Are we educators literate for the 21st Century?

NCTE frameworkThis was one of my most memorable takeaways from the 2013 PETE & C conference held several weeks ago in Hershey, PA. It came from Rob Mancabelli’s presentation, “Learning in a networked world.” In the presentation, Rob referenced the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) position statement on the Definition of 21st Century Literacies. Here is the definition of 21st century literacies according to NCTE:

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Rob then asked the question, something to the effect,“How many of us would be literate by this definition?”

This is a particularly important question, especially as we develop a case for changing our schools. We can start by asking this question of our leaders because if it’s not happening with them, it’s never going to happen systemically. We can then ask this question of our teachers and our parents – of all the adults.

Thanks to Rob for sharing a powerful argument in the case for school change, particularly the need for the adults to change first.


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