Learning with New Literacies

A Modern, Multimodal Approach to Education

Alyssa Tomaskovic

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New Literacy: Learning is More than Just Facts in a Textbook

John Willinsky originated the term "new literacies" to promote a method of pedagogy that places a greater importance on students developing critical thinking skills and innovative thought processes rather than the rote memorization of facts (Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, 2011, p. 31).

The Evolution of New Literacies

Over time, the definition of new literacies has changed from a simply student-focused approach to education to one that encourages students to "'read' and 'write' and learn with texts that have multimodal elements such as print, graphic design, audio, video, and nonstop interaction" (Vacca et al., 2011, p. 31) in preparation for participation in a competitive, fast-paced global economy.

An emphasis is placed on developing higher-order thinking capabilities with the intent of "applying critical thinking skills to media messages, and giving students opportunities not only to analyze media messages, but create and produce them as well" (Baker, 2009 cited by Vacca et al., 2011, p. 36).

What Does This Mean for Modern Educators?

In order to keep students actively engaged and learning, teachers need to ensure that content area material is relevant. Integrating ways in which students can express their knowledge through means other than writing, utilizing multiple forms of media to present lessons and disseminate information, and creating opportunities for technology-supported collaboration between students can all promote an interactive, beneficial learning experience that appeals to the tech-driven nature of today's students while meeting content standards (Kist, 2005, 2007a cited by Vacca et al., 2011, p. 36).
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New Literacies? Thoughts in Progress: NLI Teacher Leader Institute, Raleigh, NC , July 2009
This short video from the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute provides a fantastic overview of the numerous components of this increasingly popular method of pedagogy, as well as the implications it has for today's students.