4.03.2008

21st century literacies

ncte recently adopted a new definition of what it means to be literate *today* - that is, in a world where "literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable." so someone please explain to me why, when this large professional organization - one that embraces the always stimulating ncteAR meetings, whose themes continue to push our thinking about literacies, etc... - is still without the oomph needed to really challenge what gets assessed in the name of literacy across many of our classrooms...*today*?

i thought about this as some teachers i was talking with struggled to make sense of their students performance on assessments that they were mandated to deliver; what didn't make sense was the incongruence between in-class performance and "the score," a trope with which educators are all too familiar.

from the ncte website (with occasional commentary from yours truly):
(click on link for the complete definition)

Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology (someone tell me how a timed test or fill in bubbles will provide any kind of assessment of technology proficiency? i won't even mention the need to reconceptualize technology/ies as more than mere tools...!)
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally (so when robert leans over to elia to talk through a question he has about the passage he is reading, he shouldn't be reprimanded, correct? or do you only get points for the testable kind of collaboration?)
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes (no, i don't advocate unexamined replacement of "all things school" with social networking profiles, but what might it mean to assume that youth are already engaging in transnational and global practices, communication, and information sharing, packaged in myriad ways?)
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information (i dare anyone older than 25 to talk to anyone younger than 25 and not witness multiple streams of simultaneous information! all being managed, assessed, engaged, organized with seamless transition)
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts (not to belabor the social networking spaces point, but there are some seriously complicated kinds of multimedia text production, analysis, critique happening all the time. youtube, and the unlikely sense of hard-to-deny-community is another example.)
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments (not only is this not something that an easily scored test can measure, but issues of ethics are constantly being discoursed - to borrow david bloome's use of the verb form of this familiar notion - in the communities, spaces, and networks that youth inhabit. lissa soep's work with youth radio is just one example of many that illustrates the level of complexity in young people's thinking surrounding what to story, how to story, and what it means to make someone's story public in particular kinds of ways - e.g., radio, podcast, etc.)
many of us feel the possibility of november 5th, 2008 may bring; but while waiting for sea change, i hope we don't squander daily opportunities to support the literacies of adolescents, which, when unsupported, can sometimes have dire consequences for youth who, for so long, have been told that their very beings are subversive, unwelcome, and in need of remediation...