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What You Need to Know About Multiple Literacies and Homeschooling

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We’d played for five minutes, tops. My onscreen character spent the entire time walking in circles and staring up into the sky or straight at the ground. Josh quickly realized that I had not overstated my ineptness at video games. My eight-year-old reached over, removed the controller from my hands, and said gently, “Maybe you should just watch me play, Mom.

Yeah, my digital literacy is severely lacking, at least as far as gaming is concerned.

What You Need to Know About Multiple Literacies and Homeschooling

For most of us, being literate means we can read and write. However, the term literacy has expanded to encompass the many ways in which we receive and share information. Today, educators recognize the importance of multiple literacies.

Types of Literacy

With the expansion of the term literacy, currently four main types are recognized.

Textual

Textual literacy is the most similar to a traditional view of literacy. It refers to a person’s ability to understand and express themselves through written communication. This includes books and magazines, personal and professional documents, and websites.

However, textual literacy is more than just being able to read and write. True literacy includes the ability to analyze and evaluate the information.

Visual

Visual literacy isn’t foreign to most homeschooling families, especially those who include Charlotte Mason style picture study in their lessons. It consists of the ability to understand, interpret, and express oneself through images, symbols, infographics, photographs, and videos.

The ability to express themselves visually doesn’t mean that all kids will become artists. It does mean that they need to know how to do things like creating an effective PowerPoint or video presentation.

Intelligence manifests in many ways.

Digital

Digital literacy is vital in today’s technologically-saturated world. It includes the ability to locate, interpret, and analyze information obtained through digital sources. These sources include the Internet, smartphones, and, yes, even video games.

Digital literacy doesn’t mean merely knowing how to use these devices. It also means knowing how to evaluate the information obtained from them and assess its credibility.

Technological

Technological literacy goes hand-in-hand with digital literacy. It refers to a person’s ability to use digital media  (social media, texts, and websites) safely, ethically, and responsibly.

Kids should know how to protect their privacy, interact online safely and respectfully, and understand and obey copyright laws.

Why We Need to Integrate Multiple Literacies in Our Homeschools

Most homeschooling families have a good handle on the integration of textual and visual literacy. We’re reading and writing, analyzing literature, and doing picture study during tea time.

However, we get a little shaky when it comes to digital and technological literacy. Especially those of us who are a bit older. We may not see the need for our kids to have smartphones. Perhaps we’re uncomfortable with social media. Maybe we think our kids need to practice their beautiful cursive writing skills on reports and essays.

The fact is that technology is changing the way we live and work no matter how we may feel about it. It’s not enough to equip our kids with specific skill sets anymore. The skills they need change almost faster than we can teach them. Instead, we must prepare our kids for a changing workforce.

We’re already good at teaching our kids how to learn and instilling a life-long love of learning. However, we need to make sure that how to learn includes technology and digital media. These literacies are going to impact our kids’ lives whether we like it or not.

And, don’t think you’re off the hook just because your kid has the latest smartphone and is active on social media. Although our kids are digital natives (people born in the information age), they may not be fully literate when it comes to technology. Donald Lue of the University of Connecticut’s New Literacies Research Lab noted that today’s students demonstrate a very low proficiency in online research and comprehension, even in guided exercises.

How to Integrate Multiple Literacies in Your Homeschool

We must prepare our kids to work and live in a digital world. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we should focus only on multiple literacies. Who knows what’s going to happen in the future? It’s also wise to make sure our kids know how to cook, garden, sew, and take care of their basic needs without technology.

However, don’t miss opportunities to teach your kids how to use technology and how to do so effectively, safely, and responsibly.

Make sure that they know how to assess a site’s credibility and an author’s bias and how to protect their privacy.

Impress on them the need to be mindful of their digital footprint and how it may affect future opportunities.

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Tips for integrating multiple literacies in your homeschool:

  • Assign a semester-long or year-long research project on your child’s choice of topic. Guide him in doing online research and in using digital media (Mircosoft products such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint or Google products such as Docs, Sheets, and Slides) to prepare a multimedia presentation of his work.
  • Encourage your students to create and edit videos (using movie editing software) instead of written presentations.
  • Let your tween or teen start a blog or YouTube channel (Use this opportunity to teach him online etiquette and safety guidelines.)
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Engage in social media (following age restrictions and safety guidelines)
  • Allow gaming time (Capitalize on the educational value of gaming, particularly games such as Minecraft.)

We’ve done a couple of things that I’ve found particularly helpful. First, I have Megan type her writing assignment rough drafts in a shared Google Doc. I use the “add a comment” feature to suggest edits, and she uses them to write her final draft.

What You Need to Know About Multiple Literacies and Homeschooling

Second, we’re using a shared Google Sheet for Megan’s assignments. That has been fantastic! I can add assignments from my laptop and she accesses them on hers. She highlights the assignments as she completes them and hides rows for completed weeks.

The best part is that I’m showing the kid who helps me use my phone how to use Google Docs and Sheets. Honestly, I was surprised at Megan’s unfamiliarity with them. Both are a vital part of my daily workflow. I’m thankful for the opportunity to increase her digital literacy in practical ways at home.

Have you read much on multiple literacies? How do you incorporate them in your homeschool?

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One Comment

  1. This is a GREAT article. So clearly lays out a way to train the use of the tools of the day, without abandoning the values of old.
    Our first home computer arrived in 1991, and the whole family learned together. Optional skills, like typing, then became core skills. Yet, it still has not replaced the need for pen and paper. It’s not an issue of either/or, but of both/and.
    We must incorporate the old AND new ways to become truly literate.

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