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March 1, 2009
Vol. 66
No. 6

Perspectives / The World at Our Fingertips

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      <BQ> A million times a day someone tries some new social tool: someone in Mozambique gets a new mobile phone, someone in Shanghai checks out the Chinese version of Wikipedia, someone in Belarus hears about the flash mob protests, someone in Brazil joins a social networking service. (p. 295) <ATTRIB> —Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody </ATTRIB> </BQ>
      Or, to bring the reality close to home, someone you know—or maybe it's you?—takes a picture with a cell phone, then posts it on Flickr for faraway relatives to view. Later that day, you browse the month's five most-read articles from Educational Leadership, then post a comment on ASCD's Inservice blog about one of them. In the evening, you view a movie—maybeFrost/Nixon—then look it up on Wikipedia to read the consensus on how factual the movie really was.
      After that, you might check out an appliance you are interested in buying and view photos of what is available and get advice from owners and prices from dealers. Then, if you have time, you'll tap into your social activist network, to decide whether you want to join in the political action that the group is urging its members to take.
      After all that, you might then go check on your middle schooler to find out whether he is doing his homework. When you find out he isn't, you may also find out that he is playing a game in Second Life, texting, IMing, or using social media that you did not know existed. Or—a bright scenario—you find out that learning how to use those new social media wisely and well is his homework.
      New communications tools are now supporting group interaction and group actions in ways they have never done before. As a result, the way we communicate, read, write, listen, persuade, learn from others, and accomplish community actions is changing. Or, as someone said when we were planning this issue ofEducational Leadership, "Literacy—it's not just learning to read a book anymore."
      This issue of Educational Leadership is dedicated to looking at what this new 2.0 literacy entails; how it differs from, yet relies on, the skills of traditional literacy; which new possibilities and challenges it raises—including how to counsel the multitasking student and how to foster the endangered capacity to read deeply; and finally, where and how literacy 2.0 should fit in K–12 curriculum and instruction.
      Several of our authors (pp. 9, 20, 32, 42) offer context for and insight into the rise of this new media. The 2.0 media are creating a common social experience for all of us, much like television did. Unlike print and audiovisual media by themselves, however, the new social media make it possible for anyone to play some part in reinventing literacy. The tools enable even those with little technical skill to not just passively watch someone else's story unfold on a screen but to join with others and produce their own stories, art, collages, reports, research, and experiments, and share them with real and interested audiences.
      • Value reading and writing more than ever;
      • Blend digital, art, oral, and written literacies; and
      • Teach students to search, evaluate, summarize, interpret, and think and write clearly.
      "The pressure is on for students to think and write clearly and precisely if they are to be effective contributors to the collective narrative of the Web," Jason Ohler (p. 8) observes. Teachers should be expecting their language arts students to craft collaborative media collages and their science students to contribute to international wikis. "What is key here," he writes, "is that these are now 'normal' kinds of expression that carry over into the real world of work and creative personal expression beyond school."
      "Students will be—and to some extent already are—living in a world of online interactions for which they currently have few learning contexts or models," Will Richardson (p. 26) tells us:Teaching students to contribute and collaborate online in ways that are both safe and appropriate requires instruction and modeling, not simply crossing our fingers and hoping for the best when they go home and do it on their own.
      We mustn't be fearful or label this new reality a fad just because we don't possess fluency with the media yet. We must instead remember how much our kids need us to teach them the old literacy skills and facilitate the learning of the new. As Jason Ohler writes, "Now more than ever, students need teachers who can help them sort through choices, apply technology well, and tell their stories clearly and with humanity."
      End Notes

      1 Read ASCD staffer Meg Simpson's review of Here Comes Everybody at www.ascd.org/el.

      Marge Scherer has contributed to Educational Leadership.

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      Literacy 2.0
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