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New light on “new literacies”

September 28, 2009

Stay with me here. I connected some seemingly random concepts when I read of New York City’s experimental 6th – 12th public school, “institute of play.”

They say, “It’s important to note that Quest is not a school whose curriculum is made up of the play of commercial videogames, but rather a school that uses the underlying design principles of games to create highly immersive, game-like learning experiences.”

Now remember when the term ‘literacy’ meant something to do with comprehension of written concepts? Again, they say, “Games and other forms of digital media serve another useful purpose at Quest: they serve to exemplify the complexity and promise of “systems.” Understanding and accounting for this complexity is a fundamental literacy of the 21st century.”

I began to connect the dots concerning their school and the phrase “new literacies.”

I read a blog from a grad student at IU, Jenna McWilliams, in their Learning Sciences Program.  She calls it “sleeping alone and starting out early.” Anyway, in this post she digests some research for us on new literacies and quotes the authors of that research, Lankshear and Knobel, as they divide new literacies into the “technical stuff” and the “ethos stuff.”

This is where I connected the dots… What the institute of play is attempting to do is not so much utilize the new literacies in education (where we so often stop) but to recognize that a new literacy ‘ethos’ already exists and is so utterly revolutionary that we cannot continue or go back to teaching the old literacy.

You’ll want to read her entire post, but I think her main point is here:

“Thinking more broadly, the emergence of new media literacies has also, and at the same time, forced us to engage with a new model of expertise (…) We’re not used to a distributed model of expertise in which all participants in a culture have something to teach all participants in a culture. Traditionally, older adults had a monopoly in this respect–early reports suggest the monopoly has been overthrown. It still takes a number of years to become a domain expert, of course, but even the established 10-year time frame required for expert status has been called into question by the ubiquity of learning environments and experiences.”

I don’t know about you, but THAT rocks my world.

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