Defining “New Literacies”

Just as there is no single definition to sum up the idea of “literacy”, the same can be said of this phenomena of “new literacies”. A concept surrounding 21st century learners, embodying a whole new set of skills and abilities where being literate now takes on an entirely greater meaning. While a student in the past could be identified as being literate purely through, what the article (2013) and Houtman refers to as “static book technologies”, for today’s student to be literate, they need to be literate in a variety of technologies, including those yet to be created or discovered. It is here we can apply to new literacies, the idea of it being ever-changing, something that is continuously transforming. In that sense, the term new literacies isn’t defined as simply the new literacies of today, but it applies to the literacies that are new each day. It also doesn’t just apply to the new technologies and modes of today, but also new mind-sets developed. With this comes the opportunity for new literacies to offer us new perspectives.

The idea encompasses variety through a multimodal approach to literacy. Meaning students of today are presented with an increasing array of texts to work with in the visual, audio or linguistic modes. Within a globalised society, diversity is seen culturally, socially and linguistically, and that in itself leads to a shift in communications. Being literate is now the ability to read and write across a large range of platforms and media. As teachers, we need to be aware of this ever-changing way approach that is “new literacies”.

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 14/02/2014

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2012). ‘New’ literacies: technologies and values. Teknokultura. Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Sociales, 9(1), 45-71. Retrieved from Accessed Feb, 2014.


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