Monday, March 28, 2016

Building Literacy in a New Age: Skills and Suggestions

There is an enormous amount of information available today, with a nearly unfathomable additions every day. It is impossible for an individual to sift through this information, causing us to rely on synthesized data from other sources. Taking information in second-hand, however, leads to problems, and to be able to use and understand information (to be literate) in such an environment, we need some tools. For a brief overview of this information, pursue this visual summary:

A quick video introducing everything is also below.

For more details, read on.

The video above is a second iteration (see the first iteration posts: format and content). The script of the full video, along with the planned extra information, is below, with the individual videos and posts embedded.

Literacy has traditionally been defined as the ability to read and write. Literacy is vital for the development and progression of civilization. Writing systems were first developed to record [show cuneiform, and hieroglyphics, kanji] business transactions, history, and laws and to pass on useful information and lessons to future generations. The literate were generally the elite and priestly classes [show upper crust of society], who were responsible for directing the work and education of the illiterate. This often led to abuses of power. Up until the renaissance, literacy in Europe was generally low, and it is estimated that only 5-10% [show the graph from the link to the left, and keep sliding up that as we get more and more literacy below. Or do the pie chart representation of that when it goes--whichever] of the general public at the time were literate. This is one reason that images feature so prominently in stained glass and early publications[show stained glass, Neuremburg Chronicle].
With the advent of the printing press [show printing press], books became more accessible, and many movements, such as the reformation, encouraged individuals to read and learn for themselves. In the 1640s, around 30 percent [%, or animation a pie chart from before growing] of English males were literate, rising to 60 percent in the mid-18th century [show percentages/chart]. As information continued to become more accessible, and as society increasingly valued education, more and more people learned to benefit from the recorded knowledge of others and to record their own knowledge until today, when nearly everyone in Europe is literate [show map from link left] (because we’re Euro-centric and like to pretend the non-euro world doesn’t exist. Bigots).
However, the presentation of information has changed a great deal in the last century [show radio, TV, computers, phones], to the point that literacy is now commonly defined as “competence or knowledge in a specified area.” When speaking of literacy in the 21st century, we have to deal with enormous amounts of information [show logos/feeds/examples for CNN, Fox, BBC, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Wordpress, a pile of books…(maybe pushing you out of the frame?)] causing us to rely on others to synthesize, aggregate, and summarize information for much of what we know. That process is by necessity selective, and therefore omits information that may be relevant for a different application than the presented information was designed for. This requires us to ask the question: how can we be sure that the information we receive is valid for our needs? [flyin some text to emphasize the question, like “Can I trust this information?]

[Eli] A common method of testing new data is to compare it against what we already believe. Unfortunately, our worldviews are often much more set than we like to admit. Even when this phenomenon is isolated, it can cause problems, but our current technology has done nothing to help. Consider that the same algorithms that can bring personalized ads can also filter  news, so what you hear never really challenges your already-held beliefs. This behavior is known as confirmation bias. [what graphic/word emphasis highlights confirmation bias best? Just the words confirmation bias? An image of the Flat Earth Society logo? Both?] The problem with confirmation bias is that even in the unlikely event that our news source is spin-free, a misleading headline or poorly defined statistic can still creep in and sway the opinions of many. Even push-pollers can sway opinions based on the way their surveys are worded. Digesting such one-sided information naturally leads to the dangerous practice of accepting patho-heavy propaganda as fact.
[Jason] The problems of confirmation bias can be avoided by seeking to understand all opposing views on a topic, holding in suspension the biases we are prone to and being willing to accept that our views may not be correct [this is a heavy sentence, and requires either flyin words or good graphics, but I’m at a loss as to what to use]. This skill is referred to as Dialectical Thinking [fly this term on screen]. When employing this skill, the validity of facts comes from reasoning about the different facets of a topic and reaching conclusion about facts, resulting in a more complete and accurate understanding of the topic.
[Sarah] Dialectical thinking should be taught and applied early on. Traditionally, educational institutions have relied on the authority of the teacher [teacher talking down at kids, or showing them as subtly dominating the classroom] to provide essential life skills, teach literacy in reading and writing, mathematics, and other basic skills. This top-down approach causes us to rely heavily on authority figures for validating information, and inhibits students from formulating our own thoughts and opinions. It places the emphasis of literacy on knowing what your teacher knows [show a scantron test sheet]. But are we ignoring another, perhaps more beneficial, component of literacy? Reshaping educational institutions to promote communication and creativity among students [show kids collaborating on something] will help us to generate and understand new ideas more efficiently.When we engage in communicative reasoning [fly in this word] our end result will be taken as more valid than either of the original positions.

[Argyle] Additional tools for validating information are needed today, including a better awareness of key components of modern literacy, common pitfalls [fly in “confirmation bias”], and techniques [“dialectical thinking”] for finding more accurate and verifiable information. New tools that reduce the amount of effort required to digest new topics or information, and which makes connections between related topics easy to form, would help modern students to develop and use higher 21st century literacy skills.
The wealth of knowledge available to the average person today has huge implications for the advancement of civilization moving forward, but for the great benefits to be realized, we must become literate with the young, new technologies that enable international collaboration, global information sharing, and large-group connections.
[no visuals in this paragraph, focusing on the speaker alone will enhance the “personal aspect”]


  1. I like the facts that support your argument and how you have linked the sources! I also really like how this post breaks into each individual topic video. Though I'm viewing this post while it is unfinished, excellent job!

  2. This is a ton of information and I would not read it all if I came to this post. As for the video, you are reading it, which is distracting and effects your authority. In the next iteration I would really like to see each person, not just Jordan.