A New Literacy: Making Connections in Digital Environments

Have you ever wondered if the people of
the Anglo-Saxon period lamented when information started being exchanged by
paper quill and ink instead of lyrical songs with lutes and lyres? Did they
mourn the death of the oral tradition or celebrate the beginning of literacy?
Probably both. How did people in 1446 feel when Gutenberg published his first
edition of “Poem of the Last Judgement?” Some were probably ecstatic; while others feared the loss of the quill and the beauty of handwriting. I’m guessing in
both cases some saw it as the dumbing down of a culture. They were probably afraid
their children would become lazy and less educated. They probably felt like
many of us do as we face the greatest paradigm shift to redefine literacy:
technology and it’s electronic environments. But unlike the Celts and
the people of the Middle Ages, the changes we’re living through have
happened in a historical blink of the eye and are continuing exponentially.
There are some who say that technology is our future; but it’s not – it already
happened. Technology is now! Like most changes that come hard and fast, myths
have been created out of fear and discomfort. Dr. David Crystal is a
world-renowned linguist and author. He’s best known for his Cambridge
Encyclopedia of Language. Dr. Crystal points out the most common of these
myths and debunk them with a sensible understanding of culture and language.
For example, he says that in spite of what most people think, “text speak” is not invading student writing. In fact, the abbreviations used in texting are few
and are virtually non-existent in academic writing. Another myth debunked by Dr. Crystal is that students are not reading and writing as much as they have
in the past. Students are actually doing both more now than they have since
before the creation of the telephone, and maybe ever. He says that new research is
starting to show that the younger students are when they begin using text
messaging, the more successful they may be with standardized language
assessments. More than ever, writers now need to think carefully about what to
write and how to write it in order to make their message is clear and
effective to their audiences. Sound familiar? Isn’t that what we’ve been teaching them all along? New genres and a redefinition
of old ones are emerging. In China and India, text novels are all the craze. Text
and tweet poetry contests have already happened, and some great works have come from them. The face of journalism is changing so
profoundly, that countries and governments are being redefined as you’re watching
this video. Technology and the electronic environments it creates are not going
away. They will only continue to advance. They
are the new media through which writers will now share their voices. Our students
may not need paper or pens much, if at all; but like the printing press and the beautiful verses of the oral tradition
print media will take their respected place in our culture as beautiful art
forms to be relished and appreciated. Meanwhile, student writers still need to
learn how to manage, express, and develop their ideas. That is still our job. They
also need teachers who understand the world they’re living in so that they can
be successful communicators in their interpersonal and professional
relationships.So let’s ignore the myths – language is not going to hell in a
hand basket. It’s going through the wires and satellites and changing our world in
new and wonderful ways as only the power of writing can. Whether it’s a text, a tweet, or a blog, It is still writing! DRAWNALONG www.dranwalong.com

Comments 7

  • Great video, Frank. I'm putting it in my arsenal!

  • @chocolatechipjournal awesome

  • well done, props to Frank and Mike on this. (And whoever else contributed of course)

  • Hi–I would like to show this video. Can you give me the reference for who created it?


  • I am a writing and communication instructor at University of Rhode Island and Bristol Community College. I am presently the director of Middle College at Bristol Community College. I wrote the video for a college professional development workshop. It has served many audiences since, I created the script and I narrate the animation.

    All of the animation was done by Michael McCarthy ([email protected]).
    If you would like any more information, let me know.

  • This video is exceptional. It was engaging and informative. I would love for my students to be able to diagram concepts like this. Could I learn to do it?

  • I think so. The animator that I worked with is a very talented artist and collaborator named Michael McCarthy ([email protected]) He is very committed to education and to making. I'm sure he would be glad to talk to you about what you could do. I am the voice and the script. I would love to see students creating like this in the development of their literacy skills.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *