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.