David Wray writes
2 July 2009Add to My Folder
Meet our new regular columnist, David Wray…
Some of the findings of Sir Jim Rose’s ‘Independent review of the primary curriculum’ were leaked in The Guardian on 25 March 2009, under the headline: Children to study Twitter and blogs in primary schools shake-up. What the review, published on 30 April, actually says is that, “Children should read… texts of all kinds, on paper and on screen…and collaborate, communicate and share information using connectivity to work with, and present to, people and audiences within and beyond the school.” The reception given in the press to the idea that children should use blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as forms of communication was a little sarcastic, but such plans are probably a step in the right direction. In the world outside school, literacy is changing. Technologies like podcasts and blogging involve new forms of literacy, and ‘digital literacies’ are becoming as important as traditional print literacy.
What do these changes mean for literacy teachers? Well, one thing they do not mean is that books, as we traditionally understand them, will disappear. People have predicted the end of books for over 100 years: Thomas Edison claimed in 1913 that film would “completely replace the book in … schools by the end of this decade”. He was wrong.
Technologies like podcasts and blogging involve new forms of literacy, and ‘digital literacies’ are becoming as important as traditional print literacy.
But, although books will still be around, they will have to compete with a host of other communication media, some involving graphic images but some purely textual. Already, the most commonly used communication medium across the world is the mobile phone text message. Yet mobile phones are often discouraged, or banned, in school classrooms!
I remember my secondary school English teacher banning Biros from his class, claiming they would ruin our handwriting. He might have been right – but we still used them out of school! A better response might have been to admit to change and teach us how to write neatly with a Biro. Literacy teachers probably need to make the same kind of fresh response now. New digital literacies are here to stay. We either include them in our literacy teaching, or we let children figure out their uses by themselves – and then go on to think of us as literacy dinosaurs.