Defining Literacy for the 21st Century Student

Posted by ClassBook

9/5/13 10:31 AM

small_6966883093Though the more common definition of “literacy” pertains to achievements in reading and writing, literacy has always been a flexible concept meant to reflect the changing times. Email is just one example of a competency the definition of literacy has grown to include over the years. And you could likely name dozens of other digital competencies that weren’t necessary (or even on the radar) to your high school education. But just as email is now included, so are several other digital skills.

Check out the definition of “literacy” put forth by the National Council of Teachers in English (NCTE), originally adopted in 2008 and revised this past February:

Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to:

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to post and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

These standards might seem like a tall order, but they merely reflect the world in which our students are growing up. Fluency in technology, multimedia texts and the ability to collaborate within a global community are all necessary skills for the 21st century learner to develop.

Michelle Castellanos, technology curriculum director of American Heritage School, spoke about her school’s recent transition to electronic textbooks and iPad® use in the classroom. Castellanos identified the need to achieve 21st century literacy as a driving force behind the school’s transition. “All of our decisions about tools and all of our decisions about structure are related to 21st century literacy,” Castellanos explained. “Every decision we make reflects back to those standards as we ask ourselves: How do we generate those literacies for our students while utilizing our facilities, tools and teachers together.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts on teaching to 21st century literacies, so please share in the comments below. What would you add to the NCTE definition? How is your school preparing the 21st century student? Let’s start a dialogue.

Transitioning From Print to Digital

photo credit: Johan Larsson via photopin cc

Topics: Digital