Computer literate, social media literate, etc. What does it mean to be “learned” these days?
We live in a constantly changing world. Technology has altered our society in ways as profound as the industrial revolution and the invention of the printing press in previous centuries. To be literate these days means to have skills that allow for cognitive flexibility, to be able to acquire knowledge in order to change professions at any point in a person’s life. It also means being able to learn new methods or applications in your field since change will happen in so many areas that formerly were static.
How do we educate our students, as well as our adult selves to deal with this fluid world?
The process begins in the early years of education where critical skills of literacy should be developed. Becoming a fluid reader, thoroughly mastering written and verbal communication and acquiring fundamental math skills should be the basics of education throughout the first 12 years of a student’s life. From the springboard of these skills a student can continue a lifetime of learning in the sciences and humanities.
Despite the trend toward specialized learning, commitment to a career path should not be emphasized in high school. The curriculum at this point should be developing those skills that will allow a student to continue learning and adapting to a changing environment.
While the definition of “literacy” includes “having knowledge or skill in a specified field,” the ability to learn and maintain that specialized knowledge requires prerequisites that will foster lifetime learning. Since the technological revolution of computers and the internet, few people will continue to work using the same methods or even engage in the same careers they expect to pursue.
How can adult learners keep up with the changing times?
Maintaining or developing the skills necessary to keep up with innovations in your field or taking a new career path remain essential. In these changing times the executive function skills of organization, time management, mental flexibility and memory have become necessary tools to maintain “literacy” in our society.
Perhaps the key to this goal of lifetime literacy is fostering and pursuing curiosity about the world and the initiative to explore new areas of knowledge and innovation.
The cognitive flexibility to continue learning requires a basis: the prerequisites of “literacy” as we now know it so it we can grow with the times and continue to be “literate” in the future.
Check back soon for more articles on executive function skills, communication, writing and speech pathology.