My view on Literacy

One_Laptop_per_Child_at_Kagugu_Primary_School,_Kigali,_Rwanda-19Sept2009
Image from Rory Cellan

While working with children of Grade 7, I understood the need for them to engage in literacy not just via the traditional pen and paper but also through digital media. Lets face it – our children are digital natives. They engage with technology more readily and with far more enthusiasm. In return, it helps them build creativity, imagination and visual recall.

Technology may be an essential element of new age literacy, however after being in the classrooms and looking at the learning trends for children, I firmly believe that writing is still a core need for learning and a step towards higher standard of literacy. With writing, children not only gain an in depth understanding of the concept but are also able to articulate with precision. During assessments children who were in the habit of writing were able to present their answers much better and their understanding of the concepts was also more visible. This habit will definitely be an advantage in this era of globalization, where proper communication is a necessity when dealing with culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

Sadly, with shorthand and acronyms from social media spilling over into daily usage, it is the quality of written content that is suffering. Not only has our spoken language been “chutneyfied” as put by linguist Rita Kothari but even the written is being crucified. It is fashionable now to write Hindi in English, to punctuate with smileys instead of full stops, and to be pithy rather than precise. What is disturbing about this trend is the impact even on non-verbal communication. Just the other day, I overheard two children sharing a joke which culminated into an utterance of “LOL”. There was no trace of a smile on their faces. Emotional responses are getting acronymized along with the language.

headache
Image from xkcd

In this light, I would argue that we cannot lose sight of the 3Rs (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic) in the journey towards the 4Es (Engage, Explore, Explain, Evaluate). An emphasis on language would not be misplaced keeping in mind the constant onslaught of short form digital content. It is only by developing the habit of reading and writing that we can nurture articulate and effective communicators. The 21st century skills (critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information) cannot be gained without building a strong foundation of literacy.

Sunayna Uberoy, Alumnus, I Am A Teacher

 

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