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Brazil/Canada Knowledge Exchange: Developing Transnational Literacies



1. To strengthen transnational literacy and cross-cultural understanding in Brazil and Canada;  2.To work with English teachers, in schools and universities, to integrate theory and practice, developing site-specific pedagogies appropriate to global challenges; 3.To advance understanding of how globalization is impacting education in Canada and Brazil; 4. To advance the Brazil/Canada relationship; 5. To contribute to understanding of how to make transnational, interdisciplinary partnerships work.

Introduction: the project

This interdisciplinary research partnership builds on an evolving network linking universities and local teachers groups in Brazil and Canada in collaborative research designed to foster the co-creation of new knowledge developing transnational literacy. Transnational literacy encompasses the growing list of literacies necessary for successful innovation in the global knowledge economy. They combine global consciousness with the development of skill sets or competencies suitable for full participation in the knowledge society, including multilingualism and cross-cultural understanding, the capacity to make informed choices and to create new ways of working in a rapidly changing world. These literacies encompass the digital, multimodal, informational, and critical literacies associated with both traditional reading and writing skills and the range of new literacies required by evolving information technologies and an increasingly integrated world.

We have selected transformational practices in the teaching of global English in universities and schools in Canada and Brazil as our key site of intervention. This is where English studies, cultural and globalization studies, applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, new media education and institutional restructuring in global higher education meet. Both Brazil and Canada face challenges in their educational systems that we believe can be addressed through sharing best practices and research expertise. Global English, bilingualism, and multilingualism play different roles in each country, and the challenges they pose for the next generation are different.  By working together, we hope to involve students, teachers and researchers in both countries in closer and more intensive trans-hemispheric exchange.

Who We Are

Our project builds on the partnership between the Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies at the University of Manitoba (directed by Diana Brydon) and the National Curriculum Project in English at the University of Sao Paulo (directed by Walkyria Monte Mor and Lynn Mario de Souza). From this core, we will partner with colleagues at the University of Winnipeg, Glendon College, York University, and the University of Waterloo in Canada and the State University of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Federal University of Alagoas, the Federal University of Sergipe, the Getulio Vargas Foundation, Rio, and APLIEMS (Association of English Teachers of Mato Grosso do Sul) in Brazil. Each co-investigator brings distinctive expertise to this project. Our co-creation of knowledge and understanding will synthesize and build on existing work across the disciplines with the aim of mobilizing our findings in accessible ways in classroom and web-based settings, building institutional capacity, and training the next generation of teachers, translators, and researchers in both countries.

Objectives and Context

Our research into facilitating cross-cultural exchange is designed as a reciprocal, two-way learning process in which both countries will increase the international stature and impact of their research and combine their strengths to co-create new knowledge and adjust to the opportunities and demands opened up by an increasingly digitized learning economy. This international, interdisciplinary research partnership, formalized this year but building on a prior decade of interaction and preparation, is dedicated to the cross-sector co-creation and mobilization of knowledge within the emerging field of transnational literacies, understood in global contexts (Spivak 1999; 2003) and put into practice in various classroom across Canada and Brazil. The case for building such a dialogue between Canada and Brazil has been well made (Bellei & Besner; Besner; Brydon, Monte Mor, de Souza) and increasingly recognized by governments in both countries. This hemispheric turn is part of the regionalization initiatives that accompany globalization. The Canadian Council on Learning Report to Parliamentarians (2010) notes problems in the Canadian higher education sector when seen in global contexts, and identifies literacy as an issue of particular concern. Challenges facing education in Brazil have been widely described by national and global actors (eg. the World Bank Report 2003, Sidhu). Our project includes the 27 generic competencies identified in the Tuning Latin-America Project (Aboites 455) within the scope of transnational literacy, but through the critical lens adopted, these competencies are expanded to emphasize the development of higher order thinking. This shift in pedagogical focus from conveying information to encouraging critical analysis and knowledge creation will be equally important for Canada and Brazil in the twenty-first century. Each country is beginning to make this shift in distinctive ways. Each can learn from the initiatives of the other.

Both Canada and Brazil face increased pressure to adapt their educational systems to the new literacy demands of the global knowledge economy (Altbach et al; CCL; UNESCO; World Bank) and the increased mobility of knowledge encouraged by new technologies and the rise of the network society (Castells; Latham & Sassen) and knowledge economy (Archibugi & Lundvall; Suarez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard). How to meet those demands is a matter of dispute, but most agree that education for international understanding will be key (Devlin-Folz). We aim to advance this debate through contributions to research, teacher education, and policy in English teaching for global times. We are working to strengthen Brazil/Canada knowledge exchange by investigating the potential of English teaching for promoting transnational literacy. English operates differently in each country yet globalizing changes require adjustments in both countries.

