Sunday, 16 November 2008

The changing nature of literacy in the 21st century




Over the past ten years the concept of 'literacy' has changed very rapidly, not only in schools, but throughout society. The increasing access to information and communication technology has revolutionised the way in which we interact with texts, something that was previously considered to be just the written form, but can now be described as 'a unit of communication that may take the form of something written down but also a chunk of discourse e.g. speech, a conversation, a radio programme, a TV advert, text messaging, a photo in a newspaper...' (Evans, 2004,p.10)

Outside of school children interact with these 'multimodal' texts on a daily basis, however I feel that when in school children interpret literacy and texts as purely books and reading. They do not consider reading their emails, or reading the instructions for a computer game to be literacy, and so when many children are asked if they enjoy reading they say no, as for them reading is the book scheme at school, and Evans believes that this is because we do not integrate children's interests often enough into the teaching and learning process.


I feel that Evans certainly makes a good point, as the interests and skills of young people are not being considered in literacy planning, and I feel that this is a wasted opportunity to engage them in literacy in a way that they find fun and accessible. I believe that more should be done in schools to imbed ICT in the literacy hour, as I have witnessed myself the impact it can have.
However I do feel that the increase of ICT, should not be to the detriment of the written word, but support and modernise the way in which it is taught. ICT should excite children and make them more passionate about reading, not make them less likely to read and enjoy a book. Evans found through research that the out of school interests of many young children were mainly ICT based, which is not surprising. What is surprising and worrying is that of the children asked (90 +) only one chose reading a book as an interest, and only two chose imaginary play or outdoor activities. So has the increase of ICT outside of the classroom had a detrimental effect upon the way in which children view reading and using their imaginations? Would this same effect occur if the use of ICT was increased in the classroom?This is a side-effect of ICT which concerns me, however I cannot deny the power it has in engaging children, therefore I feel that the power of ICT should be harnessed and utilised in schools through meaningful activites, but crucially its implementation should enhance and improve children's love of books and reading, not replace it.


Evans, J. (2004) (Ed.) 'Literacy Moves On: using popular culture, new technologies and critical literacy in the primary classroom.'

1 comment:

Somabula Blog said...

...However I do feel that the increase of ICT, should not be to the detriment of the written word, but support and modernise the way in which it is taught...

Not quite sure what you mean. Do you equate writing with pencil and paper.. as in handwriting?



...ICT should excite children and make them more passionate about reading, not make them less likely to read and enjoy a book...

Both my children are digital natives. Both are avid readers. The love of reading starts at a very young age, in the home. I think too many of the problems caused by poor parenting skills are being incorrectly blamed on technology.