Clay Shirky Discusses the Emergence of New Literacies

Clay Shirky responds to Nicholas Carr’s assertion that “the Internet is making us dumber” with his essay, “Does the Internet Make You Smarter” in the Wall Street Journal. Shirky thoughtfully makes the case that we are living in a transitory period in which new forms of reading and writing are emerging as well as evolving meanings of “literacy.”

Every increase in freedom to create or consume media, from paperback books to YouTube, alarms people accustomed to the restrictions of the old system, convincing them that the new media will make young people stupid. This fear dates back to at least the invention of movable type.

This essay can help educators and librarians better conceptualize the scale of change and provides insights into the paradigm shift we are experiencing in how we define literacy.

First Grader Creates iPhone App of His Version of “The Three Little Pigs”

Here is a terrific example of how even the youngest learners can demonstrate transliteracy! Henry Dewey created his own illustrations to interpret “The Three Little Pigs” and then with the assistance of his father, created an iPhone app for people to read his version of the story, which includes Henry’s narration of the tale.

Henry Dewey is a typical 8-year-old. He loves to build with Legos and annoy his little sister, hoping to someday own a reptile to terrorize her with.

The first-grader at Trinity Episcopal School in Rollingwood is also doing some nontraditional things: Henry just released his first iPhone application, an e-book version of the folk tale “The Three Little Pigs.”

Using pen and ink, Henry spent the entire fall semester creating the illustrations for his book during an after-school art program at Trinity.

“I like being creative, making bobbleheads on paper,” Henry said.

Early in the process, he decided he wanted to transform his project into an iPhone application to provide more options on the gadget for children.

He told his father, Mark Dewey — himself an iPhone application developer — about his idea. When Henry finished the illustrations, the drawings were converted into a digital format. Then his dad helped turn the project into the application, rewriting the story and having Henry narrate it.

“At a young age to know you can be a creator, in the mainstream of American culture, that can be powerful,” said Mark Dewey, whose digital media company, Geoki, published the app. “We hope that carries on through his growing and his life.”

Watch young author and app developer Henry Dewey discuss his app in this video! You can also click here to view and purchase Henry’s app for his story.

This story reinforces the call from the Knight Foundation for libraries of all kinds and schools to step up to the plate in positing transliteracy as a primary literacy to close the digital divide and participatory gap.

Writing Visually: YouTube, New Media Literacy, and the College Admissions Race

In this fascinating post, scholar S. Craig Watkins, author of  The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future, argues  why “more educators should begin taking the new media practices of young students more seriously.”

Wired – Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

You often here people bemoaning what Twitter and texting are doing to our writing skills and language.  This article from Wired magazine offers a different perspective. It quotes Andrea Lunsford, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University:

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

Lunsford collected 14,672 student writing samples from 2001 to 2006 —”everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions” and analyzed them.

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text.

An interesting observation on writing in general.

Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

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