UCLA and Pacific Bell Team to Promote Literacy in the New Century

October 9, 2000

A $1 million gift from Pacific Bell to UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies will finance a project examining the meaning of literacy in today’s environment of rapidly changing technologies, new and unfiltered information, and increasing diversity. The new project, the Pacific Bell/UCLA Initiative for 21st-Century Literacies, will focus on educating end-users of information, improving the information system and addressing policy issues.

“An information-literate society means more than just having access to the new technologies that deliver an overwhelming volume of information and images. You have to be able to understand how to process it and learn from it,” said Aimee Dorr, dean of UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “This initiative will work both from the user side and the system side to identify means of enabling people to successfully access the new century’s media and technologies,” she said.

“This initiative will help teachers and students realize the full benefit of 21st-century literacies, to obtain the skills necessary for successful processing and use of information,” said Bob Campbell, Pacific-Bell Sales vice president, public sector. “The initiative builds on Pacific-Bell’s long-standing commitment to education in the communities it serves.”

Initiative focuses on end-users, systems and policies.

The Pacific Bell/UCLA Initiative will explore three different approaches to achieve 21st-century literacy, with the primary focus on ways to best educate students, teachers and librarians, the predominant end-users of information. UCLA researchers will compile data on existing knowledge and practices in information literacy and examine current curricula in schools, resulting in a detailed report of these findings. The project will identify best practices, describe present-day conceptualizations, and assess skills currently taught in schools, libraries and other institutions.

Additionally, the initiative will study the design of information systems, establishing principles and practices of creating optimal information delivery systems and materials. Researchers will examine factors that inhibit efficient and effective use of an information system, and how best to design those systems to match the literacy levels, technological capabilities and other characteristics of the user. Lastly, researchers will assess user and system work issues affecting learning and technology and distribute the results to policymakers and the broader public.

New technologies, new literacies: the Pac Bell/UCLA summit

As part of the initiative, UCLA will host a summit on 21st-century literacies on Oct. 21. Scholars, as well as business and political leaders, will share information and perspectives on the developments that are the driving force behind the availability of information and on their implications for literacy.

The summit will include panel discussions focusing on the meaning of literacy, the challenges and opportunities faced by contemporary consumers of information, and evaluating the current state of designing information delivery systems. An exhibit area featuring representatives in the areas of information, media and cultural literacies will provide participants an opportunity to discuss and acquire additional information on local programs and organizations.

Speakers will include Lora Watts, regional president, external affairs, Pacific Bell, and a closing speech by renowned actress, playwright and professor, Anna Deavere Smith.

Smith’s work, “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” which examined the civil unrest and its aftermath, received two Tony nominations and critical acclaim on Broadway and in Los Angeles. The play received an Obie, a Drama Desk Award and two NAACP Theatre Awards. She was awarded a “genius” fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation in 1996, and currently leads Harvard University’s Institute on the Arts and Civil Dialogue.

The UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, a nationally recognized leader in educational reform efforts and information literacy issues, is the only major research university in the country that uniquely combines the Departments of Education and of Information Studies. The school offers top-ranked professional degree programs, houses an on-campus laboratory school, and is engaged with the broader community through extensive outreach programs, all of which offer opportunities to explore information literacy issues and to demonstrate and disseminate model information literacy programs.

The laboratory school, Seeds University Elementary School (UES), models good information literacy practice and provides a testing ground for further development. The UES student body intentionally mirrors the diverse population of Southern California in race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and academic achievement at entry to ensure that practice developed at UES can translate to our public schools.

SBC Communications Inc. is a global communications leader and the parent company of Pacific Bell. Its other subsidiaries include Southwestern Bell, Ameritech, SBC Telecom, Nevada Bell, SNET and Cellular One. Through its subsidiaries and network, SBC provides local and long-distance phone service, wireless and data communications, paging, high-speed Internet access and messaging, cable and satellite television, security services and telecommunications equipment, as well as directory advertising and publishing.