A great deal has changed since I was in school. I vividly remember getting a TANDY laptop from my parents when I graduated high school. It was a considerable upgrade from the Apple IIe that we all shared in the guest room. I was mesmerized by the black screen with orange text, the fact that I didn’t have to toil over an electric typewriter anymore. Simplistic games were also available that I could now play without being tied to a desktop monitor or television set. Even though it didn’t connect to the Internet, as I believe it either had not been invented or was readily available yet, this was my first foray in becoming literate in a bold new world.
As disruptive forces continually reshape and influence the world we all live in, being literate is of utmost importance. For a long time, the term has referred to the ability to read and write. While without question this is still accurate, we must expand our view and recognize that literacy also corresponds to competence or knowledge in a specified area. UNESCO provides a relevant description below:
Beyond its conventional concept as a set of reading, writing, and counting skills, literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich, and fast-changing world.
Future-proofing learning is contingent upon a focus on developing competencies as opposed to just skills. I shared the following in Disruptive Thinking:
Skills focus on the “what” in terms of the abilities a student needs to perform a specific task or activity. Competencies take this to the next level by translating skills into behaviors that demonstrate what has been learned and mastered in a competent fashion. In short, skills identify what the goal is to accomplish. Competencies outline “how” the goals and objectives will be accomplished. They are more detailed and define the requirements for success in broader, more inclusive terms than skills do. To succeed in the new world of work, students will need to demonstrate the right mix of skills, knowledge, mindsets, and on-the-job ability. A skill is a practical or cognitive demonstration of what a student can do. Competency is the proven use of skills, knowledge, and abilities to illustrate mastery of learning by solving problems.
Learners of today, and tomorrow for that matter, need to be able to replace conventional ideas with innovative solutions to authentic problems. Ownership and empowerment result when we create meaningful opportunities for kids to explore, interact, design, and create in real-world contexts while being about to think disruptively. A pivotal question for any educator, school, district, or organization to ask is how is this being achieved, or where do we begin? To bring more clarity to the concept of developing a literate learner I created the following chart in Disruptive Thinking.
The chart identifies five key Learner Mindsets that will help learners prosper now and in the future. Beneath each of the five overarching mindsets are five more specific Learner Behaviors our students need to acquire now and continue to refine tomorrow and throughout their learning and living journey. To what extent are you developing the mindsets and behaviors depicted above within your learners?