Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century

Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century David Warlick

Online handouts and lots of cool information is available at:

We are preparing our students for a future that they, and their children will be envisioning.

The workplace of the future will be different. The landline is obsolete – cellphones have taken over, and they are equipped with more than just the phone. They include GPS, video, audio tours, planners etc. We generate 5 exabytes of new information each year but only .01% is printed on paper. Therefore paper and books are obsolete. Video conferencing is becoming more popular. Large, face-to-face meetings will be unusual in the future. The desktop computer will be shrunk to a wearable computer, which includes the accessories. So, the workplace of the future is an unclear picture – what equipment will be there and what skills do students need?

We should stop integrating technology and we should start integrating literacy skills. In order to be literate, people need to be able to teach themselves. Not the old version of literacy – Reading, writing, and arithmetic. A new form of literacy includes evaluation and research skills. Students will be doing most of their reading online – do they know how to search for the origin of websites? Mr. Warlick showed how to backtrack on a webpage to find the author or organization of the webpage. A site about Dr. Martin Luther King was actually published by a white supremacist group. Without locating the origin, students will take the information at face value. Using Wikipedia would be a good place to help students look for information and then evaluate the information. Our current model of education assumes there is an authority with the correct information. However, that is no longer true. Anyone can put up a website.

What does it mean to be a reader in the 21st century? It isn't just reading the text, but also finding information, decoding text, images and multimedia, critically evaluate the information and organize the information. Currently people can share websites and bookmarks. People are also using arrogators that automatically find information based on a personalized list of topics.

Math skills will change too. In the past, most problems had a small amount of data. Now, the abundance of information gives dozens to hundreds of bits of information that need to be calculated, sorted, and interpreted. Math is telling a story with numbers. With the ability to digitize almost anything, sound is now numbers. There is more than just adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing to math. Can you answer questions with math?

The process of buying and selling has changed as people have gone digital. Downloading music, books, and movies from the internet. Not going to shops.

Writing will always be an important skills, however the genre of writing is changing. Blogging, wikis, emailing, and other forms of writing are emerging. Communication will become more multimedia and not just text. The successful information are those that get our attention. Therefore will need to be teaching students how to work with images and video. Mr. Warlick showed the example of a student produced video focusing on sweatshop conditions. The images, text, and music worked together to create a powerful message. Since the video went on the net, it has been seen in over 20 counties and the author has been contacted by several CEO of the companies she mentioned. An essay would have been read by one or two people.

“In conclusion, stop integrating technology, instead, redefine literacy, and integrate that.”

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