Reading Reflection #2
LABELING AND DEFINING LITERACY IN 2016
Until reading this week’s reading reflection prompt, I had not really thought about why some would see literacy in a plural or singular fashion, but I can express that more often than not, I refer to this term as literacies. Literacy now takes on many forms such as Media Literacy, Digital Literacy, Information Literacy, and Academic Literacy. How can one take into consideration all of these forms, knowing their interrelatedness, and not use the plural form of literacy?
The combination of these literacies helps to determine what is now being termed “new literacies.” Using these literacies, in combination, to gather and communicate information in a world whose processes of communication change so rapidly is essential. The online environment in which we, and our students, are immersed requires a new way of thinking about what it truly means to be literate today. Can we be considered literate if we do not have an awareness of how to engage with the digital world? With so much information, how do we find meaning in it for our purposes? How do we articulate the kind of information we require? Are we using the information we find ethically? How do we evaluate this information for credibility and reliability?
These questions become ever more concerning when they are asked in the context of online reading. As my questions are reinforced by a statement from New Literacies: A Dual-Level Theory of the Changing Nature of Literacy, Instruction, and Assessment (p.1150) “to have been literate yesterday, in a world defined primarily by relatively static book technologies, does not ensure that one is fully literate today where we encounter new technologies such as Google docs, Skype, iMovie, Contribute, Basecamp, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, foursquare, Chrome, educational video, games, or thousands of mobile apps,” I believe there are new literacies necessary to be competent users of online information. Defining these exactly becomes the bigger issue.
Looking at the ideas of Upper and Lower case notices of new literacies somewhat helps to clear the issue. The term “new literacy” itself as noted often in New Literacies: A Dual-Level Theory of the Changing Nature of Literacy, Instruction, and Assessment is very deictic and therefore difficult to constrain with only one theory. “We believe that when literacy is deictic and multifaceted, a dual-level theory of New Literacies is not only essential but also provides a theoretical advantage over any single-dimensional approach to theory building and research” (p. 1158).
New Literacies (capitalized), is used in a broader way to include common findings among literacy scholars. It’s the umbrella under which the work of many can be combined. Some of the most common and consistent patterns being found are:
- The Internet is this generation’s defining technology for literacy and learning within our global community.
- The Internet and related technologies require additional new literacies to fully access their potential.
- New literacies are deictic.
- New literacies are multiple, multimodal, and multifaceted.
- Critical literacies are central to new literacies.
- New forms of strategic knowledge are required with new literacies.
- New social practices are a central element of New Literacies.
- Teachers become more important, though their role changes, within new literacy classrooms.
Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, and Henry, (p. 1158)
The lower case, new literacy, term helps with the rapidly changing nature of literacy and allows each scholar to share their new insights and research with others. This level allows for research and study across disciplines no matter the perspective or platform. This sharing of insight is for the greater good of the theory and serves best the rapidly changing nature of literacy today.
If I had to choose a term that best fits what I prefer to call these new literacies, I would have to say multiple literacies. From all that I have read throughout this course and the experiences I have had in the classroom, I believe this fits best because I have witnessed students who can learn from traditional print text and those who need a multi-faceted approach to constructing meaning. Each still has to be able to critically read and write, no matter what the medium.
IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING
Skills with online and offline are both very important with none being more important than the other. They’re just different. Schools need to begin seriously looking at the integration of multiple modes of teaching literacy. Long gone are the days when there was just one form of communicating and expressing ideas. Common Core is starting to slightly appreciate this, especially as we are allowing students to show and explain math problems in more than one way and considering both correct. ELA standards are now incorporating technical ways of presenting understanding, but haven’t yet bridged those ideas into the actual test itself. With that being said, the current emphasis on testing may actually be depriving many students of the multiple literacy experiences they truly need.
Often, I encounter students who find instruction in school irrelevant. They are so immersed in a digital world outside of school that when they find themselves in classes using printed text in the same way it has been used for years, their sensory systems seem to shut down. Reinforced by the statement, “a central principle of New Literacies theory is that the Internet has become this generation’s defining technology for literacy in our global community,” New Literacies: A Dual-Level Theory of the Changing Nature of Literacy, Instruction, and Assessment (p.1159), I believe schools need to consider within their curriculum discussions the necessity of multiple literacy instruction across contexts. Nowhere in the current curriculum do I find, as well, the consideration of the sociocultural nature of our students’ experiences. So many bring a wealth of technical understanding that is remaining untapped. It does go back to the teachers’ fear of their students knowing more than they do, but seriously, they need to get over that!
These literacies still require the skills of acquiring, organizing, evaluating and sharing information learned, but they may just take on different, less traditional, forms. Teachers are not always comfortable with these forms. They (teachers) need to strive to learn these forms and actually produce lessons in this fashion as a form of modeling proper use for their students.
“Because teachers become even more important to the development of literacy and because their role changes, an expanded focus and greater attention will need to be placed on teacher education and professional development in new literacies,” New Literacies: A Dual-Level Theory of the Changing Nature of Literacy, Instruction, and Assessment (p.1163). Teachers will need great support as they transition between print and digital literacies.
There will always be resistance to the changing ideas of literacy as there will always be those who believe that skills taught in school for offline reading are more important than those for online reading. But I believe all that we have read and discussed over the past weeks has proven their true codependence on each other. Used strategically, the multiple literacies we provide for our students can truly transform and enhance their understanding of the world in which they live and isn’t that the point of being literate, no matter its form?