February 22, 2008

Scotland's Literacy: true excellence for the 21st Century

 Those long-awaited outcomes for Literacy in Scotland's new Curriculum for Excellence are released today by Learning and Teaching Scotland for consultation. At first glance you may be disappointed with what appears to be a rather narrow definition of literacy: no mention of 'new literacies', a phrase that emanates nearly exclusively from my US blog feeds, and no distinct mention of t'Internet or television in the outcomes themselves.

However, it's all there: sense of audience, distinction between information sources, information gathering, information presentation and purpose of writing, seeking regular reading for pleasure of a certain calibre. The real beef comes in the 'Cover Paper', and its definition of 'texts':

novels, short stories, plays, poems, reference texts, the spoken word, charts, maps, graphs and timetables, advertisements, promotional leaflets, comics, newspapers and magazines, CVs, letters and e-mails, films, games and TV programmes, labels, signs and posters, recipes, manuals and instructions, reports and reviews, text messages, blogs and social networking sites, web pages, catalogues and directories.
(emphasis added)

I don't know any other curriculum (though I'd love to be corrected) that states in black and white that teachers must help their students understand how to read Social Networks, blogs, games, comics - the whole panoply of literature young 21st Century citizens read. It's a great lead for Scotland.

The problems, if there are to be any, will lie in any potential narrow interpretation by teachers, those who feel that they can 'get away with' not looking at how we 'read' SNSs and blogs. Should that happen, then we will be stuck in the 19th Century. Disastrous, potentially. I don't think that will happen, though, having been heartened by the Schools and Skills Minister's statement this morning:

"We teach children how to understand, analyse and communicate using words on paper and rightly so. We're not going to stop that - indeed we want people to be properly equipped with better literacy skills.
"At the same time, of course, we get our news and information more from TV and the internet than from the newspaper. We communicate through email and text messaging and social networking more than writing letters."
                                                                                                (emphasis added)

I'm proud to have been part of the small but persistent team within Learning and Teaching Scotland who, for the past three years, has been pecking away at the definition of Literacy. But I'm also proud of a burgeoning section of the profession here in Scotland who have taken to the blogosphere and made sure their voice is heard by those writing the curriculum, and that whatever definition of Literacy we come to, that it is one which will stand the test of time.

On that point, these guidelines might fall over in five years' time, when perhaps something even more seductive will have taken the place of SNSs and blogs as we know them. But then, we should be revisiting this curriculum well before then.


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Just in the process of printing these for faculty. pleased to see that finally the outcomes for Gaelic Fluent Speakers are the same as the English outcomes - simililarly Gaelic learners and MFL match up. Makes it easier much easier!

Delighted to see the recognition of all the different types of literacy. I hope there will be the same emphasis on the skills needed to access such a variety of sources.

Thanks to Ewan and his colleagues for the work on getting them recognised.

In what way is "reading" a game different from a poem?

I think this is the grestest challenge for teachers of literacy, they have all grown up reading and ultimately studying literature which has been created and defined many decades and centuries ago.

Where do they go to find the study, theory and curriculum of these new literacies?

Where does aCfE provide a framework or toolkit to assist teachers in addressing these challenges?

Similarly we are assuming that oral presentations can be done as podcasts, videos etc - that they don't have to be "stand up in front of the class and present" - the idea of presentations in the language outcomes do specifically mention ICT.

@Kenneth - your point is perfectly valid. I hope that feedback from others points to this, as it validates the revamp of ICT in Education, SLF website and Connected Live that we're proposing at the moment to LTS. Hopefully the ICT in Ed site will provide ample examples and 'howtos' for those who want them, while the SLF will give people that F2F opportunity to learn more. As for Connected Live, it will hopefully serve at finding more current examples of people walking this particular talk.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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