Theoretical and Methodological Approaches:

Certain dimensions of globalization, such as the European Union’s Bologna Agreement and Tuning Process, seem to encourage standardization; other dimensions are leading to increased appreciation of local and regional differences (Brydon & Coleman; Heinz & Knil; Tomlinson) and the opportunities they afford communities as well as the tensions they create. Our work respects regional differences without discounting national needs and global demands. Areas of special interest to our researchers are citizenship education (Brooks & Holford; Richardson & Abbott) and language education (Canagarajah; Fairclough; Morgan & Ramanathan, Norton; Pennycook) as shaped by the multiple contexts in which they occur. We have a complementary interest in the implications of globalization for education policy at international (Marginson; Moutsos) and local scales (Coloma; Kanu; Lunsford). Nations still matter but they operate and matter differently. National and cosmopolitan imaginaries may co-construct each other. Within this rapidly changing context for knowledge creation and exchange, global English (Ives), English usage (Ahmad; Ch’ien; Pennycook; Zacchi) and English teaching in different national contexts (Snyder), have become particular points of contention. We recognize, with Catherine Porter, that today “competence in the English language is necessary but not sufficient.” All teaching of English today needs to recognize that “we live in a world of polyglot nations” (Porter 547) in which “multilingualism and multiculturalism have become a necessity for most world citizens” (Porter 553). In such a context, cross-national partnerships such as ours have an important role to play in positioning Canada for a networked age (See the Open Canada Report).

Working with pre-service and in-service teachers, the Brazilian university teams and our teacher partners in APLIEMS will integrate theory and practice, developing site-specific pedagogies and curricula for local needs. At the same time, we will analyze our structures and progress, with an aim to optimizing our organizational and management structures for partnership efficiency. The Canadian nodes will further contextualize this work through analyses of globalization and culture and provide theoretical and practical input based on the Glendon experiences in Teaching English as an International Language (TEIL). Through these partnerships, we plan to enhance local capacity for linking research and teaching in the core advanced Brazilian region of Sao Paulo/Rio and the rapidly expanding areas of Mato Grosso do Sul and the Brazilian northeast (Aracaju and Maceio), to strengthen links between the two universities in Winnipeg and between them and their colleagues in the Toronto/Waterloo area, as well as providing a firmer basis for Brazil/Canada knowledge exchange more generally.

A central objective is to strengthen literacy, understood as a multi-faceted competency, beyond its reduction to narrowly instrumentalist ends, and to question the ways in which facility in English is often understood to be a sufficient substitute for a truly transnational literacy. Through the participation of our expert in management and organizational structures (Vieira), and his collaboration with our policy specialists (Coleman, de Souza, Maciel, Monte Mor, Morgan) and our senior university administrator in the key areas of internationalization and research (Besner), we also hope to contribute to better understanding of how to make this kind of cross-sectoral, bi-national and interdisciplinary partnership work.

Our project situates itself at the intersection of globalization studies and work within the evolving fields of a variety of differently named literacies: “new” (Lankshear & Knobel; Mills; Street); critical (Fonseca & Tavares; Janks; Luke & Freebody), digital (Brinkerhoff; Burwell; Ito et al; Hawisher & Selfe; Laferrier et al; Warnick), visual (Dussel; Kress & van Leeuwen) and multimodal (Cope & Kalaantzis; Monte Mor; New London Group; Unsworth). These are influencing language research, teaching and pedagogical practices within a variety of locations globally (Freire). Each co-investigator, collaborator, and their teams (comprised of faculty, students and teachers) have been chosen for the particular expertise and experience they bring to the larger project, their current research, their roles in training and mentoring students and junior colleagues and their skill in making connections.

We share Mills’s belief (2010) that: “There is scope for the New Literacy Studies to reform conventional measures of literacy by generating, implementing, refining, and disseminating innovative models of digital and multimodal literacy assessments for new times” through identifying “factors that impinge on achieving specific pedagogical goals for digital literacy practices by applying qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods research that extends beyond single and multisite ethnographies” (262-3). Our partners are testing these assumptions within local research sites and comparing results. Scholars have begun to address the consequences of globalization for knowledge frameworks, a gap noted by Scholte in 2005, but there is considerable work to be done, particularly, we argue, in considering new forms of interplay between critique and affirmation coming out of Latin America, and more serious engagements with indigenous and postcolonial perspectives (Blaser et al; Coleman & Dionisio; Santos). Such work contributes to the challenge of “globalizing the research imagination” in ways that seriously consider “the epistemological and ontological implications of globalization for research in the social sciences and humanities” (Kenway and Fahey 2009: 15). Working within these frames and testing them in local sites of practice, our work should help to refine the theory and reshape the practice.

