Appreciating Plurality Through Conversations Among Literacy Stakeholders


  • Margaret Carmody Hagood,

  • Emily Neil Skinner


This editorial focuses on connecting literacy education contexts (e.g., local and global), stakeholders (e.g., policymakers, scholars, and practitioners), and literacies (e.g., foundational print-based and new, digital). The editors outline their vision to build upon previous editorships in building a participatory culture where Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (JAAL) readers not only consume content but also produce new ideas through conversations. The editorial outlines how JAAL will serve as a forum for discussion of innovative research and practical applications of diverse adolescent and adult literacy learners engaged in reading, writing, speaking, viewing, listening, and designing in print and online formats.


“What will it mean to be a reader and writer in the 21st century?” (Luke & Elkins, 1998, JAAL coeditors 1998–2002)

“How will we teach reading and writing in the 21st century?” (Goodson, 2002, JAAL editor 2002–2008)

“What does the teaching of reading and writing mean in these times for adolescents and adult learners, their teachers, and the larger society?” (Bean & Harper, 2008, JAAL coeditors, along with associate editor Dunkerly 2008–2012)

Now that we are fully immersed in the 21st century, a brief recounting and situating of the technologies used and introduced since 1998 illustrate how texts have changed since these JAAL editors posed questions guiding their editorial terms. Between 1998 and 2002, the Web search engines Infoseek and Magellan were the go-to source for Internet queries. These sites no longer exist. Google was launched in 1998 and has since become the most popular Web search engine. Digital cameras ostensibly replaced film cameras. And land telephone lines and e-mail were common forms of communication. Schools and classrooms had some computers, but few were hardwired for Internet access.

Between 2002 to 2008, the online world shifted from Web 1.0 to 2.0, moving from closed-content distribution for consumption to open-source collaboration and highlighting −users’ own text creations through their production of ideas. The iPod and Wikipedia were born and quickly −matured into adolescents, as did the likes of social networking in open-source collaborative formats (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). Smartphones such as the iPhone and Android were introduced to the public, and within two years children, adolescent, and adult innovators had created nearly one million applications for these two operating systems. Computing became more central to curricula, and schools and classrooms were more consistently equipped with Internet access, some with wireless connections.

Between 2008 and 2012, texts morphed yet again. The flip camera came and went, its technology folded into a menu of available apps downloadable onto handheld devices (phones, MP3 players, tablets). The majority of adolescents in the United States own cell phones, and text messaging is their preferred form of communication (Lenhart, Ling, & Campbell, 2011). Teachers have developed classrooms in virtual worlds such as Second Life, and −online learning and distance-education courses are on the rise. E-readers also hit the marketplace. The Kindle was born and toddled about while the NOOK was still in its infancy. These were followed by the iPad, which outpaced its predecessors, greatly impacting not only e-readers but the world of tablet computing. And, perhaps most telling about the swift changes in technologies, Apple declared three technological generations during this half −decade. Now, more than 5 billion cell phones connect people worldwide. To keep pace with the changing technologies and acknowledging the near-ubiquity of students’ own mobile devices, some schools have even ventured to implement BYOT (bring-your-own-technology) policies (Quillon, 2011).

With the shifts in production and consumption of texts in a mere 14-year span, literacy −education is more important and vital than ever before. The learner central to Luke and Elkins (1998), the teaching practices emphasized by Goodson (2002), and the meaning and context of reading and writing described by Bean and Harper (2008) remain critical components for understanding and advancing adolescent and adult literacies. Building upon their editorial visions, we envision two other components crucial for study. First, the literacies of viewing, listening, designing, and producing digital and multimodal texts that augment reading and writing print texts must be part and parcel of the study of adolescent and adult literacies. We need to value and better understand how to use bidirectional expertise. We should ask not only how to teach literacies to adolescents and adults but also how to learn about literacies from both of these groups. Second, to understand and develop literacies, we need the plurality of conversations among stakeholders, including teachers, students, policymakers, media specialists, librarians, parents, and administrators.

