New Literacies is a term that has been coined to describe the new context, but what does it mean? According to Knobel and Lankshear (2006), for a literacy to be considered ‘new’, it needs to consist of both new technical ‘stuff’ and new ethos ‘stuff’ (p.80). There are many practices that are considered to be new literacies and Knobel and Lankshear lists these as; “fan fiction, fan manga, fan anime, web blogging, podcasting, Photoshopping, ‘flickr-ing’, ‘meme-ing’, participating in ‘writing’ collective works like Wikipedia, online gaming and the like.” (p.81). Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, and Robison (2006), claim that almost all of the new literacies involve “social skills developed through collaboration and networking” (p. 4). Does this mean that there is no place for traditional literacy skills in the 21st century classroom? Anecdotally, some parents and community members question that students are missing out on the ‘basics’ and state that there isn’t enough emphasis on spelling, reading and writing in classrooms. It is argued that students and adults need these traditional literacy skills in order to be able to access these new technologies and new literacies. If students are lacking in these skills they would not be able to comprehend the sometimes subtle humour of a meme, or be able to contribute to collective writing, or enjoy fan fiction. The literature suggests students still need to be taught the traditional skills of literacy, but the way they apply it; for example, might be in a new form. “Literacy education continues to involve students learning and using ‘old skills’, but ‘applying them in new ways’ via new technologies and new media.” (Lankshear, Snyder & Green, 2000, p. 25). Whilst there will always be a place in for traditional literacy in the classroom, the application will be broader.
“People say that digital media is killing reading and writing, not true at all. It is changing the ecology of reading and writing. Different practices happen, different types of texts are produced, but by no means is it killing them. Kids are reading and writing more than they ever did, but they’re not doing the type of reading where you sit in your room reading a novel.” (Digital Media – New Learners of the 21st Century, 2010). In order to actually be able to use digital media, you need to have your basic foundations in literacy, your reading, writing and speaking and listening skills are all essential to using digital media. Using digital media in a classroom setting opens up an array of options, it shouldn’t take away from the foundations of literacy that students require, but in actual fact, add to it. Educators need to adopt novel or new approaches to constructing, using or teaching reading and writing.
“Education is being viewed as ineffective, irrelevant and unproductive by the emerging gamer generation… It’s time to rethink the way educators deliver knowledge to learners.” (Mengal, Simonds, and Houck, 2007). As educators we need to look at different ways that we can effectively teach and engage our students. According to Mengal et al, using a virtual reality program, such as Second Life, allows learners to become immersed in their own education. (2007.) “English is no longer solely words or images on paper, film on reels, or movies on DVDs. Teaching today’s digital humanities has transformed our discipline into a more collaborative, interdisciplinary and interactive professional arena.” (Nicosia, 2008). As educators, we need to ‘move with the times’ and adapt our teaching program in order to engage all our students who are growing up in a digital environment.