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What is your understanding of literacy in the digital age?

 

June Wall *

As teachers we all know that literacy (and numeracy, but I’m not touching on that in this post) is the core skill everyone needs to be effective and empowered members of our society. At a top level to be literate can be simply defined as to be able to communicate meaning. This meaning involves using the communication and understanding of the user’s role and responsibility in a feedback loop. While our focus in the primary years has been and will continue to be about teaching reading, writing, listening and speaking, these 4 strands of the curriculum are much broader when the various modalities of meaning are included in our thinking.

Consider the issues in the media in recent times touching on e-safety or aspects of digital citizenship, digital visual literacy and the responsibilities inherent in the use of social media – critical to all of these is a literacy level and understanding of the digital environment. To be able to operate in this environment learners need to be multimodal in their thinking about literacy. This means that as teachers we need to consider all the environments that learners operate in…2 questions that could provide a base for planning a literacy program are:

  1. What are the everyday literacies that learners bring into the classroom?
  2. How can I value and integrate these literacies into my own practice?

Multimodal is defined in the Australian Curriculum as the strategic use of ‘two or more communication modes’ to make meaning, for example image, gesture, music, spoken language, and written language. Even this definition does not provide an easy view to the digital environment our learners are often immersed in. If we consider the rapidly developing virtual or augmented reality scenarios or activities that are coming online, that could provide another level of complexity to how learners will need to communicate. A student in an immersive environment is still in a physical environment and needs to be literate for both!

Jon Callow has written on multimodal literacy and in a recent article, he emphasised that print based approaches alone for literacy instruction are no longer appropriate. The Leading a Digital School conference will have presentations from Jon and others that will further inform our growing understanding of this important area of literacy.

  1. Expanding our understanding of literacy using multimodal and digital texts;
  2. Integrating children’s literature and digital technology: reading and enjoying picture books K-2;
  3. Apps that support language and literacy learning;
  4. Creating purposeful digital visual literacy;

You may like to explore this further:

Callow, J, (2013) The Shape of Text to Come – some additional resources are available at PETAA
Mills, K & Unsworth, L (2017) Multimodal literacy
Simpson, A & Walsh, M (2012) The impact of technology on reading practices for 21C learners
Walsh, M (2010) Multimodal literacy: What does it mean for classroom practice?

 * June Wall will be presenting at the Leading A Digital School Conference 16–18 August at the Twin Waters Resort, Sunshine Coast


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