The Competition, or How the Grinch Stole the New Literacies

My brother shared the video below with me recently.  I think that it is a great visual for what many teachers view as their classrooms’ “competition.”  In reality, though, technology is not a competitor to be beaten.  Instead, we have before us the challenge of expanding our ideas about literacy to include these new forms.  This challenge may, indeed, be the more difficult of the two.

I laugh when my 7th grade students refer to their note-taking shorthand as “text speak,”  but what am I doing in my classroom to equip my students to communicate and interact within a more digital world without sacrificing the more classic modes of literacy?  Perhaps it is because it is close to Christmas, but I am reminded a little bit of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I know you all already know the story, but humor me for a moment while I draw the connection.  Christmas was coming no matter what the Grinch did to try to ignore it or stop it.  In the end, he grew to embrace the holiday and his heart grew (three sizes!) to make room for it.  There can be a temptation, especially in the ELA classroom to be a bit of a grinch when it comes to teaching these 21st century skills.  You may want to ignore them, or pretend they don’t exist within the walls of your classroom.  Perhaps you try to banish them , or override them with more classics.  In reality, one area of literacy does not have to concede to the other.  Our classrooms need to expand to make room for both.  One way that I’ve started working on this challenge is through setting up a classroom blog during book studies.  I like using KidBlogs with my middle school students because they do not need their own email address and I can organize their pages into “classes.” Added bonuses:  There are no advertisements, and its free!  What ways are you incorporating new literacies into your classrooms?

Also:  a quick thank you to my proof-reader somewhere out there!


One response to “The Competition, or How the Grinch Stole the New Literacies

  1. Ashley January 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    I love the Grinch analogy! One way to view the onslaught of
    new technologies is that the essentials of our job (to teach
    students to become better readers, writers, thinkers, &
    speakers) have not changed – only the platform has. For example,
    the grammar book I use has a section on proper letter-writing.
    While this is a useful skill, I feel that my students would benefit
    more from a proper email-writing lesson. I can still use much of
    the information in the textbook (casual writing for friends,
    professional for authority figures) but apply it to today’s
    technological world. As you say, I can combine traditional topics
    with present-day literacies, making room for both!


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