What Freedom Does Literacy Offer in Globalised Society

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What freedom does literacy offer in globalised society It is so easy for us to say that literacy is the most powerful tool at our disposal to give us freedom of speech, freedom of action and freedom of life. It is more complicated a question to ask what is literacy. In this age of technological advancement, the questions of literacy is continually expanding. From doing the most medial tasks, to trying to convince a nation that the words that are being expressed can be converted to action, the way we use literacy continually develops.

We can no longer see literacy as being literate, or illiterate, but must look upon literacy as a way of expression through not only words and writing, but all other avenues of media that are at our disposal. I will look at how literacy gives us freedom in a globalised world through the understanding of different cultures, the use of technology and the literacy tools at our disposal. As Nakamura (2002, p. 64) expressed, “Globalisation is neither the convergence of westernisation nor Americanisation. What this means is that we must look broader than just Western Europe, or the United States to see what globalisation is, and if we want to have true freedom, we must then understand and work with the cultures that surround us. Victoria is an example with its “thriving multicultural society. Our population hails from over 230 nations, speaks 180 languages and dialects and follows more than 116 religions” (Department of Education and Early Childhood, 2009). With the ease of travel, and vastness of communication we can no longer live in a monolingual and monocultural society. The world is rapidly changing and multifaceted.

With this rapid change, the 1 opportunity arises to educate our students to be a part of this change. It is impossible to have a full understanding of all these different cultures, let alone the differences in culture within this. The task would be made even more impossible without the help of literacy, in its many forms. So what is Literacy exactly? Long have the days past that literacy can be expressed beyond simple printed literacy. There have so many forums of literacy to express ourselves, and we can use these different forums to express different purposes and in different context.

Literacy can be expressed by reading the newspaper from print or online, listening to the newspaper on the internet and watching stories interactively. We can use literacy to express our views on news stories in so many different ways. We can create blogs and wiki’s so that we not only express our viewpoint, but expect to be critically analised by people we will never meet, let alone know. We can express this viewpoint in our own web sites, that can be viewed by milllions, or by text on social networks such as Facebook (2010), a social network with a population of over 400 million users.

We can also use literacy to express ourselves by video and publish our work on sites such as youtube which has over 120 million US members alone. Jarboe (2009) also states that over twenty hours of video information is published every minute of the day. These figures are immense compared to exposure of literature that we have been used to in the past. These vast figures also show that today, literacy is a far easier skill to appreciate and have than before and we can use literacy to give us freedom. 2 Even today we measure literacy skills on how well we read and write.

As previously stated, there are so many ways that we can use literacy to express ourselves and hence enjoy freedom that method of testing of literacy is far outdated. Every second year the Australian education system tests our students in grade 5, year 7 and year 9 for their literacy and numeracy skills in a national competency test known as AIMS testing. The results of these tests are published and presented to the public via a website, http://www. myschool. edu. au/. To me this is an absolute contradiction in terms.

How can be test literacy by a traditional method of reading and writing and then publish the results for all to read by a ‘modern’ method, via a website which is both graphical and interpretational. We expect our young students to learn how children have learnt for the past 100 years, yet expect parents to interpret information via a method that has been available to us for a few years. The traditional test results for each school are published for the whole world to see. Schools funding schemes and how well a school can look after its students are based on the results that the students acquire via this traditional method.

Is this method truly testing our students for literacy, and by not testing the literacy skills that may be more relevant for a proportion of students, are we limiting their literacy skills and so their freedom to advance them in society? As part of Australian government initiative, a focus of the education revolution was to give every child from Year 9 to Year 12 access to a digital device. As explained by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2010), Schools spend many hundreds of dollars per student every year on Information Communication Technology.

This expenditure by both school, state and 3 federal governments shows us the symbiotic nature of the digital world, and literacy. It is imperative that all students have access to this digital world, and thus literacy, to have freedom in the globalised world. With so many devices that give access to today’s knowledge societies, it should be a priority for any educational system to give access to a digital device. Gone are the days that students are brought to the library to work on 1 of 10 computers sitting in the corner.

Students expect to have access to laptops, ipods, PDA’s or tablets at call. As reported by Serpo (2009) Victorian schools have given access to many grade 5 students a netbook. This has proven to be a success, with students finding many different methods to express themselves through writing, graphical analysis, recording sounds or recording video. This is a true offering of freedom in a globalised society. With teachers being able to introduce tools such as Interactive Smartboards the world is brought to the classroom via the internet. ith continued funding, global communication will be made easier for students as they learn. There have already been many projects using video conferencing in the classroom where students can talk to a real astronaut or communicate with fellow students all across the world. All of these developments expand the literacy of students, and with continued funding, give students freedom in a globalised world. With such vast amounts of literacy that are available to us, it is tempting for those in authority to have control over the information that we can see.

The ABC (2009) reported that the Australian government will introduce compulsory internet filtering to block international websites at the governments discretion, a move seen by many to take away our freedom in a globalised society. This is a dangerous 4 precedent as any attempt to limit freedom must be. this move has come under the scrutiny of many develop nations, as Australia will be join the likes of China, Burma and North Korea to name a few to filter internet at a government level. Questions that need to be asked about this limitation of freedom will be questions such as what will be filtered and who will decide on this.

The ramification of Australia’s position in a globalised society is still unsure, although one would expect that the effect can not be positive. China is a case in point at this time with much debate between China and a private company, Google, the worlds most popular search engine. There has already been talk about the effects that the move of Google leaving China will have on the political relationship with the United States. Surely this is a huge effect that literacy has on China’s ability to be part of a globalised world.

The Australian(2010) reported, "Without full and fair market competition, there will be no quality, no excellence, no employment opportunities, no stability and no real rise of China... '' With the importance of the Internet and the way that people use it, the structure of the education system and the importance of Information, Communication and technology in our education system and the level of access that people have, literacy plays a huge role in offering freedom to the globalised society. With hundreds of millions of users world wide, even the smallest piece of expression can be viewed by a limitless amount of people.

Surely freedom can only be offered to the globalised world through the use of the many literacy tools offered to us in today’s society. 5 Bibliography Nakumura, 2002, ‘Cultivating Global Literacy Through English as an International Language (EIL) Education in Japan: A New Paradigm for Global Education’, International Education Journal, Vol 3, No 5, 2002 Department of Education and Early Childhood, 2009, Education for Global and Multicultural Citizenship A Strategy for Victorian Government Schools 2009 - 2013, DEEC, Melbourne Facebook, 2010, http://www. facebook. om/press/info. php? statistics, retrieved 25th March, 2010 Jarboe, 2009, We Watch More YouTube Videos than We Conduct Google Searches, retrieved 25th March, 2010 . Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2010, ICT infrastructure budgeting, retrieved 23th March, 2010, Serpo, 2009, Victoria schools begin netbook trial, retrieved 24th March, 2010, ABC, 2009, Green light for internet filter plans, ABC News, retrieved 24th March, 2010, McDonald, J. , 2010, ‘China without Google: a 'lose-lose scenario'’, The Australian, 17 March, 2010, page unknown 6

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