Is it time to redefine literacy?

There has been much criticism lately about teachers and pre-service teachers who are apparently illiterate. I have a big issue with this position,as we are basically stating that our school system and higher education providers are essentially doing nothing, that when we engage in formal study we learn nothing. We know this isn’t true, we know that after we finish a course, such as a four year undergraduate degree we know more than we did when we began, we have new skills and we have been successful enough to graduate anyway. So how can we describe people as being illiterate? I think the whole crux of the discussion is that we all have different views or definitions of the term literacy – the critics view it very traditionally, and probably see it as grammar and parts of speech. These are important, we need to know the correct grammatical structure of our own language, but viewing literacy as being only these skills is redundant. The digital age we live in requires much more literacy than we have needed previously – its not limited to text-based communication, its visual, its about negotiating your way around digital information, websites, information streams, understanding memes, messages, writing short messages, multitasking and multi communicating. This is all pretty literacy related skills. We tried to capture this by calling it all multi literacy, OK this was a start, how about some others to consider…..transmedia literacy? multimodal literacy? Perhaps what we need to do is decide on the set of literacy skills we need in this current age, all agree on a definition or term and then we can make informed judgements about peoples literacy skills.

Transmedia: can it be used in education?

A few weeks ago I was lucky to be able to meet Jeff Gomez from Starlight Runner. Listening to him talk was a like a light bulb switching on, he had managed to articulate all of the ideas and thoughts that had been swirling around in my head for a few years now into a ‘thing’ – he called it transmedia storytelling – I’m thinking this term might have already become redundant (more on that in another post). Transmedia storytelling has been picked up by the entertainment industry, a multi-pronged approach to building up excitement about a new movie and continue it beyond the release date. The cynic in me feels its probably to sell more product, test to see if a sequel might have legs…….regardless, its almost an expected part of the big Hollywood blockbuster experience these days. A great example of this is James Cameron’s Avatar.avatar What really grabbed me was the importance of the grand narrative, the story that ties all of these different platforms and multimedia experiences together – he reiterated the idea that the story needed to be expanded beyond the initial narrative, that it needed to be more complex, engage the reader in a new way. This go me thinking, how could we use this in education? Imagine learners who are so engaged that they move beyond, they engage beyond the expected level. This sounds exactly what we aim to achieve in our teaching, inspire students to move beyond the surface level of a topic or lesson, and to really engage with the topic. I could see us build a multi-platform approach to teach maths, English – any subject. It would engage, stimulate and not necessarily require technology expertise – programs like might enable a really basic version of it. Things to ponder, how we deliver online learning might be about to change.