Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Literacy Mosaic

When I first started this course, if you had asked me what the definition of literacy was, I would have replied “the ability to read and write”. After all, that has been the traditional benchmark used when discussing literacy levels around the world. However, in the 21st century it is time to be re-thinking our definitions of literacy beyond the world of reading and writing to that of having skills or competency in an area.

In their 2006 EFA World Monitoring Report, UNESCO dedicated the entire report to literacy and stated “The word ‘literacy’ has begun to be used in a much broader, metaphorical sense, to refer to other skills and competencies, for example ‘information literacy’, ‘visual literacy’, ‘media literacy’ and ‘scientific literacy’.” (UNESCO, p.150) The presentations and research done by my classmates opened my eyes to just how many literacies are involved in a modern society. It goes beyond knowing and understanding words on a page. It involves critical thinking and communicating. It involves skill sets requiring us to utilize various tools beyond the pages of a book. It’s the interpretation of music, visuals, and words. It’s about making personal connections to help develop empathy and a better understanding. It’s about being a global citizen.

Literacy in the 21st century no longer has any borders. As noted by the NCTE definition of 21st Century Literacies “as society and technology change, so does literacy.” (2013) People can connect directly with one another for feedback and information. Writing is no longer limited to those printed in books. Writing can belong to anyone who chooses to go online and engage with humanity. Whether it is through social media, wikis, blogs, or websites. There are more avenues now than ever before for people to be literate and “the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies”. (NCTE, 2013)

I feel as though I am competent with the literacy as a form of reading and writing, however there are other literacies that I can certainly develop within myself- music literacy is definitely one of them. I love to listen to music but have extreme difficulty reading the notes. When I am working with students, have I taken the time to consider what their gifts in the different literacies could be? They may be struggling with their reading and writing but perhaps they have strong skills in data literacy or music (the area I’m lacking in! J )
I now view literacy in the 21st century as an intricate mosaic. The components of all of the various literacies working together to help improve communication and understanding on a deeper level. Many components of one literacy are needed to develop proficiencies in another- they are intertwined and connected. In education, it is important to remember that and develop as many as possible in the students we teach. We want our students to be trans-literate and have “different things meet, mix, and rub together.” (Thomas, et al., 2007) not just literate!

The Power of Literacy

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

Kofi Annan

I believe this quotes sums up well the impact of literacy. Being able to understand what is being communicated to one another provides us with a lot of power to make an impact in so many ways. It is important to be aware of the new literacies involved in the 21st centuries. As teachers, it is our duty to embrace them and allow our students the ability to become proficient in as many as possible. By doing this, we can ensure that the children we teach are better prepared for the future that awaits them.


National Council of Teachers of English Executive Committee (2013). NCTE definition of 21st century literacies. Retrieved from

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday, Vol.12 (12). Retrieved from

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (2005). EFA Global Monitoring Report: Literacy for Life. Retrieved from

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Thoughts on Bringing Storytelling into the Digital Age

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Philip Pullman

The roots of storytelling are ancient and its impact upon our historical knowledge are invaluable. Even today story is very much an important part of our culture. When was the last time you heard students share something about a great experience or story they heard? When was the last time you heard them talk about that lesson in science? Students can’t wait to share the latest story with their friends but are less enthusiastic about what is happening in school (visions of the common “what did you do in school today?” “Nothing.” conversation come to mind.) With this awareness, teachers should be thinking about using the art of story to help engage their students in the content they are teaching.

The internet and web based tools have provided teachers with opportunities to develop new literacy skills and have students involved in meaning-making on a whole new level. Levine (2008) highlights how wikis and blogs make it easier to share on the internet than traditional websites and that allows more people to be active contributors in this new social context.

It is important for teachers new to this technology to embrace it. Jason Ohler (2009) and Brenda Dyck (2005) provide examples of how digital storytelling can integrate a variety of skills that can develop core literacy competencies and allow for students to make personal connections. Ohler (2009) emphasizes the importance of the DAOW (Digital, Art, Oral, Written) processes involved in telling a good story. Dyck (2005) discusses how using tools such as Google Lit trips or Community Walk can add a placed-based dimension to stories and make them more real for students.

