Coding is not the new literacy

Chris Granger, Mar 20, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"Being literate isn't simply a matter of being able to put words on the page," writes Chris Granger, "it's solidifying our thoughts such that they can be written. Interpreting and applying someone else's thoughts is the equivalent for reading. We call these composition and comprehension." Fair enough, and while this account could use more precision, it's enough to make what I think is the fairly obvious point that coding is not the new literacy (neither are many of the other 'new literacies'). So what is? Grager argues that it's model-building. "We build mental models of everything - from how to tie our shoes to the way macro-economic systems work. With these, we make decisions, predictions, and understand our experiences." I don't agree with this exactly, but the view is pretty mainstream, and there's enough solid thought to make it worth sharing.

And this, especially: "To put it simply, the next great advance in human ability comes from being able to externalize the mental models we spend our entire lives creating. That is the new literacy. And it's the revolution we've all been waiting for." Which is very interesting, because the previous approach to literacy has been about getting us to internalize the models (like language and objects and mathematics) that we have created externally. This is probably the true 'flipped learning'. Instead of memorizing, we are building. Instead of internalizing, we are externalizing. But now we need to attend to vocabulary: verbs like 'build' and 'make' and 'create' and 'construct' refer to things we do externally - but internally we function very differently and these verbs are no longer appropriate to describe what we do.

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