My, was I grumpy when I wrote my last post.

I realise that my tirade about digital technologies was sparked by insecurity after reading lots of stuff for the Education2020 unconference.  (I was definitely in the Anger mode of the Grief/Change cycle and am now moving on to Bargaining!).

I fully embrace the notion of the 21st century learner who is empowered actively to construct her/his own knowledge and understanding. I also know that being literate in the traditional sense of the word increases opportunities today for the individual in all aspects of life. At times it feels as if these two positions are diametrically opposed. I think this is because many of the commentators have experience with older students and forget how important direct interactive teaching is when little ones are novice and emergent readers. Someone still has to teach the wains tae read.

To learn anything – especially something as unnatural as deciphering text – is tough. Sometimes repetitious, hard work, whose direct relevance is not immediately clear and which is not immediately entertaining, is necessary. And when this is so, teachers need to step in with encouragement, a varied diet of activities to develop automaticity, positive feedback and tremendous energy. This way, youngsters learn not just skills but also the dispositions that make them effective lifelong learners. Along with teaching the tools, of course, we make room for enjoyment and choice, finding and using information and creating texts. (CfE)

Only the most die hard of teachers wilfully ignore the benefits of technology (though there are a few). Only a few colleagues would disagree with anything that Stephen Hepple  says in the above clip. We all want to ‘make learning more delightful’. Most of us know that the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. (Alvin Toffler). 

 Bill Thompson is right when he writes: The phonetic alphabet separates the sound of a word from its meaning; and encodes that sound in symbols we call letters; and combines those symbols into hierarchical groupings called words, sentences, paragraphs and, ultimately, books. Digital technologies recombine those symbols with sound – enabling the instantaneous transmission of information from person to person across vast distances. Claims that newspapers, magazines and books have faded to shadows of their former selves, as a post-literate generation finds its facts and fun elsewhere, while true, do not absolve us of our responsibilities to ensure that children in our care today have access to print.

Primary teachers know that their pupils are entitled to access to new media, and that it is our job to help them develop the necessary skills to use these technologies with discrimination and to their advantage. And we still have a duty to teach reading, writing, talking and listening, to ensure our children are as literate in the traditional sense as in the broader (and most welcome) one defined in Curriculum for Excellence:

Literacy is the set of skills which allows an individual to engage fully in society and in learning, through the different forms of language, and the range of texts, which society values and finds useful.