordinary habit

This paper presents journaling as a method of inquiry and hopeful literacy practice. The educational value of journaling is widely recognised, but it is particularly evident in my own life. My kindergarten teacher gifted me my first diary. My first graduate-level course was called “On Keeping a Notebook” (created and taught by David Lewkowich at the University of Alberta), and it convinced me to do a masters in education. I remember feeling that if this is what education can be, then I want to do it. In the class, David—who became my advisor—demonstrated how journaling can be a fertile method of inquiry. Now, as a researcher-educator of postdigital public pedagogies, I think fondly of keeping a notebook as my own private pedagogy and as a utopia of ordinary habit (Cvetkovich, 2012). Utopia of ordinary habit is immanent, not transcendent (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004). It is a reparative everyday practice. Journaling’s relationship to productivity is hidden—it’s a process-based form of literacy. Keeping a notebook as a utopia of ordinary habit, a worldmaking craft, is oriented toward the future and performed in the here and now. As such, it is hopeful. My current journaling practices feed into a larger PhD project that explores processes of becoming(-with) climate change researcher-educator(s) through an ontologically-oriented approach combining critical public pedagogies (Charman & Dixon, 2021) and living literacies (Pahl & Rowsell, 2020).

Nick Gray (University of Bristol) – Documentary Film Production as a Vehicle for Critical Hope

New media production and distribution technologies have provided increased possibilities for learners to engage in the public sphere by articulating and circulating responses to the social issues they face. While the scope for developing these critical media literacies may be limited in our schools, greater opportunities for developing democratic learning spaces do exist in informal educational settings. Our work explores the literacy practices of community filmmakers at two sites in Bristol, who use socially-engaged documentary production to read and write their worlds (Freire, 1970). Critical media scholar-practitioners have rearticulated Freire’s praxis in an age of participatory media (Kellner & Share, 2007). In both iterations of this pedagogy, learners are supported to mine and build on their cultural capital to establish themselves as agents of social transformation and critical hope (Freire, 2007).  Our research examines the emancipatory potential of critical media literacy and the learning that results from this pedagogy from a sociocultural perspective. It combines PAR with ethnography to capture and analyse the cultural dimensions of social documentary production, as well as the texts themselves, through a collaborative inquiry between the researcher and the authors these hopeful texts. The findings of this inquiry highlight the transformative potential of critical media projects, both in terms of the writers’ literacy practices and their political agency. The collaborative process of writing the world through socially engaged documentaries was perceived to be an effective means of community building and the productions themselves were seen as accessible and engaging vehicles for community action and critical hope.

Ke Li (University of Sheffield) - The influence of language learning and literacy experiences on the identities of adolescent Chinese heritage language learners in England 

Globalisation has increased population mobility, but has also contributed to individuals feeling a lack of belonging, necessitating the exploration of identity in the research field. Heritage language (HL) learners and their identities are still underrepresented, as limited studies focused on adolescent HL learners of Chinese heritage in England. Considering the uniqueness of Chinese culture, this research explores the construction and development of identities of adolescent Chinese HL learners aged 12 to 16, through their language and literacy learning experiences, including ethnic identity, cultural identity and heritage language identity.

Following a qualitative methodology, ten Chinese families across England were recruited through voluntary and snowball sampling. In-depth data were collected through multiple semi-structured interviews. Interview questions include HL learners’ language preferences; supporting methods for HL language and literacy development; how literacy development influence on HL learners’ motivations and attitudes; as well as how language learning experiences construct Chinese HL learners’ identities. Furthermore, language portraits are used to visualise participants’ multilingualism. Findings are presented through thematic analysis, categorised into various themes, such as: epidemic influence; technology development; emotions and motivations. 

This research makes an important contribution to immigrant families’ language maintenance and adolescent HL learners’ identities. Adoption of visual research indicates the creativity of modern language and identity research. Moreover, the feelings and experiences shared in this research reflect the challenges multilingual families face in England linguistic environment, especially with the impact of COVID-19 epidemic. These challenges also demonstrate the necessity and potential focuses of future curriculum and cultural reforms in England. 

Niamh Watkins (University of Sheffield) – Importing Policy and Pedagogy: Perspectives on writing genres in an Irish primary context 

One of the major influences on writing pedagogy in recent decades has been Australian genre theory (Martin & Rothery, 1980).  Across the Anglophone world, the pedagogical implications of adopting a genre approach have led to mono representations of genre (Jones and Derewianka, 2016). The extent to which genres have become ‘curriculum’ in the Irish context has created an oversimplification or genre ‘reification’ (Thwaite, 2006), whereby writing genres are presented as static ‘units of work.’

This study explores Irish primary school teachers’ perspectives on approaches and methodologies to writing pedagogy. The aim of the study was to examine policy and pedagogical influences on senior primary writing. It addresses the implications of importing policy, programmes and initiatives from other Anglophone countries into the Irish context, particularly the ‘genre approach’. It examines the pedagogical implications of genre reification and discusses the efficacy of this approach in a C21st context.  In doing so, it addressed the deictic nature of writing, writing as production, and pedagogical opportunities for representation across multiple modes incorporating visual, spoken, and audio elements for various audiences.

