Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘HUMAN Literacies (in education)’

The HUMAN Literacies of TEACHing…

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training, Technology on 11/03/2012 at 12:42 pm

I wasn’t planning on doing any blogging this weekend – even thought about reading one of those “book-thingies” or three!

What changed?


Well, I was wandering around the web-cum-blogosphere (as any “digitally-literate grown-up” does when there is nothing better on the telly) and came across an advert that took me to a siteand, on this site I found this:


Read it carefully! Twice…


OK – it’s not as bad as Yul Bryner’s “My name is Yul Brynner – and I am DEAD  – his posthumous, anti-smoking advert!

But, it’s pretty scary…especially for those that do not own a “digital green-card“…

What struck me about this (and many other “Techie Support and LEARNing sites” like it) was how it plays on the “fears” of many grown-ups – our very “human” fears about being “inadequate” or being “left behind” (if I get one more spammy e-mail asking me if I am happy “with the size of my breasts”, I’ll just die – my breasts are just fine, thank you very mucho)!

I won’t be too mean – as Cyberwise has some great tutorials for teachers and parents wanting to LEARN more about media literacy – or even Twitter, Prezi or Glogster.

Just remember what Uncle Doug and Auntie Nancy told us earlier!


More importantly, however, a couple of people got in touch and asked after some more information on the “human literacies” that I mentioned in my last post on 21C Teacher Skills and Literacies .

There is probably a really bad global shortage of good weekend television these days!

Those of you that follow the blog will have seen a couple of the (in)famous jpegs and pngs I like to create in my “spare time” – images like this one:



Many Techies “hate” them – many “non-techies” love them…and both get a bit confused when I do a mini-series of three on allthingstechnology.

For me, this is the real “digital divide” in education – the divide between the “doers” and “non-doers” with allthingstechnology.

However, if you are anything like me – regardless of how digitally literate (and fluent) you are – you’ve probably asked yourself one of these questions:

  • What makes a really great teacher? How can I get there?
  • What can I LEARN from all those great teachers we hear about? How can I get as good as they are?
  • How can I be the best teacher I can be? Will technology help me?


You might have seen one of the “answers” I have come up with:


…and you can take that one to the bank (or pin-board)!


In matters of technology, I always ask one of the following questions:

I’ll leave it to you to “guess” which one I prefer


I mention this as we’ve been “talking” (well, I have – but my trusty PLN has also been coming up with some great “co-THINKing”) about how the “21C Movement” is not really a “techie” movement at all – as I have noted, it is… 


I’m going to push that little envelope a little bit further today and say it is also…

  • …a HUMAN LITERACY (and FLUENCY) Movement


And, that’s because (unless you work on one of these projects that are teaching orang-utans to use iPads) our “business” in education is LEARNingnot TECHNOlogy.



As I write this, I am listening to “Adajio for strings” (by Samuel Barber) and getting ready to listen to the “Theme from Schindler’s List” (by John Williams) or even Mahler’s “Symphony No.5 Adagietto” (let’s see what my iTunes playlists can come up with).

This music is so…HUMAN – and, as far as I know, no bit of technological wizardry has been able to co-create one of these! Of course, composers use a great deal of hi-tech these days. Sam never had the chance – John does! But the music just wouldn’t be the same without the “heart” of either of them

TEACHing is the same! 

We’re told again and again that 21C Skills are not “new”:

And, if we were really honest…there isn’t a lot that is “new” about great teaching.


…but before we get to “DIGITAL Literacies”, and “EDUCATIONAL Literacies” that we need to get “right” as educators,

…we have the“HUMAN Literacies” that great teaching is built on!


Why do I say these are quintessentially “human”?

I guess I need to get a wee bit personal for a minute. The human literacies (or the lack of them) are what stop me bonding in the same way that I did / do with my daughterÇ–A-Ğ-L-A hanım – with Dexter (my “son”):

I love him to bits, I do – but he lacks the “literacies” to really make it worth me bringing my “work” all the way “home” (now my big, little girl is in London – “bad” London). I know we are not supposed to “compare” our kids (even though “Dex” is a fair bit cheaper than his “abla” – “bad” London) – but, he does not do well in the LEARNacy stakes. And, although he has shown promise in the domain of EMOTIONAL Literacy – not too strong in the old CRITICAL Literacy stakes is young Dexter!


Teachers are not as lucky as Dexter – the human literacies are the very foundation of our “business”. We can’t afford to skip these areas in our practice – which makes me wonder why so many educator preparation and education programmes do not even mention them!

Teachers have to walk-the-talk of the human condition itself – and are (sadly) frequently rewarded with the type of “pocket money” that even Dexter would turn his nose up at!

 We do it anyways!


Great TEACHers are…

  • great LEARNers – and can LEARN even when others might choose to “quit” (in addition to viewing the passing on of this ability to others as their core purpose)
  • great QUESTIONers – and engage critically with their “business” (as well as helping others do the same)
  • great CONNECTors – and are “in tune” with their “self”, their “others” and their “context” (not only able to connect the dots, but also create “new dots”)


The first of our human literacies – LEARNacy – is what fuels these “being”abilities.

I wish I had come up with the term LEARNacy – this is why I write a blog and Guy Claxton runs a “LEARNing Empire”. Guy’s concept is, for me, at the heart of what TEACHing is all about – and it does not just take his 4R’s. LEARNacy is concept we have to “live” – and role-model. After all, it is the very reason we have teachers, isn’t it?


We talk a great deal about “critical thinking” in education (it is at the centre of almost all disciplines in our institutions and also hard-wired into most models of 21C education) – but teachers have to be “critical thinking doers”.

Critical literacy (in non-literary usage) connects more dots than we can shake a stick at – from analysis to adaptation, from applying creativity to solve very real problems to transforming ourselves, from going it alone to working with others. It’s about using the right questions to get the right forms of productivity – and doing the “right thing”.


Questioning lies at the heart of critical literacy – and questioning what we do, how we do it and what others tell us what we should be doing is what great teachers do. The same is true for our learners – if we want them to become “critical thinkers” (better still – “critical thinking doers”) they must also be LEARNed to become “critical consumers” of what we “do”.

The challenge is, of course, that LEARNing and LEARNacy are not, like tomatoes (thanks Krissy) or coal, something that can be “delivered” – neither is critical literacy!

Tell me again why we pay teachers so little!


However, both LEARNacy and Critical Literacy need to be lived at the level of feelings and emotions – teaching is, after all, the personification of “emotional work”. Teachers have to be amazingly “savvy” in terms of:

  • What they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • What they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • How they improve and grow with what they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?

This is why social awareness and empathy play such a critical role in the way we manage our relationships in education – and why we love our “sons”!


OMG – just had the shock of me life…Bach just jumped in with his “Toccata in D Minor”! 

Bloody iTunes!


The human literacies are very different to the “technological or digital literacies” (and fluencies) we talk about so much today – and it is fair to ask:

Can technology help us do “more” with these most human of literacies?


But, that’s for another daywhen there’s nowt on the telly!