With new technology comes new literacies

Earlier this month, I posted a feature about learning via video games in the classroom. Within, I argued that video games can present the same materials we find worthy of education in a new and different format. Citing the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) page on “Multimodal Literacies and Technology”, I crafted the beginning of a research project that I’ll be embarking upon. I felt, however, inclined to pen a new case for art to further my argument. You can read my initial feature here.

The last segment that I referenced in my feature spoke about how, with the addition of new literacies, students (all people, really) must acquire new means with which to understand and interpret these new methods of communication. One can understand the ideology behind such a statement – how many know technologically impaired relatives? How difficult has it become to communicate with those who don’t understand the intricacies of cell phones or texting or even those who struggle with something as simple (that we perceive, anyway) as e-mail? Furthermore, how difficult is it for those individuals to communicate in a world that is ever shifting and perpetually trending toward heavy technology usage. Hell, according to the Pew Research Center, 59% of surveyed people believe online dating sites is a good way to meet/date new people (“5 Facts About Online Dating”).

Now that I’ve hopefully re-established the necessity for understanding how to wield new literacies, I’ll dive back into utilizing games in the classroom.

According to the NCTE, a “declaration concerning the unique capacities and challenges of digital form” is that:

There are increased cognitive demands on the audience to interpret the intertextuality of communication events that include combinations of print, speech, images, sounds, movement,music,and animation. Products may blur traditional lines of genre, author/audience, and linear sequence.

With this question in mind, it becomes evident that schools need to teach skills that allow students to be capable of dealing with media literacy, different forms of rhetoric (visual and aural rhetorics, according to the NCTE), and critical literacy (which is, at least in the state of Ohio, already a part of state standards). Still, media literacy and visual/aural rhetorics (means of advertisement, say) is something that young adults need to understand – and often have a better grasp than their elders.

But if we stay on the topic of aural rhetoric for a moment and apply it to the likes of gaming (following in the idea that they can be used in the classroom), visual and aural rhetorics remain. In the sense of advertising, aural rhetorics can be used to sway the mind into feeling certain ways when a product is explained (“Multi-modal Literacies and Technology”). Likewise, in video games, sound is equally important in conveying meaning. That’s why soundtracks for games like I am Setsuna or Nier are so incredible; they convey, sometimes more so than the game itself, emotions, themes, etc. Then there’s visual rhetoric. Purdue Owl English defines visual rhetoric as “anything from the use of images as an argument, to the arrangement of elements on a page for rhetorical effect, to the use of typography (fonts), and more” (“Visual Rhetoric: Overview”). Consider, then, how video games are filled with visual rhetoric through each of these quoted talking points.

We can go further into detail on visual and aural rhetoric later. What I’d like to really push across in this feature is that schools are handcuffed, at the moment, in regards to instruction and the new literacies. It is often argued that school sits in an archaic state of mind, and to many extents, I agree. Standardized testing is vilified, too, and is said to not be an adequate judge of how much students know (I do agree that it isn’t an adequate reflection on how teachers teach, however), but a hefty majority of workplace fields require various forms of standardized testing (CPA exam for accountants, ARE exam for architects, Praxis exams for educators, forms of insurance exams for insurance agents, and more). If anything, requiring a student to pass a standardized test to pass high school, like we have in Ohio, isn’t actually a terrible thing; it, at the least, prepares them for a possible future (since 77% of students at my particular high school continue on to college).

The issue with new literacies is that there is no comprehensive curriculum developed that can be easily implemented into schools – nationwide. Additionally, most curricula developers have a lesser understanding of new literacies than students themselves, which would, most likely, create an irrelevant set of standards or curriculum. In turn, irrelevant classes would, probably, cause low enrollment, which would spell an inevitable end for the program before it had a chance to succeed. But I’ll dive into this at a further date.

All of this information is just, as the cliche goes, food for thought. As I continue to piece together these features, the more I want to push for reformation. In fact, my educational plan, at this moment, is to attain a masters in English or Administration and a doctorate in curriculum development or, if possible, multi-modal literacies. My hope is to develop a widely accepted and adaptable set of, at the minimum, language arts standards that could be used across the nation (at the very least, throughout Ohio). It is something that needs to be done, and it is something that must be completed with haste.


[NCTE: http://www.ncte.org/governance/MultimodalLiteracies]

[Pew Research: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/29/5-facts-about-online-dating/]

[Ohio ELA Standards: https://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Ohio-s-New-Learning-Standards/English/ELA-Standards.pdf.aspx]

[Purdue Owl English on Rhetorics: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/691/01/]