Literacy Development for the Digital Age

The traditional view of literacy as being concerned primarily with the skills of reading and writing is being severely tested as new forms of communication (enabled by new forms of technology) create new ways of expressing and communicating ideas. The following quote from Toward a Definition of 21st-Century Literacies, Adopted by the National Council of Teachers of English Executive Committee, February 15, 2008, sums up the issue:

“Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. 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.

Twenty-first century learners need to:

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

Some useful references

Implications for schools

  • How effectively do your school programmes cater for the development of literacies as described above?
  • Is engagement with digital technologies a regular and natural part of learning life in your school, or does it remain a novelty that is employed only in particular instances?
  • What practices do you have in place for assessing the development of these digital literacies by your students?