itz literacy bt not az we knO it

To paraphrase the famous Mark Twain quote: “The reports of the death of the English language have been grossly exaggerated!”

I am constantly confronted by others who bemoan the use of technology and how kids ‘can’t read, write or spell like we were taught to back in my day!…’ My usual flippant (and in a sense leading) response is ‘..but they can communicate with more people, more often and more quickly in these days.’ Which usually leads to the reply ‘Yes, but we didn’t have all those myface twit things or computers when I was at school and I know that the word great is not spelt gr8!’

And that’s the point.

School (and society in general) today is vastly different than what it used to be and in a lot of respects that’s a massive bonus. However, if we focus on literacy, we can see how the relevant and effective use of ICT tools and skills can enhance student literacy. Yes, all students need to know how to read, write and spell, but I think we often misunderstand to what extent our students are actually doing this. Let’s look at it from a fairly literal perspective.

Defined as: “look at and comprehend the meaning of (written or printed matter) by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed’
Defined as: “mark (letters, words, or other symbols) on a surface”

We want our students to write and we often focus on them being able to write for meaning and for different audiences.  Given that our students are constantly communicating via text, online updates or emails I would say that they can write for meaning, they might just be using different ‘marks’ to do it.  If we allow them to do this in online spaces, then they will definitely be authoring for different and relevant audiences.

I would hazard to guess our students are reading and writing more now than ever before, just not the way that it has always been done or for the same reasons it has always been done.  This is a good thing. We often struggle as teachers to get some of our students to want to write and read, so harnessing the creative use of ICT tools for them to create and communicate their stories gives us the ‘in’ we often need, particularly with boys.

As teachers we need to guide and advise our students in terms of becoming literate and being literate.  If we want them to write a narrative text then absolutely we don’t want them to be using text speech. On the other hand if I get my students to use Twitter to pose a question and gather real time information about it, I don’t want them to have to write 15 tweets in longhand to ask the question.

As our students are in a society now where they are important ‘content creators’ on a global scale, we musn’t forget the fundamentals of reading, writing and spelling for them to ‘tell their stories’, but we also musn’t get bogged down in how they do it.  The fact our students want to write and share with others gives them the authentic and purposeful audience we are always struggling to find for them,  we jst nEd 2 shO dem d rght tools 4 d rght purpose*.

* we just need to show them the right tools for the right purpose –