The New New Literacy

I read this article last week and used it in an argument I found myself in over here. While I often, in conversation with teachers, bemoan the good old days and pretend that I think my students are a bunch of illiterate heathens, the truth is that I come down more on the side of Clive Thompson than Fish. I honestly do feel that today’s teens live in a more text-rich world than the one in which I received my education. The difference is that their writing and reading has become much more conversational and informal. This conversational usage of text encourages today’s writers towards abbreviations, slang, and shorthand, because they’re often using text in the place of face-to-face verbal conversations. The trick, here, is to teach students to move between their “registers” (to borrow some Ruby Payne terminology) of language in a fluid and effective manner. This ability, to move freely from one register to the next depending on audience and setting, represents a true mastery of literacy in my eyes.


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