Monday, November 5, 2012

22nd Century Literacy (Maybe 21st)

I recently downloaded SwiftKey 3, an alternate keyboard for Android devices that learns your typing patterns and begins to predict the next word you will type. It then presents you with word options that you can choose to bypass typing in the whole word. The software also auto-corrects mistakes you make while typing. This makes typing on your mobile device much easier and faster. I am often amazed at how accurately SwiftKey predicts the next word I will use.

The more I use this software, the more I begin to consider how it will impact reading and writing instruction in the future. So on one hand you have an evolving tool to assist writers. On the other you will have software that reads for you.

If you have not read my post on Augmented Reality, you might want to go back and do that. I believe it won't be long before we have glasses, goggles, or possibly contact lenses that can view our external world and place another layer of reality within our field of vision. We will also have the ability to HEAR a layer of information based upon what we are viewing. So it seems perfectly logical that, in addition to text-to-speech software built into e-readers, we will soon have very affordable devices that can look at text and read it to us. Couple that with input technology, like SwiftKey and Dragon Dictation, and literacy instruction is turned on its head. Illiteracy will be a thing of the past. All children will be able to read every word, and the only thing that will prevent children from writing proficiently will be an inability to organize their thoughts into coherent sentences. With predicative software and auto-correction, spelling and other common writing errors won't be an issue anymore.

I am not sure exactly when the transition will take place, but I can't imagine a classroom in 2100, or MUCH sooner, that will address literacy the way we do today. Most of the barriers to literacy should be overcome by then. It seems as though most of the emphasis will shift to reading comprehension and ultimately the application of knowledge since the acquisition of knowledge will be a given.

Just as Gutenberg's printing press led to the Enlightenment, I believe technology that provides literacy for all will lead to a 2nd Enlightenment where, for the first time, no child will be left behind.

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