Our interest in translating academic theory into practice and into a language more easily understood beyond academia builds on Andreotti and de Souza’s work with the “Through Other Eyes Project” (2008a & b), Monte Mor and de Souza’s work in designing the Brazilian National Curriculum in English (2006) and their subsequent co-founding of the National Project (2009), a central pillar of our Brazilian partnerships. Our 2010 partnership application to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada builds on research, such as the National Project, funded through other sources. Within the National Project, some research, such as the gathering of corpus data relevant to pedagogical initiatives within classroom settings, involves human subjects and has obtained ethics clearance for that work.  This Canada/Brazil partnership project, however, does not directly involve research with human subjects. Our aim is to synthesize the data-gathering and ethnographic research undertaken by our partners in such localized classroom settings, putting it into comparative contexts, drawing connections across sites, and gaining lessons from it for future pedagogical initiatives and policy frameworks.

The Brazil-Canada Framework Agreement Announcement (August 18, 2010) is designed to strengthen the bi-national relationship between our countries in the science and technology sector. That important goal, if it is to serve its purpose in strengthening research and innovation, could be substantially advanced by complementary research within the overlapping fields of critical, digital and cross-cultural literacy studies, including work on the changing functions of English in local and global contexts and on the world wide web. This is the contribution we hope to make.

The Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project (Ito et al 2008), concluded that “Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access serious online information and culture. Youth could benefit from education being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions” (2). The authors conclude with a series of questions we too are asking: how can each partner take full advantage of the learning opportunities made available through new media; redesign spaces of learning through developing revised forms of community, partnerships and networks; and ensure that new literacies associated with new media are integrated creatively within critical and transnational literacy perspectives. New technologies offer potentially transformative possibilities for imagining connections across previously distant communities (Burwell; Willson). The original enthusiasm about the potential of the internet is now being tempered by understanding of its limitations: its potential for producing information overload, for narrowing communities of interest, for reproducing global divides as digital divides, and for censorship by governmental and other governance authorities.

Our partnership addresses these questions to link theory and practice. It is designed to take full advantage of new media through the organization of all dimensions of our research exchange: co-creation, documenting and archiving, regular dissemination through social media and more conventional sites. At this stage of partnership development, however, travel for intensive face to face workshops remains a necessity for educating one another about the particularities of our sites and the more informal as well as formal exchange they enable. We plan to use videoconferencing facilities whenever possible to supplement a schedule of planned workshop meetings (which will include intensive training sessions for students).

Knowledge Mobilization:

Our partnership depends on regular knowledge exchange at both informal and formal levels: among the co-investigators and partners ourselves; among our larger groups of local research teams; between all of us and our students; among pre-service, in-service and practicing teachers and then extending outward beyond these groups to the larger academic community and the many interested parties from around the world who follow our blogs, twitter feeds, Vimeo and Youtube videos, and Facebook sites. We are finding a positive response to our experimentation with using such social network sites for serious information and intellectual exchange. These postings are in both English and Portuguese.

As currently being experimented with by the Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies and the National Project blog, maintained by graduate students, three levels of connection and interaction are in play. We will maintain and build on these. The innermost circle will be devoted to formal, academic co-creation and consultation within a restricted community of co-investigators committed to dedicated collaboration linking our formal partnership sites. Within our team, we will maintain regular monthly contact through email and complementary skype calls, schedule at least one full team videoconference a year, and pursue opportunities for partial team meetings at conferences during this period. A second layer encircling that will be designed for looser engagement between our respective local research groups, who may well have their own separate blogs and sites for document sharing. A third outer encircling layer will encompass the broader interested public who may wish to follow our progress and interact with us more sporadically, digitally and in local events in their areas. The idea is to promote the co-creation and multidirectional flow of knowledge across multiple sectors, creating new forms of digital connectivity to complement our face to face community interactions.

Digital technologies will be used to facilitate all three circles of research co-creation and dissemination. The main videoconferencing facility at the Manitoba Research Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies is designed to exchange, capture and archive research based on a Tandberg system linked to an interactive digital whiteboard. It can connect to up to 5 sites simultaneously. This will be used for intensive co-creation across sites if we can manage access elsewhere as seems possible. The digital components of transnational literacies require innovative thinking about how to employ new technologies for the cross-cultural co-creation of knowledge. Links to sample videos of our work, interactive, presentational, and testimonial, are cited at the end of the References section of this application.

