New Literacies

New Literacies (digital literacies): online, messaging, sms, phones and computers. New Literacies combine letters, symbols, colours, sounds and graphics to extend language and the ways we communicate.

These diverse new literacies are often built around mobilizing information creation and exchange for relatedness purposes. Examples include: chat, IM, multiplayer online gaming of all kinds from role playing to first person shooter, blogging and photosharing.

Mobile Phones and SMS

Text messaging allows people to maintain social connections and social identity. Mobile phones are often a reflection of the individual. People can download their favourite tunes as phone ring tones, pictures or photos are used as wallpapers. Photos are stored, sent and shared amongst peers.


Blog (short for web log) is an online personal journal or diary. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.


Wikis are web pages designed to allow anyone who accesses the pages to modify or contribute to existing wiki pages. Wikipedia is a well-known wiki, it is an free online encyclopaedia. However, as it is easy for anyone to modify the content of it’s pages its reliability can be questionable.

Instant Messages (IMs)

Instant Messaging is a way of sending text virtually instantaneously from one computer to another. It is also referred to as ‘online chat’. Facebook and MSN Messenger are examples of instant messaging services.

Short Message Service (SMS)

A way of text communicating, usually through a mobile phone.

Playstation3 (PS3)

The video game console from Sony… The major features of the console include its multimedia capabilities for movies, TV, games and music. The main feature that distinguishes the Playstation 3 from previous games consoles is the ability to access online gaming community throough games such as Call of Duty and Gran Turismo; users can play against friends, strangers or can play co-op (playing on the same team against other people).

Apps (Application software)

Apps are computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks. There are applications that perform all sorts of tasks, examples are graphics software and media players. There are applications for accounting, office tools, lifestyle apps (e.g. Photo Sync – allows you to transfer multiple photos quickly and easily via the wireless network), entertainment apps, productivity apps (e.g. Doc Squared – this app acts as a miniature word-processing program, creating .Doc or .Docx files that can be read in Microsoft Word later. Users can also change font sizes, add indents or pictures, create numbered lists and then email the created document).

Some Popular Social Networking Websites, MySpace, Facebook and Flickr

Facebook is a social networking site where users can create a personal profile. They can add other users as friends and exchange private or public messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Users can also join common interest groups (such as ‘like’-ing music bands), organised by workplace, school, college. Facebook users can post photos, links to videos and websites.

The social network site allows anyone who declares themselves to be at least 13 years old to become a registered user of the website (this is problematic as there is not failsafe way of preventing teens under the age of 13 from creating an account by simply declaring themselves to be older than they really are).

The privacy settings for users allow them to restrict or open up their profile etc. for ‘only friends’ or ‘everyone’; to view.

 Flickr is a popular website for users to share personal photographs. The service is also widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media.

I agree with Jenkins (2005) comment that “children need a safe space within which they can master the skills they need as citizens and consumers, as they learn to parse through messages from self-interested parties and separate fact from falsehood as they begin to experiment with new forms of creative expression and community participation” (p. 16). Currently schools block access to social networking sites (such as Facebook and MySpace) as well as sites like YouTube. Jenkins (2005) suggests that the inability of schools system’s to close the participation gap has negative consequences for everyone involved:

On the one hand, those youth who are most advanced in media literacies are often stripped of their technologies and robbed of their best techniques for learning in an effort to ensure a uniform experience for all in the classroom.

On the other hand, many youth who have had no exposure to these new kinds of participatory cultures outside school find themselves struggling to keep up with their peers.

What is not discussed here is the negative impact that personal comments made on social networking sites can have on relationships in the real world

Their writing is much more open to the public and can have more far-reaching consequences. The young people are creating new modes of expression that are poorly understood by adults, and as a result they receive little to no guidance or supervision. Young people are discovering that information they put online to share with their friends can bring unwelcome attention from strangers.

In casual settings, there is rarely a body to police what information is shared in online communities. It is left to young people (teens) to decide what they should or should not post about themselves or their friends on social networking websites. “Different online communities have their own norms about what information should remain within the group and what can be circulated more broadly, and many sites depend on self-disclosure to police whether the participants are children or adults” (Jenkins, 2005, p. 16); many young people seem willing to lie to access those communities. For example, there is an age restriction on Facebook, however users are easily able to navigate around this to become part of the community by lying about their age.

Michael Schrage (cited in Lankshear & Knobel, 2006) argued that the greatest impact that the internet and other digital technologies “have had and will continue to have, is on relationships between people and between organisations” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006, p. 12).

What is important to my students about being ‘on Facebook’ (being part of the Facebook community) is largely about how many ‘friends’ you have; the more friends you have the better off you are even if those friends are acquaintances or strangers. Using the site allows them to keep up with the ‘goss’ and stay connected to their friends.

 I believe it is crucial for teachers to incorporate these new literacies into classroom practice across a range of subject areas in order to engage students who may be otherwise disengaged for whatever reason (be it boredom or low literacy skills) and to develop students skills as critical thinkers, rather than – as Lankshear & Knobel (2006) term it, mere consumers of these innovations.