What Do You Mean By Literacy?

Readers of the blog will know that one of my regular mantras is, ‘Learning IS Narrative’. ie not only is narrative  – or storytelling – an important element of learning, but that all learning consists of the creation, analysis and sharing of stories. This is HOW we learn, and has been so since there was life on earth. What changes is the variety of media through which we create and tell these stories. I was reminded of this when reading this excellent blogpost on the use of film and media in English, literacy and creative writing by Tom Tolkien, which included the following lines:-

“If printed literature is seen as a brief period in the historical synthesis of storytelling, it isn’t surprising that technology will deliver a succession of new forms for the delivery of stories. Whether film will last longer then print as a form is debatable, but film is currently more accessible and more engaging to young learners than books. How many pupils have seen the film but not read the book? Is that a good thing – I don’t know – but it’s certainly worth taking advantage of when considering how to improve the teaching of writing.”

All of which has of course set me to wondering about definitions of literacy which are appropriate for the age we live in. What does it mean to be literate today?  This is a short presentation I delivered at last week’s TeachMeet Ayr/Aberdeen at the University of the West of Scotland. It is intended as a light-hearted starter for discussion. Feel free to use it with your students or with your colleagues if you find it of any value.

For a version of this presentation with video introduction go to YouTube

2 thoughts on “What Do You Mean By Literacy?

  1. This is excellent! The quote “We never just read or write; rather, we always read or write something in some way” by James Paul Gee is very accurate. In school, we designate times for Reading and Writing but both of these are used in every other area-Social Studies, Science, Math, looking at the lunch menu, locating a specific room, etc. Because literacy is the set of skills which allows an individual to engage fully in society and in learning, through the different forms of language which society values and finds useful, it is up to us, as educators, to make sure that we include blogs, web pages, advertisements, etc. in our lessons. To be literate in today’s world, one must know how to navigate around web pages and read headlines. In another post, you discussed the phrasing of headlines on news links. This is key in today’s society when scrolling through a news site. Providing such headlines for students to both discuss how it is presented, what the topic of the story really is, and create a new headliner is a brilliant lesson, or even a morning starter, that could replace simply correcting sentences like I did back when I was in school.

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