Literacy Is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age (Book Review)

Literacy Is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age (The 21st Century Fluency Series)Literacy Is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age by Lee Crockett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s not the fault of these authors or their perfectly fine book that it reads like virtually every other idealistic book about transforming education for the 21st century/digital age/new millennium. 20th century bad. Industrial model of schools. Dewey. 21st century good. Jobs that don’t exist yet. Internet and technology. Essentially, that Sir Ken Robinson video with that hand drawing things that every teacher has seen a dozen times now at conferences and professional development workshops. Now here are the 5 types of skills and the 6 Ls of learning with the 4 Us of understanding. It’s all completely adequate and all the ideas are all sound, but it reads a bit too much like a template that’s been overused. And, the 20th/21st century dichotomy is growing tired. And, our online technology has turned against us and undermined our democratic institutions. And, learning novel tricks to please our neoliberal capitalist corporate overlords should not be the primary concern of education. And, everything would all be easier if we just let the robots and automation do all the work for us and teach students how to banter wittily and have interesting discussions about literature and philosophy to prepare for a world with ample leisure time and a universal living wage.

What elevates this book beyond being just another retread of Robinson is one chapter, chapter 11 to be exact, that delves into the planning of a concrete lesson using 21st-century fluencies in an impressive and useful amount of detail. Yes, it’s very procedural and uses the 6 D’s of whatever (honestly, it was all I could do to rid my mind of “dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge!”), but it’s a great resource to help teachers think about focusing on authentic, real-world contexts and, most important, leaving enough room for students to think and discover rather than just checking the boxes of some template. So, for a teacher who hasn’t read most of this rhetoric before in numerous other books or has somehow managed to escape the many feel-good showings of the Sir Ken video, this a good enough place to start thinking about focusing less on transmission teaching and developing something more student-centered and more relevant to our bright future of flying cars and jetpacks or what have you.

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