What it means to be literate?

ML_sign.jpg I’m sitting all day today in a working group convened by the Ministry of Education focusing on Multiple Literacies – with the sign to the left having been generously posted by the venue hosts to identify the room we’re using. Amidst the exciting discussions we’re having about what sorts of literacy development is required for 21st Century learners, the sign serves as a useful reminder that we mustn’t forget the conventions of traditional writing!!!!! (The thing that makes the sign doubly amusing is that it is printed on paper and taped to the front of an LCD screen which is normally used to display notices like this 🙂

Literacy has in the past been ‘centred on language’ but with the introduction and use of new technologies and visual texts into school literacies and home literacies, we now encounter, use and interpret multiple kinds of literacies which are embedded in multimodal texts. The focus of this group is on the notion of multiple literacies (or mulit-literacies), a term chosen by the
The New London Group
who recognise that literacy pedagogy is changing rapidly in our global world.
The term ‘multiliteracies’ is thus being considered by this group to describe what constitutes literacy in today’s world. Over these two days the group is working to develop the detail around a literacy acquisition framework (LAF) which will eventually be published and distributed to schools to assist teachers in their literacy teaching endeavours.

There’s certainly a lot to consider here, with the ever expanding opportunities for the expression and communication of ideas and information offered through digital technologies, and the consequent changes in communication behaviours. Earlier in the week my friend Tony sent me a link to an online article titled Is Google Making Us Stupid? – with the subtitle, What the Internet is doing to our brains? It’s an intriguing article that explores the ways in which our reading behaviours are being shaped by our use of the Web – suggesting that we have lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print, preferring instead to quickly scan short passages of text from many sources online. While the article is more a blend of anecdote and references to other writers, it does point to some important areas for further research to inform our understandings of literacy and how we engage with print and other modes of communication in the digital age.

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