Lunch 1-1:30 PM (outside of Lecture Theatre 3) - shorter lunch*

Keynote #3 (Lecture Theatre 2)

Dr Jennifer Farrar (University of Glasgow) - Forging hope creatively: Supporting possibility thinking with contemporary children’s literature  

Talking about the future with young children has always been a complex task, one that is made all of the more challenging in a world that is facing local and global challenges related to climate crisis, war, poverty and injustice. While the very presence of hope within these conversations is crucial, just as important is its function: too much hope can lack meaning and direction, while too little hope can cause despair and fear. In this paper, I explore some of the ways that contemporary children’s literature can help readers and co-readers by offering a Goldilocks amount of hope – one that may be ‘just right’ for simulating powerful conversations about the way things are in the hope of changing them, for individuals and communities.  

Framed by understandings of the act of hoping as a mode of being in order to ground hope as something inherent to the everyday rather than located in a future as yet unknown, I draw together the concept of possibility thinking – an approach often found in the area of creativity and early years education - alongside a close reading of some recently published texts to explore how contemporary children’s literature can provide spaces for hope and considerations of ‘what if?’ This presentation will look at some of the response inviting structures present in these children’s texts and will consider the hopeful literacy practices they might promote and support in classrooms and beyond, including critical literacies. 

Saturday parallel session 2:30 – 3:30 (60 mins) 3 talks and 15-20 min Q&A

Panel 1: Post-Perspectives on Hopeful Literacies (Lecture Theatre 2)

Dr Mindy Ptolomey (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Dr E.L. Nelson (University of Glasgow) – Materiality and Tactility in the Learning Encounter

This paper draws on our combined doctoral research encounters with children and young people in Scotland. Individually, our projects developed zine-making as a mode of inquiry to explore what ‘matters’ to disabled girls (Ptolomey, forthcoming); and through play-based methods and video-making, inquired into childhood in the post-digital age (Nelson, 2021). Reflecting together on our research, we re-consider the research encounter for the post-digital age through four rhizomes: creating space for the unexpected, tactility and togetherness, being ‘in the room where it happens’, and approaches to inquiry focused on agency and care that are continually becoming (Ptolomey and Nelson 2022).

We conclude by sketching out new directions for this work, placing it in constellation with pluriversal literacies (Perry, 2021). Following a line of flight from our work exploring the research encounter, we turn towards the distance learning classroom as a site of inquiry. In doing so, we advance playful modes to make the distance learning classroom matter as a site for encounters where tactility and togetherness, space for the unexpected, as well as agency and care, can be facilitated when we are learning together-apart.

Dr Kenneth Peterson (University of Oslo) – Postdigital: What is it good for?

Departing from ethnographic fieldwork over 19 months among a set of young, Norwegian children in pre-school and at home, this paper presents the results of a doctoral research project aiming to explore how new literacies emerge as new media technologies are brought together through and across moments of young children’s contemporary play. Recently, the concept of “the postdigital” has gained interest in the literacy and early childhood research community, suggesting new media technologies as ubiquitous and mundane, unsettling analog–digital binaries (Apperley et al., 2016; Edwards, 2022; Marsh, 2019; Marsh et al., 2019). I argue that the postdigital should be understood as a contemporary condition rather than an analytical framework in itself. Still, the concept has the potential to attune researchers to new avenues of literacy research. Sociomaterial theorizing is an apt analytical framework to study young children's play in the postdigital, and new literacy research on young children’s contemporary play with new media technologies should consider broader ecologies and networks of play rather than discrete interactions with devices. I illustrate my emerging ideas with examples from an ongoing study of young children's playful collecting on a digital device at home, on an off-site pre-school playground, and on a rocky hill in their local community.

Professor Anne Burke (Memorial University) - Understanding Children’s Lives During Pandemic Times Through Sociomaterial Assemblages

The COVID-19 Pandemic saw most schools transition to online learning. Our goal in this research project was to achieve a multimodal understanding of children’s online learning experiences during the Pandemic. Utilizing visual methods (Thomson, 2008; Heydon, McKee & Phillips, 2016), which combined writing and drawing, alongside interviews to prompt children’s voices and agency, we collected sociomaterial assemblages (Effefson & Lenters, 2022; Fenwick, 2015) from kindergarten and grade 3/4 students at two Eastern Canadian schools. Students were given drawing templates and were asked in interviews about their drawings; they were also asked to write descriptive captions under their drawings. Younger children’s drawings reflected issues with technology and lack of socialization offering further insight into their home life. Older children’s drawings depicted their enjoyment with online learning with the agency afforded by learning from home. In their captions and interviews, they reflected on the time spent with family, new learning and the quiet conversations enabled by Zoom breakout rooms. We found that pedagogical creativity and innovation were essential to successful online learning. This research demonstrates the efficacy of children’s drawings as a methodology for eliciting children’s agentic voices showing how such multimodal literacies forge hopeful pedagogies for renewed understanding around children’s pandemic schooling experiences.

