Tony Gurr

Educational Literacy…for the 21st Century

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 19/01/2012 at 2:53 pm

So, there I am in Cambridge…and I can’t get to sleep. What to do?


Well, actually it’s more like “draft-blog” because I realise I do not have my “image portfolio” with me – a “naked post” I cannot do!

I’m back home (for 6 hours) and can now “dress” this post…

When I first started blogging, I came across a great little bit of advice: 

Thinking back over my last few posts (all written for teacher trainers…or those thinking of taking the leap), I was quite pleased to see how many people “felt” me.

An issue is, however, that right now my inbox overfloweth – and because blogging is also about the “social” so I thought I’d reply to a couple of questions that these posts seem to have raised:

1. Yes, I did “make up” (though I do prefer the lexical items ”co-create” or “coin”) the phrase Educational Literacy (EdL)…

2. No, there is no “research” to back up my “claims” (not that I thought I was making any, really)…

3. Yes, the “ideas” in a number of the posts are “different” – please see no. 1 above (I am “making this up” as I “blog along”…and I kinda like seeing how things “evolve”)!

But, come on…I did come up with a definition:

And, I took the time to come up with a neat 3-point “sound bite” to make it look “sexy“!

In a nutshell, the whole idea of Educational Literacy, at least for me, just makes “sense”and besides, all the “lists” I kept adding to were just getting too long.

For me, being a teacher is one of the best ways to “serve” othersserve the community, serve the future and, well, be “useful”. However, one cannot be useful as a teacher if you do not know your “stuff” – this is where Disciplinary Literacy comes in.

For example, we wouldn’t send someone into a maths class, if they could not add up, would we? In ELL contexts, it’s the same – but, we also have to remember:

Pedagogic Literacy is also kinda important – just as we we would not sign up a bunch of researchers for an academic project (if they had not been “trained” in allthingsresearch), we would not send a PhD into a classroom full of undergraduates if they didn’t have a clue about “teaching” – would we?

OK – bad example!

All “teachers” need to also know stuff about teaching – they need to be able to “do” stuff with what they know about teaching – and, I may be pushing it here, they need to be able to get better at what they do with the stuff they know.

Do you feel me?

 The problem is, of course, that:

…and, as such, Learning Literacy  is perhaps a more critical literacy (and fluency) than that of the pedagogic variety.

LEARNing is about so much more “stuff” than just “being taught”:

…but, perhaps more than this, what is critical is that a teacher recognises that LEARNing has to take “centre” stage in any consideration of TEACHing Literacy – after all:

…and, I’m guessing you can all “add” a few things to this “list”!

Then, of course, there are the Literacies of Curriculum and Assessment. Why the hell we think that a teacher can be “effective” without knowing a lot of stuff about these (and, more importantly, being able to “do” even more stuff with this ability set) – is beyond me.

However, we still have a very large number of “teacher education programmes” that do little more than scratch the surface of the “knowledge” required in these key areas. And, when they do, it is mostly the declarative variety that is “delivered” to our “teachers-in-training” – through “lectures” or information that is simply “dumped” on webpages.

Effective teachers are highly “literate” in all these components of EdLeven if they do not fully recognise it themselves. Some are “naturals” – but there are many others who have worked (very) hard to make explicit all that makes them “tick”.

I’ve often thought that this kinda begs the $1,000,000 question:

Ne se!

These teachers are characterised by what could be best be described (I think Carl Rogers may have said this) as “self-doubt” – but self-doubt partnered with a large helping of “reflective savvy“:

Savvy that comes from the powerful combination of:

These “human” literacies are critical to effective teaching (LEARNing and training, too):

…indeed, we could probably argue that these literacies are required by every “thinking doer” in every single “caring profession” (and maybe even a few of the not-so-caring variety)!

OK – that’s probably as many literacies as we can all manage!

But, hang on – those truly effective teachers (like those in Hollywood movies – when Hollywood decides we need a bit of educational inspiration) are not only “literate” – they are truly “fluent” in these Literacies. They “do” their “stuff” without thinking – bit like driving a car…

Common-sense really…

Wait a minute, Tony! What does all this have to do with the 21st Century – and where’s all the stuff about EdTech Literacies (and Fluencies)?

Ahhhhhh, that’s for another post!

  1. I completely agree with you there, especially about the importance of “Human Literacies”. At the end you say, you’ll be talking about the 21st century literacies and you’ve listed those literacies. “What’s the connection?” you say. Well, to me the connection is that although in many areas of our lives 21st century does call for a set of newer skills, etc., I believe that one thing that will transcend time and all is human literacy. Without it neither the 21st century nor any others to come after it would make sense. Thanks for this ‘reflective’ post 🙂

    • Hi Tamay,

      Great to hear from you 😉 I think what I tried to do was turn the usual approach on its head – most people start talking about 21C “skills” through EdTech – not the “human abilities” or “educational abilities” that form the basis of the profession. I think more people need to consider that – technology (I love it,too) is not what should drive the learning and teaching in our classrooms and with our students. It will, afterall, probably be out-of-date in a few years 😉

      Thx for dropping in – take care.


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