New Literacies: Risks, Rewards, and Responsibilities

“To be literate tomorrow will be defined by even newer technologies that have yet to appear and even newer discourses and social practices that will be created to meet future needs. Thus, when we speak of new literacies we mean that literacy is not just new today; it becomes new every day of our lives” (Leu, 2012, p. 78)

New literacies are the “ways in which meaning-making practices are evolving under contemporary conditions that include, but are in no way limited to, technological changes associated with the rise and proliferation of digital electronics” (Knobel and Lankshear, 2014, p. 97). It involves examining how, through the use of digital technology, the learner of today can come to identify, understand, interpret, create and communicate knowledge in novel and often unconventional ways.  While the incorporation of new literacies allows the educator to meet students where they are at, to engage and enliven learning through the relevancy and interest of the learner, restructure the power dynamics of learning, and to extend learning beyond the classroom, the approach of the educator towards engaging with new literacies is often a daunting undertaking.  In her article, Hagood (2012) highlights the processes by which teachers were introduced to and implemented new literacies into their classrooms. Working with a group of 9 middle school teachers during bi-monthly meetings over the course of a year, the author (2012) provided them with a three phase process towards introducing new literacies. These phases included an introduction phase to learn about new literacies, an exploration phase of the skills and tools necessary for new literacies, and a design and implement phase. The output was an inquiry-based project incorporating new literacies the educators could use in their classes. Using the participants’ reflections on this process, Hagood (2012) outlined their takeaways towards the implementing new literacies so as to lessen push-back, increase interest for participation and overall increase teacher satisfaction with incorporating new literacies. These included starting small and learning to implement new literacies through pre-existing assignments,  test trying new literacies to facilitate learning when traditional avenues fail, and expecting to fail and retry as part of the process for developing their educator skills with new literacies. Hagood (2012) noted that while many of the participants recognized the fact that students were well ahead in their connectedness to digital technology, that this was not the motivator for their implementation of new literacies. Rather it was the fact that many of the participants felt invigorated by what they saw their students capable of producing, the increased engagement of their students, by their own personal growth, and by their renewed enjoyment of teaching through new literacies. In addition, the educators felt that they developed a collaborative network which not only pushed them to stay on task but also made them feel more invested in sharing what they had learned thereby reiterating the connectedness to context and people that comes with new literacy.

While this article lacks in any quantifiable data with regards to how implementing digital literacy impacted student and teach motivation and student success within these classes, the incorporation of the teacher’s voices in reflecting on what resulted carries great weight in thinking about how this introduction of new literacies must be transformed into workable practices for the educator. This was a single small group in a single school from a single training year and Hagood (2012) presents no follow-up or check-in to see how these teachers are fairing in their use of new literacies in the following years. Have they expanded their incorporation of new literacies beyond the one inquiry-based project and how did they do this? Or perhaps they limited themselves to the one project, change projects, or abandoned new literacies altogether? What obstacles came about over time which impacted how they developed their skills and their overall implementation of new literacies? These are questions this article doesn’t address but are of interest when thinking about how to aid educators in exploring and adopting new literacies. What did their students think of these new literacies

In thinking about research, the above questions bear greater examination.  It would be interesting to expand upon this towards examining the best processes for implementing new literacies by examining outcomes such as motivation, efficacy, self-directedness, and overall success for both student and teacher.

Hagood, M. C. (2012) Risks, Rewards, and Responsibilities of Using New Literacies in
Middle Grades. Voices from the Middle, Volume 19 Number 4, May 2012

Leu, D. J., & Forzani, E. (2012). New literacies in a Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, …∞ world. Research in the Schools, 19(1), 75-81

Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2014). Studying new literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 57(9), 1-5

 

 

 

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