Panel 2: Sounding and Embodying Hopeful Literacies (Workroom 1)

Dr Marie Michèle Grenon (Université du Québec à Montréal) -- Forging hopeful literacies to be heard: the creation of a sound work by women who have experienced incarceration 

In Canada, women represent less than 10% of the prison population and there is little research conducted with women who have experienced incarceration. Women in the justice system are often portrayed as less educated and less integrated into the workforce than average, factors generally associated with low literacy skills (ministère de la Sécurité publique, 2018). This paper focuses on a community art project led by the Collectif Art Entr’Elles and carried out within a transition house for women in the Montreal area. The research aims to study the literacy practices of the women participating in the development of a sound artwork that aims to make the voices of these women heard in the public space. The theoretical framework of this research is based on the New Literacy Studies (NLS) approach, and its concept of ‘literacy practices’, as well as on critical literacy perspectives (Freire, 1970, 1973). The data was collected during an ethnographic study conducted over a period of approximately one year during the creative workshops and through semi-structured interviews with the women involved in the project. This paper reflects on the hopes that carry these women’s literacy practices and on hopeful literacy, which is the potential that literacy and community art have as modes of communication.

Dr Angela Colvert (University of Sheffield) JOIN THE DOTS: Shaping Dreams of Time  and Space through ‘Transmedia Storying’ in School 

To support digital literacies in schools, fundamental reorientation and rethinking is required to  develop ‘appropriate’ pedagogical practices which are aligned with (and extend) curriculum aims. To  achieve this, new flexible frameworks and tools are needed to support educators to work creatively  and productively within the current constraints and challenge dominant discourses. Addressing this  necessity, I present the findings from a 2-year research project, funded by the British Academy,  entitled Playful Pedagogies: Developing New Literacies in the Classroom through the Design and  Play of Alternate Reality Games which set out to investigate how engaging teachers in the co-design  of an alternate reality game might develop their understanding of digital literacies (their own and  those of the children in their classes). The game, ‘Join the DOTS (Dreams of Time and Space)’,  provides a fictional context and pedagogical framework for exploring the potential of ‘transmedia  storying’ in schools. It also serves as an invitation to find new ways to connect to the past, explore the  present and realise the future as a space of multiple possibilities. The associated planning tool and  observation frame support teachers to reflect on the skills, critical questions and cultural connections  shaped during play and foreground the value of noticing literacy processes as they emerge ‘in the  moment’. These have significant implications for educators and policy makers and those developing  transmedia narratives with and for young people. 

Dr Yecid Ortega (Queens University Belfast) - “Yes, I scratched my body, but is my identity”: SkinScapes as multiliteracies practice

This research paper explores the concept of masculinity from the perspective of a Colombian Canadian heterosexual Latinx emerging scholar in Language and Literacies Education. The author uses tattoos on their body as identity texts to understand their role in society and the academic world throughout their life. They draw on the New Literacy Studies (NLS) framework to understand how individuals can challenge and confront masculinity through the production, distribution, exchange, refinement, negotiation and contestation of meanings. 

The author collects photos of tattoos from different parts of their body and analyzes them through critical discourse and text analysis. They argue that tattooing their body for over 30 years has been a performative act to be visible within a Macho culture in Latin America. The paper presents the relationship and tensions between tattoos, identities, and spaces as New Literacyscapes (SkinScapes) to redefine meaning. 

Preliminary findings indicate that tattoos can serve as a multi/literacy practice, a form of resistance, and a way to question heteropatriarchal normativity. This includes collective imaginings of roles, modes of dress, style, language, and beliefs. The body vis-a-vis the tattoos on the skin is a stage for a masculine performance that could hinder or empower the true potential of individuals. 

This research posits with cautious optimism of how personal stories can be made constructive to conceptions of body and skin as a canvas for identity text that asserts, amplifies, legitimizes and/or problematizes masculinity in society and in the academic world – knowledge necessary to advance curriculum based on equity, inclusion, and diversity. 

Artist Walk as Closing Session 3:30 - 5:00 PM

Arts Walk (Harcourt Road)

About the Sound Walk on Harcourt Road: (~25 mins)

We sincerely invite you to join us at this sound walk to explore the interwoven sounds and stories from both Sheffield's and Hong Kong's Harcourt Road. With its dual existence in the two cities, Harcourt Road is a symbolic space for reflection on the complexities of decolonisation. By traversing the sonic landscapes of both locations, we hope to delve into the intertwined narratives and encounters that have unfolded along these thoroughfares, challenging us to confront the complexities of identity, history, and the shaping of our shared heritage.

*Please take your headphone and mobile phone along to join.*

Bio of C & G Artpartment:

Clara and Gum (C & G Artpartment) is an art organization founded in Hong Kong in 2007, which has curated over 60 exhibitions featuring more than 100 artists. Its approach is participatory and collective, and its work explores critical responses to various social and political issues. Since relocating to the UK in 2021, C & G has shifted its focus to the critical reflection of Hong Kong identity, working on a comparative-history research project on Harcourt Roads in Sheffield and Hong Kong, alongside hosting different community art workshops.

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