The GeSTE windows is a way of seeing information literacy as Generic, Situated, Transformative and Expressive. The GeSTE windows form a hierarchy of increasing complexity with the Generic window at the base (i.e. simplistic) and the Transformative and Expressive windows as the top level (i.e. complex). In my previous posts I have explained the Generic and Situated windows.
This post explains the Transformative window. It should be noted that the Transformative window incorporates the Generic and Situated windows. This means that someone employing the Transformative window will also understand and employ the Generic and Situated windows where relevant. Like the Situated window, the Transformative window takes a socio-cultural perspective. However, it is distinguished by a critical theory/critical literacy orientation.
The Transformative window is overtly political and conscious raising. The aim of the Transformative window is to transform and empower oneself and society through challenging the status quo and taking social action. Information is seen as subjective, internal and transformative. Information includes implicit meaning and assumptions. Information is evaluated by examining power relationships inherent in information, and the agency of particular groups in society, such as marginalized groups. Examples of the types of questions used to interrogate information includes ‘Who benefits?’, ‘Who is silenced?’ and ‘What are alternative arguments?’ (Mills, 2016).
The following question frameworks take a critical literacy perspective. The first two sets of questions are from Mills and Levido (2011 p. 84). The questions were used with year 4 students in an Australian primary school. The first relates to critical evaluation of websites, while the second is in relation to the students’ own blogs.
Critical evaluation of website:
- ‘What is this website about?
- What is the purpose of this website?
- Who created this website?
- Who will benefit from this website?
- What are the features of the website?
- What does the website suggest about people of different ages, and what are some opposite views about age and social roles?
- What does the website assume about the tastes of boys or girls, men or women, and do you agree with these?
- What does the website suggest about people from different races, cultures or community, and whose viewpoint is left out?
- Can you trust the information in this website? Why or why not?
- Whose viewpoint or perspective is left out, and could have been included?
- What are some counter-arguments to the views presented here?’
Critical self evaluation of students’ own blogs:
- ‘Why am I creating this blog?
- What text features (e.g. words, images, audio) will best suit my purpose?
- Who is my intended audience?
- Who else potentially has access to my blog?
- What information about myself should I share or hide?
- How does my blog build on the contributions of my peers in the discussion thread?
- How do my blog entries show respect for my teacher and others in my class (e.g. manners and language use)
- What do my blog entries say about people of different ages, occupations and cultures?
- Whose views have I included or left out? Why?
- Who benefits from my blog? Why?
The following two examples relate to the critical evaluation of places:
In his book ‘Lies across America’ Lowen (1999, p. 428), presents ten questions to ask at an historic site:
- ‘When did this site become a historic site? (When was the marker or monument put up? or the house “interpreted”?) How did that time differ from ours? from the time of the event or person commemorated?
- Who sponsored it? Representing which participant group’s point of view? What was their position in social structure when the event occurred? When the site went “up?”
- Why? What were their ideological needs and social purposes when the site went “up?” What were their values?
- Who was/is the intended audience for the site? What values were they trying to leave for us, today? What does the site ask us to go and do?
- Did they have government support? At what level? Who was ruling the government at the time? What ideological arguments were used to get the government to acquiesce?
- Who is left out? What points of view go largely unheard? How would the story differ if a different group had told it? another political party? race? sex? class? religious group?
- Are there problematic words or symbols that would not have been used today, or by other groups?
- How is the site used today? Do continuing rituals connect today’s public to it? Or is it ignored? Why?
- Is the presentation accurate? What actually happened? What historical sources tell of the event, people, or period commemorated at the site?
- How does this site fit with others that treat its era? What other people and events happened then but are not commemorated on the landscape? Why not?”
Lowen’s questions can also be used in an Australian context, for example, in his book ‘Forgotten war’ historian Henry Reynolds argues that war memorials in Australia should acknowledge the frontier war against Indigenous peoples. Another poignant example is seen in Australian place names that record frontier violence against Indigenous people. For instance, in this article, Stan Grant, Wiradjuri man, explains how place names such as ‘Poisoned Waterholes Creek’, ‘Murdering Hut’ and ‘Murdering Island’ mark the sites of atrocities against his people. This article by Jonathan Richards details further sites in Queensland.
In my own teaching practice, I have found the Transformative window to be the most difficult and contested perspective, as many of my colleagues and students feel uncomfortable with its overtly political and social action stance. What has been your experience?