|21st century life requires the mastery of many more
literacies than were required as few as ten years ago. For
example, the Internet has grown from less than 90,000 users in the
summer of 1993 to over 304 million users in the summer of 2000!
Rapid developments in technology have resulted in a media-saturated
society, and citizens today have to have a means for navigating what has
been called this "forest of signs and symbols". (Douglas Kellner,
It seems as though everything is digitized,
and packed with new special effects. Television and film are dominant
discourses in our world, with access to over 900 television channels and
huge multiple-screen theaters. Email, cell phones and wearable
computers have made it possible to connect with almost anyone, anywhere
on the globe at any time. The growing population on our planet,
combined with greater mobilization, has created a more diversified
society, increasing exposure to multiple cultures. Globalization and
transnational markets have created a need for financial and democratic
literacies. From theme parks to efforts in business to make the
workplace fun, our society is spinning into an "infotainment" culture,
in which the borders between information and entertainment have become
blurred. Special effects in movies, video games, computer games,
television and theme parks as well as the evolution of virtual reality,
are also blurring the distinctions between the fantasy and real.
The evolution of the Internet has brought
to us a cyberlife - from a wide spectrum of cybercommunities to
cyberdemocracy, we can experience entirely new forms of community and
new experiences which have never been available before. From
multi-billion dollar business ventures to ordering a pizza, more and
more people are "online".
There are a variety of forms of literacy. As
an introduction to Literacies we share the following analysis by Cummins and
Sayers2, who begin with categorizing literacies into three
categories: functional, cultural and critical literacies.
Functional Literacy implies a level of reading and writing
that enables people to function adequately in social and
employment situations typical of late twentieth century
industrialized countries. As such, it is defined
relative to changing social demands.
Literacy emphasizes the need for shared experiences,
knowledge, and expectations in order to comprehend
adequately texts, media, or patterns of social interaction
within particular communities.
Literacy, as expounded in the work of Brazilian educator
Paulo Freire, highlights the potential of written language
as a tool that encourages people to analyze the division of
power and resources in their society and work to transform
discriminatory structures. . . .
Critical literacy is defined by researcher
Ira Shor as follow
"Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which
go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant
myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés,
received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the
deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and
personal consequences of any action, event, object,
process, organization, experience, text, subject matter,
policy, mass media, or discourse."
Ira (1992) Empowering education: Critical
teaching for social change
21st Century Schools is building a database
of information for the teaching and implementation of each of these new
literacies required for life in the new millennium. This is a new
project, and is small at this time, but will be added to on a continuing
basis. Please see
Literacies and Critical Pedagogy in a Multicultural Society by
Literacies - Analysis, Critique and Production
Civic or Social Literacy
Print Literacies are more important
1. Kellner, Douglas.
2. Cummins, Jim and Dennis Sayers (1999). Brave New
Schools - Challenging Cultural Illiteracy through Global Learning
Networks, St. Martin's Press, New York.