Beautiful Lake Wörthersee

The biannual European Literacy Association Conference was held this year in picturesque Klagenfurt, Austria at the Alpen-Adria Universität. Formerly the European Conference on Reading, the conference’s new name and this year’s conference theme (“Literacy in the New Landscape of Communication: Research, Education and the Everyday”) reflect a commitment to embracing research reflecting a fuller range of traditional and ‘new’ literacies.

That, and the focus on in literacy in everyday settings, made #ECL2015 a must-see conference for me this year. The conference offered three excellent keynote speakers. Jennifer Roswell launched the conference with a whistle-stop tour of the various ‘turns’ in literacy studies, before leaving us with the idea that issues of access, achievement and ability are just as pertinent now as ever (‘you can change the landscape, but that doesn’t solve the differentials’). Shelley Stagg Peterson drew on insights from her current study in Northern Canada to made a persuasive case for the importance of oral language (the some time ‘underdog’ of literacy), reminding us that ‘talking is the main way children get to know the world’ (Resnick & Snow, 2009). Teresa Cremin kicked off Wednesday’s proceedings with a fascinating keynote on teachers as researchers. 

Klagenfurt’s famous Lindwurm

I presented my own work in a symposium entitled ‘Reading on Screens: Critical Reflections on Children’s Multimodal Practices’, alongside Jackie Marsh, Guy Merchant, Jeannie Bulman and discussant, Catherine Beavis. I was able to give delegates a first glimpse of my quantitative survey and ethnographic qualitative data, demonstrating children’s very physical play around television and related media.

Particular highlights for me included Jon Callow’s presentation on using picture books to assess multimodal knowledge and visual grammar. Callow’s line of questioning with very young children may lend itself to assessing children’s understand of a range of media texts including television, something I hope to explore further in my own ongoing fieldwork. Texas Schoolteacher Kade Wells offered an inspiring reflection on his experiences of using Dungeons and Dragons and the web-platform ‘Hero Machine’ in the classroom to develop their literacy habits. Wells reflected that he had seen improvements across the board within his remedial reading class (‘I have seen nothing create higher student engagement for writing’). Finally, Alyson Simpson revisited Margaret Meek’s 1988 text (‘How texts teach what readers learn’). Simpson’s comments helped to dispel the pervasive sentiment that digital texts are a less engaging and involving experience than their print counterparts. I came away brimming with inspiration to move my own work forward and refreshed from swimming in Klagenfurt’s beautiful Lake Wörthersee. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll make it to Madrid in 2017.

austria bike
Bike tour of Lake Wörthersee


Lawrence, J. F., & Snow, C. E. (2010). ’14 Oral Discourse and Reading’. Handbook of reading research4, 320.

Meek, M. (1988). How texts teach what readers learn. Thimble Press.