Monday, November 8th, 2010 | education
Literacy refers to a person’s ability to read and write. The quality of being literate separates the educated from the uneducated. Those who can’t read and write are illiterate – uneducated.
Those who can read and write are literate – but are so on different levels. How well you can read and write – and how much of it you’ve done – determines how literate you are. At the top of the pile are those who produce literary masterpieces such as Charles Dickens, Salman Rushdie and Kathy Lette.
In the minds of most people, literacy implies two things: reading and writing – both are about words on paper. This type of literacy is the pre-occupation of schools. Much time is spent on developing handwriting, learning to spell, studying the rules of grammar, and developing the ability to read with comprehension.
With the advent of information and communication technology (ICT), a literate person needs more than the ability to read and write. You now also have to understand cryptic SMS communications, embellished with emoticons. You must be able to respond clearly, succinctly and immediately. News comes to you in different ways – internet news bulletins, blogs and Twitter feeds – and much of it is in picture or video format.
The new ways in which we now receive and respond to information demand new literacies – abilities beyond reading and writing. In the past learners came to school with a pencil and a writing book in their satchels – these were their literacy tools. Today learners come to school with cell phones and other digital devices in their backpacks. Clearly, our definition of literacy must accommodate these changes.
New literacies take many forms, and different names have been given. Three important ones are:
As technology continues its rapid progress, more of these literacies will appear. In the mean time, where does all of this leave the teacher?
If you were educated during a time when literacy was measured against the ability to read and write, you have some catching up do to before you can successfully introduce your learners to new literacies.
For more technology tips for teachers click here.