What are New Literacies?

New literacies refers to the constantly changing and evolving nature of literacy to adapt within a context. In the current context, it involves digital media and technology as a platform for communication and literary practices (Houtman, 2013). The term ‘new’ here is not static but refers to the transformative nature of literacy. Where literacy once meant the ability to read and write, ‘new literacy’ includes a greater understanding of digital literacy practices.

A key aspect of new literacy is multimodal representation and its implications for us as future educators. Where text was largely print-based before, the rise of digital technology has combined image and text together in the publishing process (Lankshear & Noble, 2012, p. 51, 55). The curriculum now demands literacy to go beyond reading and writing to the use of media like film, powerpoint, podcasts, blogs, and interactive technologies like smartboards and iPads, to equip students for the digital world they grow up in.

New literacy flows from new technology and sociocultural change (Houtman, 2013). Children in primary schools today may never know what a blackboard looks like, albeit in its online version. Having grown up in an age where a pocket-sized device has the capacity to communicate, access information, take photos/videos and organise life in a swipe, and where the answers to any queries are but a Google away, children must be able to adapt to these sociocultural trends. This puts the responsibility on us as teachers to allow opportunities for students to gain knowledge and skills of different representational modes involving digital media. Along with this, we have to keep in step with what constitutes ‘new literacy’ before we can teach children to use it optimally.


Houtman, E. (2013). New literacies, learning, and libraries: How can frameworks from other fields help us think about the issues? In the Library with the Lead Pipe.  Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2013/new-literacies-learning-and-libraries-how-can-frameworks-from-other-fields-help-us-think-about-the-issues/

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2012). ‘New’literacies: technologies and values. Teknokultura. Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Sociales, 9(1), 45-71.  Retrieved from http://everydayliteracies.net/files/RemixTeknokulturaEnglish.pdf