What does it mean to be literate in the 21st Century? What is the place of ‘traditional literacies’? What are ‘multiliteracies’ or ‘new literacies’? This blog post will address these key questions around what it means to be literate in the 21st Century and how digital technologies have influenced traditional definitions of literacy resulting in new literacies or multiliteracies.
I was inspired to write this post after reading Isabella King’s post on ‘What does it mean to be literate in the 21st Century’. I particularly found Isabella’s definition of ‘technoliteracy’ as the collaboration between ICTs and literacy in order to improve the pedagogical practices associated with literacies education, very informative and intriguing. Isabella’s post made me question my own understandings of ‘literacy’. I always thought I knew what ‘literacy’ meant and I have always considered myself to be a literate person. But as I began to research literacies in the 21st Century, I was in for a bit of a surprise! Literacy is not exactly the same thing as it used to be. True, the definition of literacy remained unchanged for quite a few years. For a long time, it has meant the ability to read and write and nothing more.
The ability to read and write remains important, but now there’s a new kind of literacy on the horizon. It still involves reading and writing, but now there’s another skill integrated into it – digital literacy. The rapid growth and use of digital technologies has impacted on the way we communicate. Digital technologies are integral to life and as a result, digital technologies are redefining the literacy skills that are necessary to be able to function successfully in the world. Reading and writing won’t help you much anymore if you don’t have any clue how to navigate a smartphone or use the internet. As our world begins to change faster and faster with digital technologies that are constantly evolving, our understanding of what it means to be literate in the 21st Century is also beginning to change.
Image retrieved from: http://karriadams.weebly.com/digital-literacy.html
Wing Jan (2009) provides some useful definitions that can help us understand literacy in the 21st Century:
New literacies has to do with having the skills and knowledge to create, locate, analyse, comprehend and use a variety of written, visual, aural and multimodal texts for a range of purposes, audiences and contexts.
It is the employment of a range of dynamic literacy skills, strategies and knowledge to effectively use texts within socially and culturally defined situations for a variety of purposes.
It includes the integration of critical thinking, speaking and listening with reading, writing and viewing.
|Multiliteracies||Multiliteracies refers to the multiple kinds of literacies used to effectively communicate within diverse cultural and social settings and the modes of communication.
It refers to understanding, using and critically evaluating multimodal texts that are constantly developing and evolving because of cultural and societal changes and the use of new information and communications technologies.
|Digital Literacy||The rapid growth and use of technology has impacted on the way we communicate. Electronic technologies are integral to life within and beyond school. Students need to be able to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct text using the new technologies that are increasingly part of everyday life.|
As educators in the 21st Century, we need to accommodate new ICTs in the context of literacy education. The concept of literacy must be expanded to reflect the different technologies our students are using. Check out the videos below to learn more about what literacy means today. Sarah Briggs from informEd has also written a really interesting blog post about ’20 Things Educators Need to Know About Digital Literacy Skills’ that I highly recommend reading.
Image retrieved from: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/digital-literacy-skills/
Image retrieved from: http://www.library.illinois.edu/diglit/definition.html
Wing Jan, L. (2009). Write ways: Modelling writing forms (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.