New Media Literacies? Please.

This post began as a comment to The New Media Literacies by Susan Carter Morgan over at scmorgan: teacher, learner, which, by the way, is my addition to the One Comment Project (#OCP) for today.

I have a hard time with the term ‘media literacies’. These aren’t literacies. Plain and simple. They are tools and networks. So often literacy is confused with context and tools.

Why does this matter?
Because when people start to talk about tools and context as literacy they shift their focus to the tools rather than keeping their eyes on the big picture.

We see schools, teachers, districts seeking out technology for their schools and classrooms and then we end up with computer labs that aren’t used because many teachers don’t know how to manage learning in a computer lab yet. Or interactive white boards (big expensive smart boards) that are used to enhance lecture because teachers don’t know what else to do with them yet. Or professional development that advocates for the use of social networking in classrooms within schools whose IT departments ban social networking sites on the school’s network.

As Angela recently wrote in Needing a Framework to Facilitate Learning,

It’s impossible to make choices around tech tools until we understand where we need to support kids better as learners and create plans for accomplishing that. These plans have to be systemic in nature in order to effect change. This requires expertise in so much more than technology.

This is a theme I’ve been writing and talking about for a long time. What I am happy about is that lately I am seeing more and more blog posts, like Angela’s, around the same ideas. What ideas? That we need to focus on professional development. That we need to re-connect teachers with their passion for teaching in order to clear the path for change in how they teach. In order to re-connect teachers with the children in their classrooms and their needs and in order to teach teachers the skills they need to answer to these needs in a collaborative, systematic, systemic, mindful way.

Literacy is about understanding the world around us through symbols that are used to create meaning, mainly through text and the various ways text is presented. We can do that through a variety of hard and soft tools. But the big picture for us teachers is how we will use the tools at our disposal to help our students develop their literate selves.