Storytelling has been an active part of my teaching for a number of years. I would like to take the time to explore further with the digital component. My grade 1-2 class has created power points where they have shared research information they have gathered. We have written and published numerous stories in the traditional format. I am intrigued at the idea of combining the processes but will need to explore more on the adding voice and sound effects components that can be added. We are moving to laptops in the classroom which will help the process. If anyone has ideas on easy to use tools please share and comment.


Dyck, B. (2005) Using place-based storytelling to teach geographical thinking. Retrieved from

Lockett, M. (2007) History of Storytelling. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. ( 2009) Storytelling and new media narrative. Retrieved from

Friday, 7 June 2013

Are we giving our kids enough time to read?

It wasn’t until this morning while viewing the John Green clip that it dawned on me that one of the biggest challenges we are facing with kids and literacy is that we don’t give them enough time to read just for enjoyment sake. We don’t really offer them good reasons for why we should read beyond the importance of communication. Do we emphasize how reading critically gives us tools to connect? Or to imagine what it’s like to be someone else so we can empathize? Once we explain these connections, is enough time given to kids to just read without having technology or other distractions around?

My daughter has been struggling with depression and anxiety for over a year. After months of trying to get help, my daughter is now in a treatment center for her depression where she only has access to the internet during school hours. She has been there for 8 weeks now and has read more books during that time period than she has over the last 4 years. The books she initially started reading were about girls who were struggling similar to herself. It was a comfort to know that she wasn’t alone and that others have experienced life as she has. As her therapy continues her interest in genre of books is beginning to change. She has been able to use these books as a part of her healing process. She is now using books where she had been accessing social media to be able to make connections so that she didn’t feel alone.

Her experiences with reading have me thinking about my practices as a teacher, mom, and human being. My daughter is reading because she has the time to do it and she has no distractions keeping her from it. I can’t remember the last I read a book for fun, I don’t make the time but need to. I love reading books to my class and getting them engaged and excited over stories we read but I haven’t given myself time to do it. In an era where everyone seems to be on the go, I think it’s time to start slowing down and getting unplugged. Instead of doing what’s quick and easy, let’s open a book and make new connections and in the end maybe learn a little more about ourselves.


Green, John. (crashcourse). (2012, November 15). How and Why We Read: Crash Course English Literature #1 (video file). Retrieved from

Martinson, K., Mortensen, J., Williamson, S. (2013). Literature in the 21st Century. Retrieved from

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Here goes first blog post ever!

Sometimes all you need is a little prodding....that push that forces you to jump into the water even though you're not sure you're ready for it.    

I guess you can say that my recent enrolment into my current Masters course, "Literacy in a Digital Age" was the push I needed.

I have been passionate about the use of technology in education for a number of years.   I took a networked leader workshop for professional development that attempted to get us to blog....but it wasn't something I felt comfortable with.   I have ideas, thoughts and opinions but sharing them in such an open forum is scary to me.   However, I also recognize my hypocrisy because I regularly visit blogs of other educators and follow various educators on twitter as a part of my PLN.    I am awestruck at the teacher's out there who post their wonderful ideas for others to see and share.   There are some days when my lesson plans would be dull if it weren't for my access to teacher's who share- there's only so many "new ideas" the brain can come up with over the years.    I love the professional sharing that has resulted because of the internet.

Although I'm not a digital dummy, there's so much out there that I'm not familiar with in terms of how digital literacies can enhance learning experiences in the classroom.

Through this blog I will be sharing some of my reflections as I delve more into the digital literacy world with my course.   As I learn more, I hope to be able to share more with others and give back what I have gained from the brave people who ventured into the waters before me and were willing to share through their blogs or other digital media sources.  Thank you to my tweeps for recommending Blogger as a format for me.  

I guess it's time to stop lurking, and it's time to start contributing.    My experiences are my own be them right or wrong, but perhaps they will connect with someone else out there and help them on their educational adventure as well.

Wish me luck! 

Disclaimer: This post was written to help me experiment and get used to the blog as a tool.  It is note intended to be one of my contributions towards the course requirements for EDER 679 although comments on this post are most welcome! :)