Defining Literacy: Do we need to take a look at what we mean by literacy?
Is it Time to Start Taking Action?
This is an image based on our traditional understanding of literacy. The basic literacies of reading, writing are fundamentally important, but this definition of literacy is no longer enough for our students and has not been for some time. Can we as educators continue to talk of the 21st century skills and literacies without taking action? After all we are already well on our way to the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. Isn’t it time to actually start implementing the ‘new’ literacies?
What Does it mean to be literate in 2012?
I asked a group of teachers sitting around the lunch table this question and received an array or answers that ran the full range from: “I think the basic literacy skills are the most important, you know reading and writing”, to ” I know they need more than the basics we used to teach, the Internet has changed things, but I’m not sure what that means.”
I’m not sure that there is anyone clearly defined answer. If there is, it is constantly changing, just as the technology changes. In my view any definition of literacy for 21st century learners reaches far beyond reading, writing and digital literacy. It 21st century literacies expand to
What I do believe is that students will have to learn to adapt and learn how to keep learning. This means that students need to learn how to be self-directed learners.
The Reality: We Need Visionary Leadership
ISTE outlines the essential conditions for success for the implementation of the NETS technology standards. The first element is visionary leadership, without which there is at best a disconnect when teachers develop and review curriculum. I witness good teachers and curriculum coordinators working hard to redesign curriculum around the common core standards and while they develop excellent units based on content areas they are often missing an opportunity to integrate the new literacies. Often the value of incorporating the NETS technology standards or 21st century literacies is given lip service or ignored in the redesign or curriculum review process. Most teachers involved in the curriculum reviews are unaware of the NETS technology standards for administrators, teachers or students.
Without this visionary leadership there also a disconnect when planning professional development or innovations like 1:1 computing and BYOD where the focus becomes the hardware and not the curriculum goals and objectives.
So What’s the Urgency?
For me it’s about catching up, as I believe we are already behind and it’s going to take sustained high quality professional development, over time, for teachers to acquire the knowledge and skills to develop curriculum that integrates the literacies. The NETs Standards were published in 2007, the NCTE 21st Century Literacies in 2008 . We are already 12 years into the 21st century and it’s been 5 years since the NETs Standards were published. The class of 2012 will graduate this year, will they be 21st century literate? How many more classes will graduate before we have a 21st century illiterate generation?
The New Literacies In a Nutshell:
Suzie Boss sums it up ‘literacy boils down to learning to be independent, aware and productive citizens.’