Redefining Literacy

Redefining LiteracyThe traditional definition of literacy means simply the ability to read and write. Increasingly, both kids and adults are being required to read and write online, using the Internet and online tools to locate, evaluate, synthesize and communicate information. What implications does the growing reliance upon online sources and tools have for the definition of literacy? What core skills do students need to master in order to achieve literacy in the 21st century?

Studies investigating new literacies for online research and comprehension indicate significant differences in the skill sets required for literacy in the offline and online environments. A recent New York Times article describes findings that indicate significant skill deficiencies among students even in an affluent school, with greater deficiencies among the less affluent. It is important to recognize that just because students may seem comfortable using electronic devices to consume information and communicate, it does not necessarily mean that they are proficient in all the skills they need to locate, evaluate and synthesize information in the online environment. Effective instruction in new literacy skills is essential, but it can be challenging for teachers to provide this instruction on their own.

Librarians can help. The American Association of School Librarians has developed Standards for the 21st Century Learner, along with an alignment to the Common Core State Standards. Local school librarians can serve as a key resource for providing instructional support. Teachers can also reach out to local academic or public librarians for support, especially in the absence of school librarians.

Recommended resources:

I’d also like to offer myself as a resource. Prior to joining NWEA, I was an academic librarian for more than 15 years, providing information literacy instruction and other services to undergraduate students and teaching faculty. Please help me understand your needs by responding to this post with your questions, observations and insights from the classroom. I will use your feedback to guide my future posts on Teach. Learn. Grow. I look forward to partnering with you!


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