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.

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