Our vision for JAAL is grounded in connecting contexts (e.g., local and global), stakeholders (e.g., −policymakers, scholars, and practitioners), and literacies (e.g., foundational print-based and digital). We imagine JAAL as a participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006), in which JAAL readers not only consume −content but also produce new ideas through conversations. In this way, JAAL will serve as a forum for −discussion of innovative research and practical applications to address content, motivation, engagement, and assessment of diverse populations of literacy learners in both print and online formats.

Our goal is to facilitate and extend dialogue through several new interactive and complementary print and online texts that highlight the −literacies of reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and designing. The online journal will now −accommodate multimodal components, and we −welcome relevant multimodal texts such as video to accompany authors’ submissions. Short podcasts will also highlight journal article content.

In addition, JAAL has a Facebook page (please “like” us and join in the conversation at During the past few months, we regularly posted resources and queries on this page. Thanks to subscribers who have already joined us by posting responses, sharing resources, and initiating inquiries. We hope you will participate in this virtual JAAL community, sharing your ideas about content read in JAAL or other interesting −literacy-related topics.

The print version of JAAL includes two new columns. “Meeting of the Minds” will bring together print and online communities, drawing on Facebook conversations that highlight readers’ dialogue about content in previous issues and related literacy topics. “Literacy Lenses” will contain short first-person nonacademic essays that spotlight diverse perspectives on teaching and/or learning with literacies to inspire readers’ reflections about their own learning and teaching. We look forward to submissions by middle school and high school teachers, media specialists, librarians, literacy coaches, curriculum specialists, administrators, preservice teachers, teacher educators, and adolescent and adult learners.

Last, we seek adolescent and adult submissions for each issue's cover, including photographs and artwork, that answer the question, “How are literacies enacted in the lives of adolescents and adults, and what do they look like?” We hope the visual text will spawn conversation and deepen understandings of the various literacies relevant to adolescent and adult learners. The cover of JAAL's inaugural issue, an image by Emilee VerDuin, evokes the impact of censorship and the limits of freedom of expression, concerns that have a long history in educational contexts in which students and teachers too often are silenced. This image represents our commitment to opening up conversations.

Other new features will appear in the print version of JAAL. Four new departments will appear every other month to highlight the bidirectional learning and teaching of adolescent and adult literacies. The departments are

  1. “Policy and Advocacy,” edited by Fenice Boyd (University at Buffalo)
  2. “Content Area/Disciplinary Literacies,” edited by Zhuihui Fang (University of Florida)
  3. “Pop Culture/Digital Literacies,” edited by Jesse Gainer (Texas State University)
  4. “Multiliteracies: Production and Consumption,” edited by Gloria Jacobs (independent scholar, unaffiliated)

Each department editor will also organize a special “water cooler” column per volume year. For this special column, department editors will ask two stakeholders to gather around a virtual water cooler and converse about a particular literacy issue. This column will run in the November, December/January, February, and March issues.

The Text Review Forum will feature the changing face of texts in literacy teaching and learning. This forum will address three areas:

  1. “Print-Based Texts,” edited by James Blasingame (Arizona State University)
  2. “Visual and Digital Texts,” edited by Gwynne Ash (Texas State University)
  3. “Professional Resources,” edited by Roni Jo Draper (Brigham Young University)

Across these three areas, we will emphasize connections between work and pleasure, academic and pop culture, and print and nonprint uses by adolescents and adults to both consume and produce texts. We will further connect this department to online social media, allowing readers to participate in discussions about their explorations with the −reviewed texts.

Each issue will also include a commentary by a leader in the field about a critical issue in literacy education. Authors will share their questions and insights about significant research and influential initiatives from an array of national and international contexts that need further exploration.

In closing, Duke and Keene (2011) reminded us that researchers, practitioners, and professional developers often work in parallel rather than in community, even though they are interested in the same outcomes. In our research and professional development in schools, we have found that parallel work can lead to paralysis instead of plurality. The various outlets of JAAL will promote conversations and connections among stakeholders for the benefit of adolescent and adult literacy teaching and learning.


  • Margaret Carmody Hagood and Emily Neil Skinner are coeditors of JAAL September 2012 through May 2016. Both teach at the College of Charleston, South Carolina, USA; e-mail and