Saturday, December 3, 2011

Multi-literate Teachers for a Multi-literate Citizenry


With the advent of the advancement in information technology, information now a day comes with different forms and from different flat forms.  Thus erasing the traditional way we receive, perceive, process and understand it. 

Society has moved away from a reliance on print toward digital technology, including sound, music, words and still and moving images. Therefore the texts that students write or read now often rely on processing several modes of text simultaneously in order to construct meaning. For example, while eating breakfast, students may be listening and speaking at the table while watching a morning news program that requires them to attend to print, view both still and moving images, interact with a website or view a film clip, and at the same time interpret the behaviour of the news broadcasters interviewing someone from another country on a split screen.

It too has an impact on the way literacy has to be developed to our learners.  To learn within this environment, students need to be able to understand and use the grammars of language, still and moving images, music and sound.

A 21st-century multiliterate individual needs to have the skills to consume all five semiotic systems. Conversely, they will be required to produce texts that use all five systems such as play scripts, email, video and PowerPoint presentations. The terms ‘consuming’ and ‘producing’ are used here because they more accurately describe the knowledge, skills and processes employed in constructing print and digital texts than the traditional terms reading, listening, writing and speaking.

The changes in society and technology that we have detailed require students to understand that the choice of live, electronic or paper text forms will vary according to purpose and context. The plays of Shakespeare, for example, could be approached through reading the traditional print text, viewing a live text (i.e, the production) of a play or through interactive engagement with a video or Internet reproduction, based on knowing what can be learnt from the live, electronic or paper versions.

Exposure to all these forms of text must go hand in hand with the realization that all texts are consciously constructed in order to share information in particular ways – that texts can shape attitudes, values and behaviors. There is always a selection process going on when a text is constructed; information can be included or excluded and certain groups can be portrayed positively or marginalized. Therefore, being multiliterate must also involve being critically literate, that is, having the ability to analyze texts, identify their origins and authenticity, and understand how they have been constructed in order to perceive their gaps, silences and biases.

Having no ability to analyze information will harshly deteriorate value system, morals, and the way one perceives truth or right and wrong.  The common tao or the masses and the marginalized will be more subjected to exploitation by power greedy individuals.

Although, the advent of information revolution has brought and informed society particularly in the arab world bringing into light the abuses and arrogance of their leaders, this could not be the same in other nations.

In this regard, teachers are expected to be at the forefront of these developments and that they have to be the first to be ready.  And that is to become a multi-literate one. 

A multi-literate person is someone flexible and strategic in their literacy: able to understand and use literacy and literate practices with a range of texts and technologies, in socially responsible ways, within a socially, culturally and linguistically diverse world; someone able to participate fully in life as an active and informed citizen (Anstey, 2002). Being multi-literate or multi-literacy is therefore now the name of the game.

And this is the main challenge for teachers and educational leaders particularly now that what is happening is the reverse.  Teachers and school leaders are being left behind by their pupils and students in the use of technology.  Instead of taking it as an opportunity to enliven the way knowledge and skills are transferred, data are process, and being on top of the situation, teachers are often sidetracked by these developments and are often the last to taste and realized its immense benefits.

Teachers and school leaders therefore should now engage themselves in learning relevant technologies like power point, internet, you tube, video and music upload and its various applications, basic video and sound editing and recording, utilization of digital and satellite TV and radio broadcasts, etc.

They should not let themselves left in the age of antiquity.  If they do so, they have the option or choice of leaving or being left out for what counts more is the interest of many, i.e, the citizenry.


What’s so different about multiliteracies? by Geoff Bull and Michele Anstey
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