Lankshear and Knobel’s first chapter. Preliminary Considerations

collage new literacies

Understanding what it means being literate or illiterate in todays world implies analyzing a complexity of concepts, terms, inte

ractions, and being willing to rethink personal conceptions. “New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning” by Colin Lanksh
ear and Michele Knobel provides in the first chapter an overview exploring concepts, proposing themes of reflection, and explaining social practices.
As every important pedagogical approach social changes have a deep influence on the concept of literacy. The author describes the evolution of literacies from considering literacy as strictly reading and writing skills to “new” literacies. I found very interesting how at the beginning teaching literacy was associated with marginal initiatives for socially disadvantaged populations, but has become gradually the front of educational policy, practice, and research. Literacy is recognized as a confinable indicator of efficiency and better national outcomes. It is widely accepted the correlation with a country’s economic and social growth. As I was reading this ideas and reflection about the proposed discussion, the question that resonated with me was if I agree that the literacy levels directly related to a country’s economic growth. At first I agreed with the direct positive relationship between literacy levels and economic growth. Later I thought what kind of literacy is being discussed? The literacy related with social reality? The functional and survival literacy skills needed to succeed in work environments? The literacy that brings cultural identity? Or the transforming collaborative new literacy?

I found interesting the validity of Freire’s praxis idea of how pedagogy practice based on literacy could be critical in social educational practice
. Encouraging learners to work collaboratively to critically reflect and to take actions to change their social reality. Literacy crisis seems to be when the minimum functional literacy requirements in terms of survival reading and writing skills disconnect from emerging social problems or critical thinking.

It is particularly pertinent the position adopted in 2008 by the US National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) proposing a dynamic range of abilities and competencies for contemporary life success. The Council’s policy position for today’s learners summarizes the concept of functional literacy skills and community integration. According to it readers and writers must:
– Develop proficiency with the tools of technology;
– Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally;- Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
– Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
– Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts;
– Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

This is allied with the notion of affinity spaces explained by Gee as part of a social identity developing meaningful interconnections for the participants and also illustrates the loftier status of “new” literacy definition as an expansive concept evolving with communication developments. As the authors emphasized “we think that new literacies in the way we understand and describe them here can really only be researched effectively from a sociocultural perspective, of which the New Literacy Studies is an example.” ( Lankshear and Knobel, 2011). I am eager to explore deeper ideas and perspectives of how this transforming literacy conceptualization will evolve with emerging communication developments.


Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2011). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning. New York: Open University Press.

6 responses to “Lankshear and Knobel’s first chapter. Preliminary Considerations”

  1. @rmillersalas I also found a strong alliance in L&K’s concept of literacy as a social construct with Gee’s affinity spaces and situated language. Looking forward to having another class with you!


    1. Hello La Dawna! I am also glad to be in another class with you. Like you mentioned the reading and Gee’s ideas are strongly connected. It is great explore more in depth what we learned during the games course.


  2. @rmillersalas Awesome blog post, I really enjoyed your connection to Gee. I liked how you bring up what literacies are being discussed. I also wonder about literacy levels and economic growth. Does this mean students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have less opportunity to learn new literacies and does that mean they are illiterate? How are schools handling literacy when there is an obvious connection to technology and there are those without access?


    1. Hello Lee, I share your concerns about what is the best way for schools to achieve the new literacy skills students need to be successful. I would like to know more about the action proposal for economically disadvantage population.


  3. I agree that it is important for students and individuals in society as well to be exposed to a variety of tools to help them to be successful in the present and future. I may have analyzed the use of the terms literate and illiterate too closely from L & K’s first chapter. I feel that it was an interesting way to describe our understandings of various areas rather than only traditional reading and writing. I do not think that we should neglect to acknowledge the importance of the gray (middle area) content exposure. We need all types of learners for the accomplishments in our world to be possible. Many learners may be exposed to some of the same content, but we cannot all be experts in everything. We do not have the time, capacity, or need to know everything. I believe that we all rely on each other to bridge the gaps in our knowledge (our illiteracies) or our gray (middle area content understanding).


  4. Hello Aaron, I totally agree with you. We are in a pluralistic world and any level and type of knowledge are important and valuable. As a teacher I know it is easy to neglect the students you called the ” grey area”, because we tend to be focused on the students that need more support or on the ones that require higher tasks to be motivated. It is an educational issue that concerns me as well, but I never found an efficient way to always manage it properly.


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