Sunday, March 30, 2014

Literacy, Geo-literacy!

The traditional definition of literacy is: “Literacy is the ability to read and write”.  However in our modern technological society the concept of literacy is expanding to include the ability to function in a wide variety of contexts and areas of human endeavour and disciplines. It is not unusual to hear educators talking about scientific literacy, financial literacy, media literacy, visual literacy, spatial literacy and geo-literacy, to name just a few. Interestingly the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority in their overview has limited their definition to:

“In the Australian Curriculum, students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating…”

However the actual ACARA Geography curriculum does go further with the concept of literacy and gives credence to the idea of geo-literacy when it states:

“In Geography, students develop literacy capability as they learn how to build geographical knowledge and understanding and how to explore, discuss, analyse and communicate geographical information, concepts and ideas. They use a wide range of informational and literary texts, for example, interviews, reports, stories, photographs and maps, to help them understand the places that make up our world, learning to evaluate these texts and recognising how language and images can be used to make and manipulate meaning. They learn to comprehend and compose graphical and visual texts through working with maps, diagrams, photographs and remotely sensed and satellite images.”

Such geo-literacy is developing quite a following in the United States through the work of the National Geographical Society. 

" In our modern, globally interconnected society, it is more important than ever that people understand the world around them. For that reason, National Geographic is committed to advancing geo-literacy in the U.S. and around the world."  National Geographic 2014 aficionado, Seth Dixon has put together an interesting article on geo-literacy which contains some great short videos on geo-literacy from the National Geographic. Click here to view the article and videos.  

As Seth says in his article:

“Students are not simply passive recipients of learning that is transmitted to them; students can actively shape what they learn.  However, if we can create an environment that promotes and encourages higher-order thinking, we can help our students see their role in shaping a new world–that is our goal in promoting geo-literacy.”

and ... 

Whilst talking about the Australian Curriculum: Geography and the reasons why geography is so important for student capacity building,  the video introduction to the curriculum may be worth a look on the ACARA site. 

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