New Literacies

What does ‘new literacies’ mean?

literacy |ˈlɪt(ə)rəsi|noun [ mass noun ]

ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from literate, on the pattern of illiteracy .

1 the ability to read and write.

new |njuː|adjective

ORIGIN Old English nīwe, nēowe, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch nieuw andGerman neu, from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit nava,Latin novus, and Greek neos ‘new’.

1 produced, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time; notexisting before:
• not previously used or owned.
• of recent origin or arrival.

2 already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time:
• (new to) unfamiliar or strange to (someone).
• (new to/at) inexperienced at or unaccustomed to (an activity).
• different from a recent previous one.
• in addition to another or others already existing.
• superseding and more advanced than another or others of the same kind.
• reviving another or others of the same kind.

When considering ‘new literacies’ it is implied that it has come from something old. Far too often what is considered ‘old’ is nuanced as obsolete. You see this with the transition from analog to digital TV, from VCR to DVD to Blu-Ray. But what is often missed is an appreciation for what ‘old’ and ‘obsolete’ has pioneered for what is current and ‘new’.

But we’re not talking JUST about technology here are we? We’re talking about ‘new LITERACIES’. Understanding ‘new literacies’ goes beyond just an appreciation for traditional forms of literacies.

“The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking.These skills build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom” (Jenkins 2006, as cited in Houtman, E., 2013).

As users of technology and teachers of literacy, there needs to be a paradigm shift in our pedagogies. Physical libraries and books are relevant and necessary for literacy development as well as incorporating new forms of digital literacy to help students engage in deeper learning.

Houtman, E. (2013). New literacies, learning, and libraries: How can frameworks from other fields help us think about the issues? In the Library with the Lead Pipe.  Retrieved from Accessed February 14th, 2014

This is a great video that challenges advertiser’s claim to be ‘green’ in an environmentally friendly society. This is a great avenue for students to be thinking critically about texts and perceptions without the content being too heavy.


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