The 11 Skills Underlying 21st Century New Literacies

November 19, 2014
Historically speaking, studies of literacy have undergone two major shifts over the last four or five decades. The first shift took place in early seventies and eighties with the publication of a series of works such as The Literacy Myth (Harvey Graff, 1979), The Psychology of Literacy (Scribner & Cole, 1981), Literacy in Theory and Practice ( Brain Street, 1984), The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working Class Life (Richard Hoggart, 1957). These studies challenged the established and traditional approaches to literacy which, until then, was considered a personal affair, an individual cognitive process. These studies emphasized the social and cultural aspects of literacy and advanced the view that literacy is a social practice, a social event mediated by text. (for a detailed account of this development, read "New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning").

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The second major shift emerges with the uptake of the social networking sites and participatory technologies. Now, we no longer talk about a single literacy but multiple literacies. Literacies take many forms and encompass a varied body of social skills and cultural competencies. In their popular white paper "Confronting The Challenges of Participatory Cultures" Jenkins et al talked at length  about the development of these new literacies and how they come to shape the new learning forms that take place in the virtual space. According to Jenkins et al, these new literacies involve several social skills that are developed through collaboration and networking. These skills include :

1- Play:
The capacity to experiment with the surroundings as a form of problem solving.

2- Performance:
The ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery.

The ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes.

The ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content.

5- Multitasking
The ability to scan the environment and shift focus onto salient details.

6- Distributed cognition:
The ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities.

7- Collective intelligence:
The ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal.

8- Judgment:
The ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources.

9- Transmedia navigation:
The ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities.

10- Networking
The ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information.

11- Negotiation:
The ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.

(Excerpt from  the white paper cited above, page XIV).