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4 modern literacies students need to learn in school

The educational system needs to change and adapt to new challenges faster than it does. This urgent need for change has been recognized by simple people and professional experts both inside and outside our schools for decades.

In order for our students to be successful citizens of tomorrow, schools have to prepare them for the world of tomorrow, not for that of today, and especially not for that that the educational system was created for. There may be a high degree of uncertainty in terms of how our world will be when our students will lead it, but one thing is for sure: those that won’t keep up with change, won’t keep up at all.

We are already living in a rapidly evolving, complex, and unpredictable world. Technology advancements amaze and impress us more often than we could have imagined just a decade ago. The needs of society are different than they were in the past. All these reasons cry for educational renewal.

This unprecedented global change should be like a flashing led sign for everyone that the educational system needs to go beyond its traditional focus on discipline, standardization and conformity, towards innovative practices and modern literacies.

4 Modern literacies students need to master

Students today still need to be able to read, write and perform mathematical calculations at a high level. However, this alone is no longer enough because these skills and processes are being fundamentally transformed by the ever-changing nature of the world and the increasing demand for new modern literacy practices.

Here are four modern literacies students need to learn during their school education:

  1. Applying intrapersonal and interpersonal skills

    Students need to learn how to get to know themselves first, and then how to interact with others, no matter how much diversity they encounter on these journeys.

    There are plenty of situations that happen at school — whether we’re talking about the physical building or the corresponding virtual classroom — that make students feel many emotions on the emotional spectrum. They may feel happy when they know an answer to a difficult question, they may feel stressed when they try to cheat, they may feel anger or disappointment when one wrong answer to a test makes the difference between a passing grade and a failing one. Identifying these emotions is the first step in managing them. This is indeed an introspective exercise that even adults may not do perfectly, but teachers can offer some degree of support.

    The peers in the classroom act like a tribe for a student, and school provides the best way for developing adults to not only learn how to interact with other people and their opinions, but to master this skill.

  2. Mastering problem solving skills

    If I were to hold a presentation on this topic, I would ask people in the audience to raise their hands if they think they have an easy life. No matter where in the world I’d be holding the presentation, I doubt there will be many hands up in the air. Problems are everywhere. Life is not supposed to be easy. We need to solve problems.

    Therefore students need to master the ability to solve problems, both on their own and working in teams, and they should get to the point where they can do that while putting to good use their creative and innovative skills. Learning activities in the classroom, either physically interactive or online, can be designed to nurture and develop these abilities.

  3. Using diverse communication techniques and tools

    Technology advancements and technology have made the world a smaller place. We can travel anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, not months. Businesses of all sizes are global; they have access to and employ a global talent. Continents and time zones are rather inconveniences than insurmountable obstacles.

    If we already live in a global world, our students will only continue to do so. And being a great communicator is a great skill to get from as an early age as possible.

    Not only will they have to adapt to cultural differences when collaborating with other people, but they will have to communicate effectively by using a range of traditional and digital media. Face-to-face conversations are the best, but being part of global team may mean web conferencing tools are very useful. Students can get acquainted with these through the educational technology that is used in more and more classrooms.

  4. Being a righteous digital citizen

    Finally, there’s no doubt the online part of our lives will not disappear any time soon. Most likely, it will continue to develop and cover more of our activities than now. Digital citizenship is already a hot topic in many schools, which is a good thing. Everyone needs to learn how to be a good digital citizen.

    Students need to identify reliable sources of information, avoid online risks and flag up anything that doesn’t seem right. They need to develop the ability to consistently demonstrate the attributes of an ethical, informed and contributing citizen.

    This may be a challenge, considering that many educators themselves could use some training on this topic. However, perhaps everyone can get together and learn together about it.

Final thoughts

These modern literacies — applying intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, mastering problem solving skills, using diverse communication techniques and tools and being a righteous digital citizen — require fundamentally different ways of teaching, learning, and assessment than traditional education provides now.

The good news is that teacher development is currently on the radar for many educational institutions and this means hope. Educational leaders need to understand all aspects of the learning organization and effectively manage the continuous improvement cycle.

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