An Essential yet Evolving Skill in the 21st Century

‘Literacy’ – a concept considered to be as important as it is complex. As technology has evolved the dynamics of what it means to be ‘literate’ in the 21st century has changed as well, from being predominantly concerned with “reading and writing” in print, to varied forms of digital expression. It was in the context of this constantly evolving landscape that the reThinking Literacy Conference was conceived and developed by 21st Century Learning International and United World College for Southeast Asia. The inaugural conference attracted 190 participants from 56 schools across 15 countries, and ran from the 22 to the 23 April 2016 at the new Professional Development Centre, UWCSEA Dover Campus.

Three of the keynotes
Three of the keynotes: Dr. Troy Hicks, Kristin Ziemke, Dr. Lotta Larson

The opening keynote by Dr. Lotta Larson from the College of Education at Kansas State University, explored how students can benefit from the affordances of e-books and digital reading as they develop new literacies and become strategic readers of e-texts. In particular, Dr. Larson discussed how teachers play a crucial role in helping students select and apply digital tools and features, to meet individual learning needs and a personalised digital reading experience.

Dr. Troy Hicks, an English Professor at Central Michigan University, led an interactive workshop on educators on how to teach, write, and assess digital writing. Dr. Hicks keynote looked closely at how students’ work can lead us to consider new approaches and opportunities for teaching revision in multimedia environments.

Kristin Ziemke, a teacher and learning innovation specialist from Chicago delivered a keynote on ‘Read the World: Literacies for a Digital Culture’, where she investigated new entry points for learners, and shared ideas for empowering students to go beyond the text and to author their own content in participatory digital culture.

Kevin Hennah, an international library consultant based out of Australia, shared thought provoking ideas on why school libraries need to weed more than just print if they are to remain relevant. He shared his views on the role of the contemporary library, strategies to help print compete with new technologies, and independent & collaborative workspaces during his pre-conference workshop.

Aside from keynote presentations, over 20 teachers from around the region shared practical insights, strategies and pedagogies relevant for teachers of literacy today.


The conference has attracted many positive reviews, with Jeff Dungan from Shanghai American School sharing his experience:

Rethinking Literacy should be a go to summit for literacy coaches, EAL/LS support staff, technology coaches and anybody involved in literacy instruction. The combination of the keynote presentations and deep-dive workshops along with the hour long workshops from regional practitioners was really fantastic. The only wish I have is that I could have brought more people from my school to attend.”

The conference concluded with the announcement of a new conference scheduled to be held from 4-6 May 2017, ‘reThinking Numeracy’, which puts mathematics education in the 21st century classroom at the forefront.

New dates for the 2nd reThinking Literacy Conference were also announced for 11 to 13 May, 2017.

View photos of reThinking Literacy

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