Paul Allison, in his latest post at Teachers Teaching Teachers, puts forward the idea that there could perhaps be five “new literacies of web 2.0.” He then states five web 2.0 tools that are his top choices for use in school this year.

I wonder if he’s confusing matters by equating tools with technologies of literacy. I’d much prefer to think of this question of new literacies in the way Don Leu frames it in his chapter of the forthcoming book from the International Reading Association titled: What Research has to Say About Reading Instruction:

The new literacies include the skills, strategies, and insights necessary to successfully exploit the rapidly changing information and communication technologies that continuously emerge in our world. A more precise definition of the new literacies may never be possible to achieve since their most important characteristic is that they regularly change; as new technologies for information and communication continually appear, new literacies emerge (Bruce, 1997; Leu, in press a; Reinking, 1998). Moreover, these changes often take place faster than we are able to completely evaluate them. Regular change is a defining characteristic of the new literacies.

This simple observation has profound consequences for literacy and literacy education. The continuously changing technologies of literacy mean that we must help children learn how to learn new technologies of literacy. In fact, the ability to learn continuously changing technologies for literacy may be a more critical target than learning any particular technology of literacy itself.

The point, then, isn’t to come up with any finite number of “new literacies” to teach and/or learn, since they are ever changing, but rather try to understand aspects of these new literacies that are widely applicable in relation to new technologies.


technology matters 2006

July 22, 2006

Chico, just like I pictured it …

ChicoFarmersMarket Photo courtesy of Tonya Witherspoon

I’m here in Chico California at the Tech Matters 2006 Institute. Thursday night was a night out at the Farmer’s Market, the perfect and right counterpoint to the tech-geek-i-ness that we’ve been enveloped in for the past few days on the campus of the Chico State University campus, courtesy of the Northern California Writing Project.


July 20, 2006

I’ve been trying to get a new term into the popular lexicon: dComposing. This in place of terms like digital literacy or media literacy. dComposing, as I see it, would incorporate the different forms that we now use to create compositions mediated by digital technology. I believe dComposing avoids the legacy definitions of digital literacy and media literacy, which have sometimes defined them narrowly. dComposing is not solely about the mechanics of the technology (digital literacy in its narrowly defined sense), nor solely about the understanding of the media through which it is emerging (media literacy in its narrowly defined sense), but rather focuses on the notion that writing and reading and how we create composition — literacy itself, in other words — is changing.


June 9, 2006

I got hooked on the mentos-diet coke experiments on youtube a little while ago. Where people, often kids, slide packs of mentos into a liter-bottle of diet coke and then scatter as brown, foamy liquid shoots into the air. Watching fifteen-foot-long plumes of diet coke and hearing the requisite laughs and exclamations of wonder just never gets old for me, apparently.

Apart from the humor, though, in those video clips, I came to appreciate over time the ways in which kids would experiment. Not content just to do the same thing over and over again (like I had been with my baking soda and vinegar volcano in sixth grade), these kids actually change the variables. Does this work with regular coke, they wonder? How about diet pepsi? Does the temperature of the diet coke matter? The kids in the videos hypothesize, test their hypothesis, then record the results. In point of fact, they’re demonstrating the kind of scientific methodology I’d tried to get my first and second graders to employ those many years ago when I taught early childhood. But without prodding from any teacher.

Now, I’m no advocate of technology for technology’s sake. I’d much rather see kindergarteners building with blocks and interacting with other carbon-based life forms than eyeballing pixels. And I believe that teachers need to have solid, defensible reasons for why they would use technology to support their teaching and their students’ learning. But I’ve started this blog because I do think that changes in media, through technology, are changing what it means to be literate. And if what it means to be literate is changing — maybe has already changed — then I want to pay attention to the places where it’s possible to examine the examples, and potential implications, of those changes. Like youtube.