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TechForum Beyond the Hype Panel: Quesion 1

David Jakes moderated a panel discussion at Technology & Learning’s TechForum in New York.  The panelists were myself, Ryan Bretag, and Patrick Higgins.  In preparation, Jakes shared with us some questions to mull over.  The questions were so good, that I had to write up some of my responses, and will be posting them here over the next few days.


The first question was, “Are there new literacies that connective technologies create?  ..or do these tools afford the attainment of a literacy in a different way?

Photo by Rob McGlynn http://flickr.com/photos/r0b1/1571054719/

Of course, the answer depends on where you stack that label.  If you think of literacy as individual domains of skills, then you’d have to say that we have new literacies.  However, I think of literacy simply as the ability to use information to accomplish goals — and in this sense, it not changed.  It is the information landscape, within which we practice literacy that has changed, and as a result the skills that constitute literacy have changed — or they have at least expanded.  Again, I prefer to think and talk about one literacy.  It’s easier to learn, in context, if we consider only one.

I think that talking about multiple literacies, or new literacies, makes it easier for us to manage.  It’s easier to teach and then to measure literacy, if we can classify and compartmentalize it.  Certainly, many of the skills of literacy must be taught this way.  But for students to learn the practice of literacy and the habits of literacy, it has to be transparent and it has to be ubiquitous.

There is one thing that I would do to the term.  I’d stop talking about literacy and start emphasizing learning literacy.   I learned to read so that I could read a newspaper and follow directions.  I would suggest that we create an explicit link between lifelong learning and literacy and perhaps start calling it “Learning Literacy.”

The second part of the question concerns pedagogy. It is my opinion that these new information and communication technologies do not merely afford new methods for learning.  They demand it.  The old pedagogies are no long relevant.

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  • Mark Vegter

    Great comments! I wish I would have been at your panel to hear the entire discussion. I really appreciate you linking lifelong learning and literacy. As an educator at Illinois State, we try to get our students to develop those skills to be successful lifelong learners. Teaching them new literacy’s is a key component to helping them develop as lifelong learners. It has become clearer to me, the more I teach, that learning literacy is essential for educators and their students. I’m glad you brought in pedagogy; teaching and learning would be stagnant if learning literacy was not integrated into ones pedagogy. I think helping educators change their styles from old pedagogies to new ones will be the next challenge.

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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