NCTE's New Literacies

TOWARD A DEFINITION OF 21st-CENTURY LITERACIES was adopted by the NCTE Executive Committee this month. Groups are always developing new literacies. I've seen lists of information literacy, media literacy and others, and I've seen multiple lists about "21st century skills" that we need to teach students. (A search will get you plenty - you might start with

I suppose what actually attracted me to this was that I joined NCTE as secondary schol teacher back in 1975, so it interests me what English teachers K20 are thinking.

Their document is brief, but has some lines that could easily generate a workshop of discussion, such as:

"These literacies from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups."

There are six things they say that 21st century readers and writers need to do:

  1. Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  2. Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  3. Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  4. Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  5. Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  6. Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

Will Richardson picked up on the word malleable¬Ě - "The ideas that these literacies must now be adaptable and bendable to meet whatever comes down the pike is a pretty big shift in thinking." Is it a big shift? Haven't we always known that literacy was malleable? Or is it that we knew it (as teachers) but it was never made official in the schools?

I do agree with him that, "Literacy, in other words, just got a lot harder to measure on a standardized test." There's the rub.

The idea of social learning and sharing information as being a kind of network literacy IS a big shift. It's the part that interests me the most about this "new" definition.


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