The project is also using social software tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, and photo or bookmark-sharing systems. The emphasis is on low bandwidth and universal access. Existing online communities and social networks such as Vimeo YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook are also being used to supplement sharing information and ideas and to maintain less intense contact on a more regular basis. These sites are proving useful for friendly regular contact and the exchange of information and newly published research. They also enable us to place the Brazil/Canada relation within a larger, less formal international context.  We are committed to exploring the potential of new media as they emerge. We believe the non-interactive nature of web pages is making them less attractive for the kinds of active inter-connections we envisage, but will maintain a low bandwidth web page for the project, with appropriate links, to add to our partnership visibility.

Regular workshops form a central spine in our plans for research sharing, training, outreach and further project development. Each workshop will combine academic research dissemination with two days of intensive workshop participation aimed at student or teacher development, building on the specific needs, interests and strengths of the host site, and reaching out to the local community. While English will probably be the dominant language of participation, we hope to enable some sessions in Portuguese with English translation and provide translation into Portuguese for some of the English sessions. CNPq provides some funding for such initiatives in Brazil and we may be able to arrange with the Glendon translation studies program to obtain course credit for some translation in Canada. While our partnership will work together in English, we want to ensure that selective translation is available for sessions directed to larger audiences beyond our working group. We will hold four workshops (in addition to National Project meetings) bringing our teams together to explore different dimensions of the theoretical and practical challenges we face and to enable a short period of intensive training for students and junior faculty. Where possible, we will coordinate workshop meetings in Brazil with those of the National Project. With appropriate permissions, we will videotape and archive interviews with key participants, conference papers, audience question and answer sessions, and round table discussions for sharing within our group and, where feasible, with others beyond it.

As indicated in the World Bank Report, Lifelong Learning in the Global Knowledge Economy, teacher training needs to change from traditional learning modes to lifelong learning imaginaries in which teachers become lifelong learners, working collaboratively to “keep up to date with new knowledge, pedagogical ideas, and technology”(xx). Our knowledge mobilization plan is designed to encourage the integration of transnational literacies into classrooms in ways that respect the needs of local communities, in Canada and Brazil, and encourage civic engagement.

Academic publication decisions will be handled by the team as a whole and then delegated to an individual or sub-group from within our ranks. We will publish books with academic publishers as well as articles in refereed journals and special journal issues developed from each workshop. Sample volume or issue titles include: Teaching Transnational Literacies in Canada and Brazil, Democratizing the Research Imagination, What Makes a Cross-Cultural Partnership Work?, English as an International Language in Canada and Brazil, and Transculturalism, Multilingualism, and Teachers’ Formation. All research results will be made available via open access. Published documents in peer reviewed journals may require copyright agreements for the first year but after that a dedicated Dspace community will be used for the project to ensure continuous archival and open access to research outputs. The press interested in our first volume makes all books available via Google after the first year.

The goal is to change the culture of research collaboration and knowledge exchange: exchanging materials in advance of meetings, capturing discussions for future reference and follow through, and maintaining regular exchange throughout the year. Through our use of new technologies, we will expand the audience for serious academic thinking beyond exclusively academic publications, sharing our pleasure in the work we do with others beyond our immediate circle in the hope of widening opportunities for meaningful engagement in knowledge co-creation.

Anticipated Challenges: 

Working across cultural, linguistic, and different governance systems will be our biggest challenge and this is where we expect to make a positive contribution to Canada/ Brazil cross-cultural understanding as we work out how to work together more effectively. Bureaucratic difficulties of coordinating academic timetables and ensuring student credit for mini-courses (attached to workshops) will need to be addressed. The Brazilian and Canadian systems are organized very differently. The Canadian educational system is highly decentralized; the Brazilian higher education system is highly centralized, with a nationally administered quality evaluation system and ranking of institutions, and with teacher productivity scrutinized and recorded (Leite). The Brazilian system is also, however, highly privatized, with many for-profit private schools and universities while the Canadian system is still predominantly public. Students and faculty work in different conditions and have different expectations about working and research condition. Whereas the Canadian system has academic librarians responsible for many dimensions of information and e-literacy, Brazilian English teachers must assume this responsibility themselves, and since so much important research is currently in English, this responsibility often falls to teachers of English in particular. Access to books and articles, while changing rapidly, can still be a problem in Brazil. Local in- person reading groups and electronically enabled reading discussions form important layers of our partnership, which expands in concentric circles outward from our core team. Learning about the conditions in which each of us work, and how best to negotiate across them, and reform them where necessary, will be part of our task.

