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The 7 Important Literacies of The 21st Century Education

 I have been studying literacy for more than a year in my Literacy Education MAEd program and have also written a 12 pages research paper on it but  each time I sit down to write about it I discover a lot  of new insights.


Literacy is a deceptively broad topic  that can be approached from various lenses. Schoolars from Plato to James Paul Gee have extensively written on the topic, each arguing for the validity of the theoretical lens through which they see it. Going through these theories I find myself inclining more to the progressivist camp or the " New Literacies" camp. Obviously,we are not in front of a single literacy but rather multiple literacies. The momentum of this  multiplicity of literacies has tremendously increased with the introduction of technology.

Below is a modest attempt from my part to bring to your attention some of the literacies I singled out from " the buzzing literacy crowd" and which I think are important component of the 21st century education.

Information Literacy
Information literacy is the ability to search for, recognize, access, evaluate, synthesize, organize, apply and use information, from different sources and in different formats, to make enlightened choices in your personal, professional, and academic life.

Information Technology Literacy
ITL is about understanding the technology infrastructure that underpins today's world. More specifically, it is an understanding of the tools technology provides and how these tools interact with the overall infrastructure.

Digital Literacy
This is a portmanteau word which can include all the above mentioned literacies.However for the purposes of this short post I will define it as follows: Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.

Media literacy
Media literacy is the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and use the codes and conventions of a wide variety of media forms and genres appropriately, effectively and ethically.

Visual Literacy
The ability to recognize, read, interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information and data presented in visual forms such as pictures, graphics, charts...etc

Cultural Literacy
Cultural literacy is about understanding the cultural cues embedded in the wildest sense of language ( verbal, non verbal and visual )

Critical Literacy
As Think Critically puts it , Critical literacy is the ability to actively read text in a manner that promotes a deeper understanding of socially constructed concepts; such as power, inequality, and injustice in human relationships. Critical literacy encourages individuals to understand and question the attitudes, values, and beliefs of written texts, visual applications, and spoken words.
The development of critical literacy pushes students to question issues of power; in essence, to become thoughtful, active citizens. Becoming critically literate means that students have developed and mastered the ability to read, analyze, critique, and question the messages inherently present within any form of text.

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  1. Although the important 21st century literacies topic here is framed around education and technology, it is sad that this is so narrow-minded. There needs to be another one of at least a recognition that the foundation for such literacies is the over-arching one: Eco-literacy. There is a huge field of research in this area yet it is not even contained within (let alone 'above') Critical Literacy. "Whilst literacy and numeracy are important, they will only continue to be so if there is a planet to live on."

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