It’s funny how you stumble across things sometimes….
After intially hearing the news on Twitter, I was frantically searching the ‘Net for some news about Marc Prensky, who apparently may have suffered a stroke during his keynote at the NJECC conference (I hope he is well…) when I stumbled across his one of his most recent articles, from which I paraphrase and quote to make a point about “literacy” and “education” before I give you the full citation (unless you’re one of those types that just can’t wait and have to click here first…)
In the Middle Ages, (Prensky writes)”if you needed to communicate your thoughts on paper, you couldn’t do it yourself. You had to hire a better-educated person — a scribe — who knew the writing code. Then, at the other end, you needed someone to read or decode it — unless, of course, you were ‘well educated’, that is, you had been taught to read and write and thus had become literate.”
This notion of literacy (“the ability to carefully read and write a contemporary spoken language”) has now persisted for centuries. But we tend to forget that it is based on a print culture that supplanted an oral culture that assumed a different notion and definition of literacy. Did anyone really think that the print culture was the end-of-the-line gold standard that would not at some point be supplanted by another culture (and a new notion and definition of literacy) as society evolved?
Back to Prensky: “I believe the single skill that will, above all others, distinguish a literate person is programming literacy, the ability to make digital technology do whatever, within the possible one wants it to do — to bend digital technology to one’s needs, purposes, and will, just as in the present we bend words and images. …As programming becomes more important, it will leave the back room and become a key skill and attribute of our top intellectual and social classes, just as reading and writing did in the past.”
Prensky argues that programming is the new literacy. I agree…if you do not learn how to master technology, you will soon find yourself in the “illiterate” camp, both perceptually and perhaps even functionally as society evolves.
What do you think?
Prensky, M. “The True Twenty-first Century Literacy Is Programming”. In _Edutopia_, Feb 2008. (http://www.edutopia.org/programming)