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21st Century Literacy

The Changing Nature of Reading and Writing in Today's World


Our students are experiencing literacy in a different way than we did. If they have a question, they “Google” it. If they want to talk with a friend, they text or “Facebook” them. They don't spend time checking for a letter in the mailbox and even email is too slow for most of their needs.


With this change in communication style comes questions about how we should be teaching literacy. While we don't take an “If you can't beat them, join them” attitude, we do think the New Literacy is worth looking at, worth examining for ideas and methods that may be valuable tools in a classroom.


In his book Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2009), David Warlick writes, “For the first time in our history, our job, as educators, is to prepare our students for a future that we cannot clearly describe. This idea has profound implications in terms of what our children should be learning, and even more importantly, how they should be learning it” (p. 13).


As we develop the Literate Learner site, this changing nature of literacy is one topic we want to explore in depth. We want to see what challenges, concerns, opportunities, and insights New Literacy brings to the lives of our students, and in a world with 500 million people now connected through Facebook, what effects this will have on education now and in the future.


According to Warlick, we have a need to expand our definition of literacy now. He wrote, “In the 21st century, literacy involved not just reading and comprehending the text in front of you. It now includes a range of skills to find, navigate, access, decode, evaluate, and organize the information from a globally networked information landscape” (p. 17).


Check back here. It's going to be interesting to see where this takes us.