Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need toLet me highlight a few phrases:
• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
• Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
- "Malleable" literacies
- Build relationships with others . . . collaboratively and cross-culturally
- Global communities
- Multiple streams
- Multi-media texts
- Ethical responsibilities . . . complex environments
Now some folks have argued that these aren't really new literacies and, in one sense, I suppose they're right, but it seems to me they're missing the point. Previously most folks haven't included these ideas when they talk about literacy, it's new to them, so I agree with Will (I'm sure he's breathing a sigh of relief) - these are some significant "shifts" in thinking about what it means to be literate.
Due to a comment on Will's post and a subsequent email to me, I discovered that NCTE's Annual Convention coming up in November has the tagline:
Because Shift Happens: Teaching in the Twenty-First CenturyNCTE President-Elect Kylene Beers has an article explaining the choice of that tagline. Now, I realize that she mentions me, so this link could be seen as self-promotional on my part, but that's really not my intent here - please ignore that part of it and read the rest of what she wrote, including this part:
Yet, in relation to our hurtle through change, our schools seem to be moving more slowly. We still move large groups of students from class to class with a shrill bell (reminiscent of the factory whistle during the Industrial Age). We still group kids by age and label them with As or Bs, though few can articulate what differentiates them. We’ve added technology—but it’s in a lab down the hall where only certain websites can be accessed. We’ve said we want kids, the kids of the only nation that has put a man on the moon, to use technology in the classroom, but for students in a remedial class, that might be only an electronic workbook, and for those in a gifted class, a PowerPoint presentation instead of a poster.
. . . We’re teaching the Millennium generation, that group of kids who arrived at school as “digital natives” who have a new set of 3 Rs in mind: Relevance, Relationships, and Responsiveness.
. . . At NCTE 2007, we explored the topic of diverse literacies in the twenty-first century literacy; now, for the 2008 convention, we invite you to push this thinking even further by joining the national conversation about how to juggle those diverse literacies while addressing current technological, political, social, and cultural shifts . Do this by explaining how you’re effectively working with English language learners, coping with political pressure to pass high-stakes tests, addressing the ever more diverse student populations, and teaching with and through technology to all levels of students across all the language arts. Explain how you use technology to enhance your own learning and how you use it to communicate not only with colleagues, but with parents, politicians, and administrators. Share how technology has affected assessment of students and of yourself.And her last sentence:
Let me pick out some phrases again:
Join us there, where together we’ll discuss all that it means to teach toward tomorrow—something we must do, because, after all, shift happens.
- Our schools seem to be moving more slowly
- Relevance, Relationships and Responsiveness
- Explain how you use technology to enhance your own learning
- Share how technology has affected assessment of students and of yourself
- Teach toward tomorrow . . . something we must do
Now, I know some folks will cheer when they read these, and others will vehemently protest. I think it's important to remember that they aren't throwing away the "old" literacies, they are just expanding what it means to be literate. But what I think is most important about this is the fact that NCTE is apparently basing their convention around these ideas. I think this is a major shift. This is not ISTE promoting NETS, or a coalition of folks from corporations wanting better prepared employees, this is NCTE - perhaps fundamentally redefining literacy and how we teach our children. Perhaps I'm reading (pun intended) too much into this, but I think this is huge.