New Literacies and the Big Shifts

Module 13 of TEC-950 explores the New Literacies required in education. Literacy is no longer merely about reading and writing. There is information literacy, media literacy, and ICT literacy. This is a huge shift within education. In most cases, teacher prep programs did not prepare teachers to navigate or instruct these new literacies. Our younger teachers have lived in a world where this has been their reality but many did not receive preparation in incorporating or teaching these as part of their teacher prep program. This is the biggest challenge with integrating these new literacies within our educational system on any kind of large scale.

It is difficult to provide leadership in this area when you do not have experience or knowledge yourself. I can't think of a teacher who wants to return to the NCLB-era mandates that played out in many classrooms as scripted curriculums.  However, a script is safe and provides security especially when there is fear of doing something wrong. In my local context I have found that teachers are looking for a curriculum to teach these new literacies or prefer to have a designated teacher whose responsibility would be to teach these new literacies.  I understand where teachers are coming from if they do not have experience, basic familiarity, and/or understanding of these new literacies themselves. However, a bubble on the margin of a Teacher Edition that explains an opportunity to teach digital literacy isn't the answer. Additionally, students recieving weekly instruction from a tech teacher during release time will not build capacity among our staff nor create deep understanding in our students.   I believe both approaches are misguided and do not provide a solution to the challenge. What we really need to invest in is extensive professional development and support for teachers as well as updating our teacher prep programs to reflect these new realities.

We also need a shared understanding of 21st century literacies. In my work providing teacher training to new teachers, one mantra that I held dear was "First and foremost, you are a teacher of literacy."  This often created discord with my math/science teachers with push-back on what does the quadratic equations have to do with literacy.  My response has always been and will remain, "Everything."

 Our curriculum and content standard merely provide the vehicle for our instruction but our destination are those 21st century skills and literacies.  Until each and every teacher is a teacher of 21st century literacies who uses their curriculum and content standards to teach media, information and/or ICT literacy in a connected fashion, we will fail to meet the new mandate of preparing all our students upon graduation to college and career ready. This is not an easy charge but something that will take an investment of time. For most of us, including myself as demonstrated by this coursework, before we become 21st century literacy teachers we must first become students of 21st century literacies. As a system we must support our teachers in this process. As administrators and teacher-leaders we must model 21st century literacies.