What has happened to Literacy Skills in the Digital Age?

“Students don’t need to spell any more. Autocorrect does it all!”

It certainly appears that young people do not have to master spelling, grammatical construction or retain any information as they have easy access to search engines that are becoming increasing able to interpret any phrase in common language which is entered. The sophistication of digital devices now bears no resemblance to the early computers found in schools in the 1980s.

I would argue, however, that students today have need of higher levels of literacy than ever before. There are three very practical reasons for this:

  1. People are hit by waves of information as soon as we open email, let alone wade through the information, opinion, conjecture and down-right rubbish found on the web. Students need to know how to manage and use social media for good: information sharing, persuasion and promotion. The need to discern opinion from fact and bias from a well- rounded, considered and balanced perspective (which has been built on consideration of a range of points of view and research) are needed as people deal with all media forms.
  2. The workforce still requires people who can talk, argue and write fluently and with a broad range of vocabulary. In the workforce our students will enter, the chances are that they will need to do this with more speed and to a broader audience than ever before. They will need to discern and make decisions - faster.
  3. The most immediate and practical reason is that, across Australia, students are required to not only work collaboratively but also work independently:  to learn, retain and apply information, to then retrieve and write or perform in examination situations. The recent QCAA changes to senior curriculum and assessment in Queensland have now enabled our senior students to achieve an ATAR which is built on rigorous assessment processes that require highly developed literacy skills.

The three reasons stated above have formed a platform for the ongoing development of Information Services at the College, including our digital library services and the embedded education for students in how to research, summarise and study.

Our Acting Director of Digital Services, Mrs Jenny Grant, has written an article this week explaining the introduction of 'Smart Search' through our Digital Library. I encourage all parents to read this and to delve into the Digital Library to explore how students are educated to become astute researchers in readiness for tertiary study.

Mrs Adele Guy