Two recent articles in the New York Times have brought this question to the forefront of my mind this week.
The first: Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing by Tamar Lewin:
“…their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.” – Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, “Living and Learning With New Media.”
The second: Becoming Screen Literate by Kevin Kelly
“When technology shifts, it bends the culture. Once, long ago, culture revolved around the spoken word. The oral skills of memorization, recitation and rhetoric instilled in societies a reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate and the subjective. Then, about 500 years ago, orality was overthrown by technology. Gutenberg’s invention of metallic movable type elevated writing into a central position in the culture. By the means of cheap and perfect copies, text became the engine of change and the foundation of stability. From printing came journalism, science and the mathematics of libraries and law. The distribution-and-display device that we call printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of black ink on white paper), an appreciation for linear logic (in a sentence), a passion for objectivity (of printed fact) and an allegiance to authority (via authors), whose truth was as fixed and final as a book. In the West, we became people of the book.
Now invention is again overthrowing the dominant media. A new distribution-and-display technology is nudging the book aside and catapulting images, and especially moving images, to the center of the culture. We are becoming people of the screen. The fluid and fleeting symbols on a screen pull us away from the classical notions of monumental authors and authority. On the screen, the subjective again trumps the objective. The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into a new mashup, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link. We are now in the middle of a second Gutenberg shift — from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality.”
Along with an older article from the New York Times,
“Clearly, reading in print and on the Internet are different. On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author’s vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends.
Young people “aren’t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn’t go in a line,” said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. “That’s a good thing because the world doesn’t go in a line, and the world isn’t organized into separate compartments or chapters.”
It’s interesting to see more established publications trying to document and understand this shift in literacy, especially considering that many people still believe that literacy is solely being able to read and write in printed form.
This is something I would like to bring to our discussions of reading and writing at ISB. Although I make an effort to bookmark everything I come across, I’m sure I’ve missed quite a bit.
Do you have any resources, especially from more “established” or “traditional” media outlets, to share? I’m looking specifically for concrete, research-based (like this BECTA report or this recent MacArthur Report), examples or articles that would help people outside the educational technology field better understand this shift.
What are your thoughts on the concept of literacy? Does your school have a definition that reflects our changing and expanding understanding of literacy?