Sunday, June 08, 2008

21 century skillsets: the new literacy

Almost no one in the traditional education world, in both K-12 schools and higher educational institutions, has noticed the new literacy.

Not only is there a necessity to be more generally technically literate, but

the educated person of today must be able to read, write and express thoughts in a variety of technology-based media

MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld notices “From a combination of passion and inventiveness I sense that students are reinventing literacy. Literacy has been boiled down to reading and writing, but the means have changed since the Renaissance. In a very real sense post-digital literacy now includes 3D machining and microcontroller programming.” (Source: a paraphrase of Gershenfeld's Edge interview)

This should really be extended to say that the new literacy includes expression in traditional writing and in computer software, 3d printing, virtual worlds, video games, synthetic biology and visual storytelling.

Does everyone have to excel at expressing themselves in each of these media? No, but the most effective people are able to communicate through multiple forms of media.

An interesting analysis would be in evaluating the types of expression that are possible in each of the media. How is the same idea different in writing, in software, in 3d animation? Which media are better in which cases? Imagine the assignment to create a representation of yourself through biology, by assembling DNA sequences for different actions from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts database.

There has never been such an explosion of venues for creativity and self-expression. The result is very exciting – a richer interconnectedness of humanity and a new level of collaboration opportunities as more people can now connect through their user-generated content.

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