"All of a Sudden It's the 21st Century And I'm Illiterate?"

Yesterday, while reading Will Richardson's blog (a blogger I will be profiling next after we've had enough time to dine on David Warlick), I came upon this item released by NCTE. Last Friday NCTE adopted a list of skills indentified in a definition of 21st Century literacies. Here's the list:
• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
• Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
This list contains many of the same basic elements as the recommendations David Warlick posted last week. The skills listed by NCTE are exactly what we're trying to accomplish with this blog.

The list also raises some pretty big questions. How important is it that educators possess this literacy? Who's responsibility is it to help educators develop these skills? Lastly, to what extent are the educators that you know 21st century literate? What bullet points might need greater focus?

- Joel


Suzanne said...

The NCTE Council Chronicle, Nov 2007, Vol 17, No 2 is devoted to the questions you raise here about 21st century literacies.

These questions are vital to discussions about the changing face of literacy and literacy teaching and learning in our society.

Thank you for beginning this thread.


james said...

To the question concerning who's responsibility it is to help educators develop these skills...

I believe that as an educator one has decided to be dedicated to their pupils, striving to give them the tools necessary to succeed in their future.
If these points listed are going to aid in that it is essential for the educators to understand and be able to pass on this knowledge of 21 century literacies to their students. Therefore the responsibility is on the educator to seek out the knowledge and become familiar with these literacies.
Because of the way in which literacy continues to evolve so must the educators. In order to keep up with literacy educators must engage in lifelong learning keeping up to date with the new literacies so that they have the tools to pass on their knowledge.

Mr. Malley said...

James, I agree. So, the question is, with many teachers simply avoiding 21st literacies and sticking their head in the ground, what's to be done?

I've been teaching for seven years and it is a job like no other. I never hear anything. No one has ever come to my staff and said, "Hey, 21st century skills" or "the internet is a tool" or "hey, this Web 2.0 is pretty useful" of hey, this x is important. No one has come and said, "hey, we in the business community would like to see this" or "hey, we the college professor community would like to see this". It's like a completely disconnected vacuum.

When does this stuff reach the tipping point and become mainstream? Is it different in other districts?

Anonymous said...

I read the linked article, Toward A Definition of 21st-Century Literacies, by the NCTE Executive Committee. I agree with the way that the committee is perceiving literacy, because literacy is something that is constantly changing within our society. Literacy is no longer what it used to be, because the world of literacy has evolved with time and technology, into many new forms. Literacy now includes a greater emphasis on visual text, and therefore requires new ways of “reading” text. Therefore, to be literate in our society today, it is essential to be accustomed with the new multimodal literacies.
Therefore, I am glad that the committee has recognized the characteristics that people in the 21st century should possess. However, what about the “old” definition of what it meant to be literate? Since there is a new definition being implemented, does that mean that it should replace the old one? I feel that this new definition should only be an addition to the ways that people have been accustomed to read and write. I think that older literacy practices that could be considered traditional in today’s society are not all actually outdated. In the past, some of these traditional methods have been very influential with producing proficient readers and writers. Therefore, I hope that these practices will not be forgotten. If today’s educators simply focus on the newest characteristics geared towards the latest technologies, what will happen to the value of literal written text? Will today’s young students no longer develop proficient reading and writing skills, because everything is more technological?
I do feel that it is the responsibility of educators to become literate according to the 21st century guidelines. These educators need to implement these characteristics into their teaching, in order to work with the ways that today’s students will be most inclined to learn. However, I feel that they need to integrate newer teaching techniques along with the old, in order to give today’s students a well-balanced foundation of literacy.

Mr. Malley said...

AR, I agree. I don't think anyone is arguing that students should stop reading and writing, nor that teachers should abandon their instruction. Obviously deep knowledge is attained by reading closely, as it is an immersive experience. Let's face it, until someone invents mind reading, experiencing, watching, listening, and reading are the ways that information is is consumed. So students must be literate in those methods of consumption.

AR...you wrote:

I think that older literacy practices that could be considered traditional in today’s society are not all actually outdated. In the past, some of these traditional methods have been very influential with producing proficient readers and writers.

I'm unsure what you mean by "literacy practices." More importantly, I think that you are overestimating of proficient readers and writers in our society. I think that large segments of our population get by reading very little and writing even less.

Most people experience things outside their individual words by watching. Therefore, it stands to reason that it is probably more important that people be literate in those methods of communication. The progress and success of our society hangs in the balance.

On the other hand, a major problem in our society is that we are a sound byte culture and that people are served breadth instead of depth. More people should be reading deeply and writing to explore.

So, I too am unsure of the answer Maybe we tack on an extra period in the day and teach four years of media?

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Malley is right-it is too easy in our society today to get by without having to read or write very much. Because of this, it becomes the role of the teacher to educate the next generation to incorporate the new "lingo" and technology of their students into teaching literacy. Reading and writing is great, but it is not just the reading and writing as a mechanical process that is important-what is important is the analysis and the connections that are made. Even getting our students to acknowledge that the judgments they pass on fellow classmates, the songs that they like, or the movies they watch involve the same practices as interpreting a reading or writing a paper or a story or a poem is one step on the right track. Learning new technologies is going to be a slow process (hey, I'm almost 20, and I'll admit it, this is the first blog I've ever responded on), and it won't necessarily be an easy process. But I'm willing to take baby steps, beginning with asking questions. It is the role of the educator (and this leads off of James' comments) to learn new technologies, but that can start off with something as simple as listening to your students. Get an idea from them and run with it! Find out everything you can about it. Even as teachers, we're never done learning. And even as illiterate people can, with time and patience, be taught to read and write, so can the technologically illiterate become knowledgeable in the 21st Century.