Literacies in a Global Age: (how) Can Education Catch Up?
2011 Watson Lecture: Brian Street
Research tells us that what counts as literacy is more complex and wide ranging than what we see in many classrooms. In the modern global age, literacy includes, especially for young people, engagement with web sites, blogs, Facebook etc. and out of school practices, including filming, drama, poster-making etc., in which the written word is only one component of a more elaborate mix of ‘modes’ of communication – visual, oral, etc. This mix is to be found in all communication, not just the ‘new technologies’ of internet, web etc.; everyday communication is always a mix of oral, visual, written, sound etc. We need, then, to take account of what research in ‘multimodality’ tells us about such communication if we want to build curriculum and pedagogy relevant to the modern age. At the same time researchers in ‘New Literacy Studies’ have been telling us for 20 years or more that literacy means more than just the technical skills of ‘decoding’ words in print – there are social relations involved, cultural meanings, multiple ‘literacies’ not just a single form, of the kind schools tend to focus on. I will discuss these approaches to ‘literacy’ as a basis for asking "can education catch up?" or rather "‘how' can Education catch up," since it is obvious that it has to.