Toward a Theory of New Literacies Emerging From the Internet and Other Information and Communication Technologies
Donald J. Leu, Jr.
Charles K. Kinzer
Dana W. Cammack
The essence of both reading and reading instruction is change. Reading a book changes us forever as we return from the worlds we inhabit during our reading journeys with new insights about our surroundings and ourselves. Teaching a student to read is also a transforming experience. It opens new windows to the world and creates a lifetime of opportunities. Change defines our work as both literacy educators and researchers—by teaching a student to read, we change the world.
Today, reading, reading instruction, and more broadly conceived notions of literacy and literacy instruction are being defined by change in even more profound ways as new technologies require new literacies to effectively exploit their potentials (Coiro, 2003; Kinzer & Leander, 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003; Leu, 2000a; Smolin & Lawless, 2003). These include technologies such as gaming software (Gee, 2003), video technologies (O'Brien, 2001), technologies that establish communities on the Internet (Chandler-Olcott & Mahar, 2003), search engines (Jansen, Spink, & Saracevic, 2000), webpages, and many more yet to emerge.
Moreover, these new literacies change regularly as technology opens new possibilities for communication and information. We see this happening today as people redefine literacy practices while they communicate on a chatboard associated with a website, talk to one another using a video cam, or participate in virtual reality role-playing games (Cammack, 2002; King & O'Brien, 2002; Kinzer, 2003; Lewis & Fabos, 1999). The ability to linguistically manipulate identity as well as the norms of conversation to fit these new electronic spaces has implications for both the development of language and conceptions of the role of technology (Crystal, 2001).
All of these practices impact our conceptions of literacy and, ultimately, influence the definitions of literacies in classrooms, at home, and at work. As more and more individuals use new technologies to communicate, these linguistic activities come to shape the ways in which we view and use language and literacy. Most important, new literacies, whether intentionally or unintentionally, impact literacy instruction in classrooms (Hagood, Stevens, & Reinking, 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003; Lewis & Finders, 2002).
Consider, for example, the changes experienced by students who graduate from secondary school this year. Their story teaches us an important lesson about our literacy future. Many graduates started their school career with the literacies of paper, pencil, and book technologies but will finish having encountered the literacies demanded by a wide variety of information and communication technologies (ICTs): Web logs (blogs), word processors, video editors, World Wide Web browsers, Web editors, e-mail, spreadsheets, presentation software, instant messaging, plug-ins for Web resources, listservs, bulletin boards, avatars, virtual worlds, and many others. These students experienced new literacies at the end of their schooling unimagined at the beginning. Given the increasingly rapid pace of change in the technologies of literacy, it is likely that students who begin school this year will experience even more profound changes during their own literacy journeys. Moreover, this story will be repeated again and again as new generations of students encounter yet unimagined ICTs as they move through school and develop currently unenvisioned new literacies.
Leu, Jr., D.J., Kinzer , C.K., Coiro, J., & Cammack, D.W. (2004).
Toward a Theory of New Literacies Emerging From the Internet and Other Information and Communication Technologies.
In R.B. Ruddell, & N.J. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (pp. 1570-1613). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.