Twenty-First Century Literacies
21st Century Literacies
What cognitive skills are crucial for educators to attend to in our digital age? Media theorist and practitioner Howard Rheingold has talked about four "Twenty-first Century Literacies"--attention, participation, collaboration, and network awareness--that must to be addressed, understood and cultivated in the digital age (see http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/rheingold/category?blogid=108&cat=2538). We all know the standard "literacies" of the 3 R's. What else is required in our digital age? Futurist Alvin Toffler argues that, in the 21st century, we need to know not only the three R's, but also how to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Expanding on these, here are ten literacies that seem crucial for our digital age. None of these are tested in the normal metrics of our educational system, yet all are crucial skills for our time.
Attention: What are the new ways that we pay attention in a digital era? How do we need to change our concepts and practices of attention for a new era? How do we learn and practice new forms of attention in a digital age?
Participation: Only a small percentage of those who use new "participatory" media really contribute. How do we encourage meaningful interaction and participation? What is its purpose on a cultural, social, or civic level?
Collaboration: How do we encourage meaningful and innovative forms of collaboration? Studies show that collaboration can simply reconfirm consensus, acting more as peer pressure than a lever to truly original thinking. HASTAC has cultivated the methodology of "collaboration by difference" to address the most meaningful and effective way that disparate groups can contribute.
Network awareness: What can we do to understand how we both thrive as creative individuals and understand our contribution within a network of others? How do you gain a sense of what that extended network is and what it can do?
Design: How is information conveyed differently in diverse digital forms? How do we understand and practice the elements of good design as part of our communication and interactive practices?
Narrative, Storytelling: How do narrative elements shape the information we wish to convey, helping it to have force in a world of competing information?
Critical consumption of information: Without a filter (such as editors, experts, and professionals), much information on the Internet can be inaccurate, deceptive, or inadequate. Old media, of course, share these faults that are exacerbated by digital dissemination. How do we learn to be critical? What are the standards of credibility?
Digital Divides, Digital Participation: What divisions still remain in digital culture? Who is included and who is excluded and how do basic aspects of economics, culture, and literacy levels dictate not only who participates in the digital age but how we participate?
Ethics and Advocacy: What responsibilities and possibilities exist to move from participation, interchange, collaboration, and communication to actually working towards the greater good of society by digital means in an ethical and responsible manner?
Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning: Alvin Toffler has said that, in the rapidly changing world of the twenty-first century, the most important skill anyone can have is the ability to stop in ones tracks, see what isn't working, and then find ways to unlearn old patterns and relearn how to learn. This requires all of the other skills in this program but is perhaps the most important single skill we will teach. It means that, whenever one thinks nostalgically, wondering if the "good old days" will ever return, that ones "unlearning" reflex kicks in to force us to think about what we really mean with such a comparison, what good it does us, and what good it does to reverse it. What can the "good new days" bring? Even as a thought experiment--gedanken experiment--trying to unlearn ones reflexive responses to change situation is the only way to become reflective about ones habits of resistance.