The Changing Spaces of Literacy Education

Posted by tricialauter on July 14, 2011

A decade into the new millennium, life, work, and play have rapidly transformed. The industrial age has morphed into the digital age. Life, in all it’s aspects, is more fluid, more diverse, and more multidimensional. Mobility of peoples, physically and through communication technologies, has created an atmosphere of instant contact, instant connection. This mobility of people, information, and ideas creates a new system of knowledge; thus impacting the way we learn, what we learn, and where we learn.

Changing Spaces of Life:

As the New London Group (1996) began to see before the turn of the century, life is increasingly fragmented where “communities are breaking into ever more diverse and subculturally defined groups (p. 2).” Movement of people has allowed development of communities in places that were not thought of before. With the development of communication technologies, communities are being formed around specific interests, with groups discussing and sharing online and meeting offline as well. What was once private is becoming public with private lives increasingly becoming more public. Consumers are becoming producers. By blogging, tagging, commenting, tweeting, and sharing, once private lives are finding a medium for sharing even the smallest of nuances. Growing up within this consumer as producer world, “childhood cultures are made up of interwoven narratives and commodities (New London Group, 1996, p. 9).  Identities are increasingly fragmented and diverse. While this sharing can be seen as narcissism, and at times can be overwhelming, the medium of Web 2.0 has also created a network of knowledge, enabling learning to take place anytime and anywhere. (Angelo, J., Conners, K., & Helkowski, T., 2009).

Changing Spaces of Work:

As private lives have become more public, public institutions and programs have become more private. Through globalization processes and neoliberal policies, an ideology of  an autonomous citizen has pronounced the change from a welfare state to a privatized state. Government and public programs that were once seen as beneficial to equalize the development of a state’s citizens, are rapidly being diminshed in favor for privately run organizations. Public institutions are now being scrutinized within a market environment, with market vulnerability (New London Group, 1996, p. 7). Education is now a commodity which can be traded in for a better model; models that may provide better access to skill development for the 21st century workforce. The skills of workers in the 21st century are fluid; changing with the circumstances. The organizational structure of work has changed, with a “flattened hierarchy” replacing the “old vertical chains of command…by the horizontal relationships of teamwork (New London Group, 1996, p. 5).” Quoting Cope & Kalantzis (1995), the New London Group (1996) go even further describing the new workforce stating, “A division of labor into its minute, deskilled components is replaced by “multiskilled,” well-rounded workers who are flexible enough to be able to do complex and integrated work (p. 5).” With the expansion of businesses into the global market, and the rapid spread of world news, an interconnectedness finds even deeper roots creating an increase in knowledge workers, learning organizations, and collaborative projects that span time and space.

Changing Spaces of Education:

These changing personal lives and work lives ultimately, as the New London Group (1996) contends, lead to a change in education. Education must then reflect the changing “scapes”of life in the 21st century, pushed by the interests and individual skills of the students (Christensen, C.M., Horn M.B., & Johnson C.W, 2008). To become “multiskilled,”fluid, “life-long learners,” succeeding in a global economy, curriculum must extend beyond the basics. Besides common core subjects, “learning and innovation skills” of creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration (Partnership for 21st Century Skills) must be included, along with technology and global awareness skills. Through these new interactions between life, work, and the global world, the New London Group (1996) claims that literacy instruction, specifically, must change. It is through their idea of mulitliteracies, that the roles of the student, the teacher, and the school are reconsidered.


Angelo, J., Conners, K., & Helkowski, T. (2009). Anywhere learning. Educational Leadership, 66, 6. Retrieved from

Christensen, C.M., Horn M.B., & Johnson C.W. (2008). Distrupting Class: How Distruptive Innovation will Change the Way the World Learns, McGraw Hill: New York.

Golden, S. (2011). Now you see it: Interview with Cathy N. Davidson. Retrieved from

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66, 1. 


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