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What Is Literacy in 2022?

Our blog prompt this week asks us : what does it mean to be literate today? Well, let’s start with the first idea that people tend to have when they hear the words “literate” or “literacy.” Often times, our first thought is the ability to read and write. Usually, this level of literacy is also connected to how intelligent some people might assume others are. This old school definition of literacy is also the first thing to pop up in a dictionary: reference for literate.

However, as you can see just a little further down, there is a second definition. This definition is more general and offers the idea that being literate is actually having any type of knowledge or education in a specific subject. I believe that this is the definition of being literate that is most commonly used now a days. As teachers especially, we are often well aware that students may struggle with traditional literacy (aka reading and writing), but are able to excel in other areas in a way in which we can consider them literate.

So What Types of Literacy Exist?

This is a great question and truthfully there is probably no set answer. If you are following the idea that being literate means that you have enough of an understanding of something to be comfortable with it, then you can technically consider yourself literate in almost anything. For example, an education blogger, Matthew Lynch posted an article about his view on the 13 types of literacy. But in the comment section, someone stated that they have found at least another 25 types of literacy aside from the 13 mentioned in Lynch’s article. This just goes to show that there are so many different way that you can be “literate”!

Literacies in the Digital Age

Since we are in a digital citizenship class, it is only fitting to focus a bit on what types of literacies exist in relation to the digital age. Another WordPress blogger, Cassandra (cassiepfannenstiel), shared this infographic in a blog post relating to literacy. I think that this infographic does an excellent job of demonstrating many areas of literacy that are present in regards to the digital age. All of these forms of literacy work together and build off of one another in some way. However, since our class discussion this week was focused on media literacy, I will just take a bit of time to conclude with that topic.

Media Literacy

As I said earlier, media literacy is just one of the many types of literacy that exist. According to Bart’s article from group D’s presentation, media literacy “is the ability to understand information that is presented to us and respond appropriately.” This is an area of literacy that is of great importance in the 21st century due to the rise in popularity of the internet, technology, and social media. As educators, there are many reasons that we need to help students to become media literate. Here are just a few examples:

  • Fake news and disinformation can have a negative impact on students (and adults!). This can cause students to base opinions on misinformation. Students need help understand how to differentiate between fake and real news.
  • Students who don’t understand media bias may misinterpret events and news stories.
  • Students may develop mental health issues due to social media, or they may get themselves into trouble if they are not aware of how to share safely online.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am planning on purchasing a media literacy workbook and beginning a unit in ELA soon with my students that will focus many of the topics listed above. This is just one way that I can help my students begin to develop media literacy.

5 thoughts on “What Is Literacy in 2022?

  1. I like the idea that literacy has many facets. As I am both a shop and academic teacher, the different areas have very different ideas on being literate. One is often with numbers or reading and writing, while the other involves detailed diagrams, tools, and instructions. The types of literacy that we want in schools and for our youth vary significantly online as digital citizens and in life. This is an important part of schools’ role, exposing students to a wide array of ideas and attempting to have them start the literacy journey in these areas to continue to develop as they grow into young adults and beyond. As the landscape of learning becomes more digital, so too does the need for literacy in the widely varied digital world.

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  2. Glad to read that you are planning to buy a workbook on media literacy. We all think that literacy means ability to read and write and if I talk about some specific subjects like math or English, it means to solve the problems or ability to speak, listen, write in English language. During Covid times we have seen a sharp rise in digitalization of education and I think media literacy is foremost these days. Schools should take initiatives to guide parents and children and save them from digital divide.

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  3. Thanks for informing us of the many types of literacy that exist! It’s interesting to think about how many and in which areas I am literate! I am also hoping to use some ELA time to focus on digital literacy before the end of the year. I’m still trying to find ways to integrate it daily/weekly, but I do believe my students could benefit from a couple of weeks of lessons.

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  4. I love how you reminded us of the many different ways being literate can look. I know that there is no universal definition of literate that encompasses all facets of the different ways to be literate, and maybe that’s something that could be limiting if we tried. Like I said in Amanpreet’s blog post this week, maybe we need to have an umbrella term of what it means to be literate and then divide it into categories and sub-categories under that umbrella. Something definitely interesting to think about.

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  5. It is mind blowing how many areas of literacy there are, yet I feel like literacy is typically only associated with reading and writing. I really appreciated the break down you provide of all the areas of literacy. And I completely agree with you, just because you aren’t literate in one area it does not mean you aren’t literate in general! This is such an important piece for educators, parents, and students to understand.


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