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Rethinking literacy

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Rethinking literacy

What can be considered literacy in the modern world has undergone a rethink in a two-year research project led by the University of Otago College of Education.

Dr Susan Sandretto says New Zealand's literacy policy is at least 10 years old and hasn't caught up with the rapid changes in information communication technologies: one of the key themes was the need to shift what counts as literacy and the kinds of texts you work with.

"So why not use a purely visual text like a piece of art, or a video clip or a podcast? Each of those systems has its own codes and conventions that they use to communicate, so why not help students to add them to their repertoire of ways to communicate?"

The project involved year-7 and -8 teachers and students from primary schools, intermediates and a college, as well as a rural-based school. Sandretto says the focus was on how best to support teachers to support students to be able to attack any text that they come across because the form it is arriving in is changing all the time.

She says the feedback from teachers and students was extremely positive. They enjoyed learning more about interpreting text, but students also emphasised that they wanted to create more texts.

"When you think about what kids have at their fingertips now – having a blog, a webpage, a wiki entry, a PowerPoint, or even a tweet. We have this amazing range of tools to make texts so why aren’t classroom practices part of it?"