Involvement of Students: 

The University of Sao Paulo is one of the leading research universities in Brazil. De Souza and Monte Mor, senior professors there, head two integrated clusters of graduate students and colleagues working in the areas of teacher education, critical, digital and transnational literacies, and through the National Project, they coordinate a network of research clusters at many more public universities across Brazil. Monte Mor also heads the Canadian Studies Centre at USP. They have sent several PhD students through the Canadian Emerging Leaders of the Americas Program or other, Brazil-based scholarships, to the Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies at the University of Manitoba, to be co-supervised by Brydon since 2006. We will continue to build on this developing exchange. Winnipeg has also made extensive use of ELAP and Glendon plans to begin involvement. Several of these former students are now professors at universities in Brazil, heading research clusters themselves in newer and growing universities. Through Ruberval Maciel, one of these students, we have a good working relationship with a local teachers’ organization in Mato Grosso do Sul, APLIEMs, who have joined the team as an active partner in their own right through their President, Costa. Our other teams in Brazil are also developing similar connections in their regions. Most of the students involved in our project will be graduate students, but we also plan events involving undergraduate and high school students and their teachers.

Expected Outputs and Impacts:

We plan to produce the usual academic research materials: refereed co-authored and co-edited texts in book, article, book chapter and conference paper formats, in English and Portuguese, throughout the course of the partnership. Our partners will translate written material ourselves but will also explore the possibility of enabling students in the MA in Translation at Glendon to take on such work as part of a research project for course credit. We expect each of our workshops will lead to publication of a co-edited book. Some of our publications will be targeted primarily to Brazilian audiences and others to the wider Anglosphere, including some Brazilians. We will decide on the language of publication on a case by case basis. We will also publish work in formats directed to a more general public that will help to inform and shape understanding of current changes taking place within education. We plan to collaboratively facilitate the progress of the National Project (now in its second year) and the Brazil/Canada working group at Glendon (just beginning in 2010). These plans will have an impact 1. on scholarship in the areas of developing transnational literacies and pedagogies in relation to globalization studies; 2 in mentoring and training students and teachers in both countries to engage more confidently with the demands of our times and assume leadership roles; and 3. on connecting Canadian and Brazilian scholars and students, advancing their co-production of research and enhancing their leadership potential through strengthened partnership relations.

Development of Highly Qualified Personnel for the Digital Age: 

Employment opportunities for student participants are different in Brazil and Canada. We expect all Brazilian PhD students and teachers in training to find employment somewhere in Brazil, if not in the location of their first choice. Canadian MA and PhD students, depending on their disciplines, may need to be more adaptable in seeking career opportunities. There is a continuing need for teachers and translators in both countries, but especially in Brazil. Undergraduates in both countries will gain the kind of experience that will be transferable to many occupations. We expect our focus on developing competencies associated with transnational literacy will help all sets of students meet their career objectives.  The transnational connections developed, at personal and institutional levels, should benefit all participants, as they enter the global knowledge economy. The interdisciplinary experience they gain will also broaden their outlook and increase their communication skills. The project is designed to prepare all students for an economy in which they may hold many different jobs in the course of a lifetime and may need to constantly upgrade and adapt their skills.


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Links to Videos of our recent work developing the first stages of our partnership plans:

Brydon, Diana.  Ten Minute Panel Presentation in Sao Paulo, Sept 2010:

Interview– Ruberval Maciel and Diana Brydon on Globalization and Knowledge:

Interview– Ruberval Maciel and Lynn Mário Menezes T. de Souza:

Interactions at meetings of the National Project in Sao Paulo and Brydon’s 2010 lecture tour:

Cristina Kinderman works at a private university and reflects on her Experience:

De Souza, L.M. and Monte Mor, W. comment on theory and practice:

Roberto Bezerra da Silva comments on theory and practice Developing NewLiteracies Sep 16:

Canada Brasil language issues and questions in Dourados:

What is the role of the teacher?– a question in Campo Grande:

New Literacies report:

New Literacies report UFU:

New Literacies report UFAL:

New Literacies Reports: 1 includes intro by Walkyria Monte Mor and UFMG

New Literacies Reports UFS

Global Education question at UFS

Discussion 2 New Literacies Lynn Mario de Souza and Walkyria Monte Mor

Discussion 1 New Literacies in response to a comment on orality by Nara Takaki:

Brydon, D. Day One: The Task of the English Teacher in the Era of Globalization

Brydon, D. Local Needs, Global Contexts: Learning New Literacies in Aqiaduauna


Interview Ruberval Maciel and Diana Brydon Globalization and Knowledge

Interview Ruberval Maciel and Lynn Mário Menezes T. de Souza


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