Excerpts and Reflections
“Instead, literacy should be considered on a spectrum — as individuals being ‘more literate’ or ‘less literate’ than others.”
Although it may seem odd, I had never thought about literacy as being on a spectrum before reading this statement. I remember taking standardized reading/writing test while I was in school, and obviously the scores are on a spectrum, but the thing that stood out the most on the score sheets was that dotted line that separated proficient and not proficient. In a way, the scores were always presented as a dichotomy. Looking at it on a spectrum makes much more sense.
“Before books went digital, they were created either by using a pen or by using a printing press. These tools are technologies. Literacy, therefore, is inextricably linked with technology even before we get to ‘digital’ literacies.”
“Literacy is very closely aligned with the knowledge and use of tools.”
Again, these are concepts that I had never thought of. When I thought of literacy before reading this chapter, I only thought about being able to read words and get meaning from them and writing words to give meaning.
Given unfamiliar technology (such as a computer with word processing software), an individual that was able to express themselves with pen and paper could appear illiterate if only the final product was considered because they didn’t know how to use the tools to show their literacy. In my experience teaching, I have seen students struggle with how to format data into a spreadsheet, even though they knew what the data was—they were just unfamiliar with how to organize it and input it. Because they didn’t know how to use the technology, they were not able to effectively communicate their ideas. They had what Belshaw refers to as content knowledge, they just lacked tool knowledge.
It is a simple thought—that technology is linked to literacy—but it is one that I had never thought of. Now that I think about it more, incorporating word processing software and data processing software into the classroom seems even more important since we use these means to communicate so often.
“if no-one sentient ever reads what you have written, does it count as being the product of literacy? Do you count as your own audience — as with, for example, a daily journal?”
Earlier in the chapter, Belshaw related literacy to the ability to share ideas and transfer knowledge to another sentient being. To me, this is a very interesting idea. If we think of a daily journal—one that only the writer reads—it could be argued that the audience is the writer’s future self. As we grow older, our ideas and thoughts change, and some memories are forgotten. In a sense, we become another person. If you think about it that way, I believe even writing that isn’t shared with anyone else is still a form of literacy. Another interesting aspect of this is that some individuals practice literacy by other means, such as Braille. Also, some individuals communicate with animals, and animals communicate to humans through a variety of means, such as ringing a bell a certain number of times—essentially using a tool to communicate an idea. Does this count as literacy? This chapter is openly saying that there are other forms of literacy (such as visual literacy) that don’t rely on traditional reading and writing. So, potentially, the animals using tools to communicate with humans (sentient beings) could be considered literate. I know I kind of got a little out there with this one, but I thought I’d share my thoughts.
“We use tools for the purpose of communicating with one another. This requires both tool-knowledge and content-knowledge. Crucially, both of these aspects of knowledge are in flux in the 21st century meaning that, “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.”5”
I think this says a lot about how fast our technology is advancing. Saying that being literate in the new world requires you to know how to learn leads me to believe that within a lifetime, an individual will need to learn multiple forms of communication and become proficient in the various forms. If this is true, today’s youth will need to be immersed in a variety of literacy methods while in school. I say immersed because a one-time exposure doesn’t really teach an individual much. Only after repeated exposure do you become proficient. If you are to master a form of literacy well enough to use it as a stepping stone for when you encounter an unfamiliar form of communication, you must use that form of communication quite often.