The Brave New Literacy World


It is hard to define new literacies. It covers digital media that is relatively new and quickly transforming. Acknowledging this evolutionary nature is crucial in understanding it. It is important to understand what is new about the literacy type and what is the same. For example, wikipedia in many senses is the same as a conventional encyclopaedia; however its construction and collaborative nature of information is what’s new. (Houtman, 2013).

New literacy is not just new technology, like the internet, but also encompasses a new ethos. Social networking and youtube has given birth to an enviroment where people are empowered to be content creaters for a mass audience that also has commercial benefit to buisness. This shows how broadly new literacies can be understood. (Lankshear & Knobel 2012).

We are approaching a paradigm where students may be able to take more of a leadership role within the classroom (Houtman, 2013). This is because not all teachers will be able to keep up with the ever changing landscape of new media. Students who are growing up with these changes, may have more of a grip on the environment. Rather than being scared of an antiquated knowledge of literacy, teachers can use this as an opportunity to empower students as leaders and knowledge providers in the classroom; in the same way that mash-up videos on youtube are empowering media consumers to become content creators.

This does not mean that there is not a role for teachers to help students deconstruct meaning in understanding new literacy. The below “The Media Show” episode about Greenwashing is a great example of how new media can be taught to a class. It looks at how, through advertisements, companies can present an image about themselves that may not reflect reality. It shows how comedy and puppets can be used on a medium like youtube to convey meaning to large group of people (over 12,000 in this case). It also shows how even ads you watch on TV can be understood and analysed as literacies. Perhaps show the class some of those advertisements and ask them what they think before showing them “The Media Show” episode. Watch the episode below and give your ideas on how it could be used in the classroom, or post any videos that can also be helpful to explore new literacies!


Houtman, E. (2013). New literacies, learning, and libraries: How can frameworks from other fields help us think about the issues? In the Library with the Lead Pipe.  Retrieved from Accessed February 14th, 2014

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2012). ‘New’literacies: technologies and values. Teknokultura. Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Sociales, 9(1), 45-71.  Retrieved from Accessed February, 2014


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