Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Literacy is Not Enough

Title:Literacy is Not Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age
Authors: Lee Crocket, Ian Jukes, Andrew Churches
Publisher:21st Century Fluency Project with Corwin Press.
Date: 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4129-8780-6
Pages: 232

As the title states, literacy is not enough. Literacy, in the traditional definition, means the ability to read and write. According to The World Fact book, which uses this most basic definition, the United States has a literacy rate of 99%. That sounds really good. However, according to the latest International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), between 21% and 24% of U.S. adults performed at the lowest level on three literacy scales: document literacy, prose literacy and quantitative (number) literacy – which leads to lower salaries and work hours and greater rates of incarceration and use of food stamps. But, the authors highlight other issues – even routine cognitive work is being outsource (ie reading MIRs and other medical diagnostics). To continue to be competitive students need to learn to be problem solvers, creative, analytical, collaborative, communicative, and ethical and the authors propose a focus on five fluencies rather than literacies to guide long-term planning in education. In other words, “We need to rethink what our definition of literate is, because a person who is literate by the standards of the 20th century may be illiterate in the culture of the 21st century” (p. 57).

Here is some interesting food for thought:
“How we teach problem solving in classrooms today isn't really working for us. Presenting a problem, then giving students the answer by showing them how we got it, and then repeating the process over and over by giving them a series of similar problems to solve doesn't cut it. When we do this, we aren't teaching them anything other than how smart we are. We are cultivating dependency, not independent though and the ability to analyze and solve problems.” p. 23

So, the authors present 5 Fluencies and their components skills:
Solution Fluency
  • Define the problem
  • Discover the context of the problem and availability of information
  • Dream about solutions
  • Design a plan
  • Deliver the plan
  • Debrief about process and results
Information Fluency
  • Ask good questions
  • Acquire multiple sources and types of information
  • Analyze, authenticate and arrange the information
  • Apply knowledge
  • Assess the process and results
Creative Fluency
  • Identify problem
  • Inspire yourself through seeking information, ideas, connections etc
  • Interpolate (find patterns) in the information
  • Imagine what is possible
  • Inspect idea – evaluate and assess
Media Fluency
  • Listen
    • To the message – verbalize and verify
    • To the medium – the form, flow and alignment
  • Leverage
    • The message – content and outcome
    • The medium – audience, ability and criteria
Collaboration Fluency
  • Establish the group, norms, roles, responsibilities, etc
  • Envision the purpose and outcome
  • Engineer the steps needed
  • Execute the plan
  • Examine the process and outcome

The authors draw from Daniel Pink (2006), who concluded that often education is the process of teaching us what we can't do. Which, I think, does happen in too many classrooms, because proficiency is celebrated with grades and recognition, but risk-taking and trying yet not completely succeeding is avoided (by both teachers and students).

Beyond the Fluencies, the authors discuss Global Digital Citizenship. Since “we stay so connected to our friends [across time and space] it's like we have one long conversation that never ends; it just has some very long pauses” (p.79). In other words, whether we like it or not, we are all global citizens, because the daily events and happenings from around the world are deposited into our consciousnesses through social media and commercial media instantaneously and steadily. This requires teaching students to have particular awareness and responsibility to:
  • Respect themselves
  • Protect themselves
  • Respect others
  • Protect others
  • Respect intellectual property
  • Protect intellectual property (p. 81)

Most schools and businesses require users to sign an Acceptable User Policy (AUP) for the computer network. However, the authors argue that most of these policies for on the restriction of use, rather than supporting and teaching responsible use of technology. They provide a Digital Citizenship Agreement, that could replace the AUP using the foundations of respect and protect

The last part of the book has some unit plans for various grade and subject areas with a focus on developing the various fluencies through real-life simulations and project-based learning, along with a short discussion about assessment with more formative, self and peer assessment and reflection being key.

So, what is the essential pedagogical guidelines for 21st Century Learning? Velcro Learning!
  • Make it sticky 
  • Draw from the past 
  • Repeat - often 
  • Give positive feedback - frequently
Here are some online resources:

1 comment:

  1. Suz,
    When I read your comments on my post at Reflect and Refine, I just had to stop by. This book, Literacy Not Enough, is now on my summer reading list. As soon as I read the title I knew I needed to find out more about this book. Your review was full of great information.

    I don't know if you've read Making Learning Whole or Fires in the Mind, but these books seem like they would go well with Literacy is Not Enough. They both talk about the importance of having students own their learning.

    Your review makes me think this book might take these ideas deeper by focusing on essential literacy and global citizenship. Both of these topics are quite timely in today's field of education.

    I have added your blog to my reader. It looks like I can find quite a bit of summer reading right here.

    Thanks for sharing,