Walk into an English department and raise the question of the meaning of literacy in today’s context. The lines will be clearly drawn between those embracing the now and those clinging to the past.
Even with NCTE redefining literacy years ago, there is still a strong focus on literacy from a pre-Internet perspective.
This is why Margaret Atwood’s thoughts on the value of social media to enhance literacy creates an excellent opportunity to continue meaningful discussion about literacy for today and the future:
“If you’re reading something, even a one-sitting short story or article, you’re making a commitment. You’re making a lot more of a commitment because reading is in fact extremely interactive from a neurological point of view. Your brain lights up a lot. …reading is something you do” (Atwood).
This belief flies in the face of those that see much of the excerpt-based exposure we are experiencing with tools like Twitter as frivolous at best and harmful to literacy at worst.
In fact, Atwood argues that the Internet is a great literacy driver:
“People have to actually be able to read and write to use the Internet, so it’s a great literacy driver if kids are given the tools and the incentive to learn the skills that allow them to access it” (Atwood).
While schools tend to focus on the first part, there is a sharp decline when it comes to the second half: deepening and broadening the skills of reading/writing across multiple contexts (transliteracy).
Atwood on Twitter (different than quotes)
Listen to the audio from Atwood and facilitate a discussion about literacy for today and the future with such topics as…
- juxtapose your position, Atwood’s position, and NCTE’s postion on literacy
- is our approach to literacy broad enough?
- is reading and writing in the traditional context enough for today and the future of literacy?
- should transliteracy be a foundational focus or is our traditional definition of literacy enough?
- what would classrooms and schools with a transliteracy focus look like? What would be the benefit to learners?
- why should we consider redefining literacy?
- what is happening globally that might require a rethinking of literacy?