Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
- Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
- Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and
- Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
- Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
- Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
- Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
These many shifts are enough to have our heads spinning, but I want to propose one more, one that is intimately tied to the social dynamic of our students’ lives. We’re teaching the Millennium generation, that group of kids who arrived at school as “digital natives” who have a new set of 3 Rs in mind: Relevance, Relationships, and Responsiveness. They live in a digital world in which they turn on, turn up, and tune out with a mere tap on a touch pad. These kids connect with people around the school, city, country, and world as they IM, “friend”, text, game, podcast, and blog. When it comes to preferred technology, they tend (to borrow from the song) to love the one they’re with, so if cell phone is in hand, text messaging is great; if they are online, IM is what counts. Their technology, like them, is mobile and is as much about connecting to people as it is connecting to information.
If nothing else, this goes to the heart of connective reading and connective writing that we’ve been talking about here and elsewhere now for years. Reading and writing is still about the ability to understand and to create texts of various types, but it’s increasingly more now about connecting to other ideas, other people, and other conversations.
Now, I know some folks will cheer when they read these, and others will vehemently protest. I think it’s important to remember that they aren’t throwing away the “old” literacies, they are just expanding what it means to be literate. But what I think is most important about this is the fact that NCTE is apparently basing their convention around these ideas. I think this is a major shift. This is not ISTE promoting NETS, or a coalition of folks from corporations wanting better prepared employees, this is NCTE – perhaps fundamentally redefining literacy and how we teach our children. Perhaps I’m reading (pun intended) too much into this, but I think this is huge.