New Technologies/New Literacies: Reconstructing Education for the New Millennium

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  • New Technologies/New Literacies: ReconstructingEducation for the New Millennium

    DOUGLAS KELLNER

    University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), LA 90095, U.S.A.

    As we enter a new millennium, most people are by now aware that weare in the midst of one of the most dramatic technological revolutions inhistory that is changing everything from the ways that we work, to the waysthat we communicate with each other, to how we spend our leisure time.The technological revolution centers on computer, information, communi-cation, and multimedia technologies, is often interpreted as the beginningsof a knowledge or information society, and therefore ascribes educationa central role in every aspect of life. This Great Transformation posestremendous challenges to educators to rethink their basic tenets, to deploythe new technologies in creative and productive ways, and to restructureschooling to respond constructively and progressively to the technolog-ical and social changes that we are now experiencing.

    At the same time that we are undergoing technological revolution,important demographic and socio-political changes are occurring in theUnited States and throughout the world. Emigration patterns have broughtan explosion of new peoples into the U.S. in recent decades and thecountry is now more racially and ethnically diverse, more multicultural, thanever before. This creates the challenge of providing people from diverseraces, classes, and backgrounds with the tools and competencies to enablethem to succeed and participate in an ever more complex and changingworld.

    In this paper, I argue that we need multiple literacies for our multicul-tural society, that we need to develop new literacies to meet the challengeof the new technologies, and that literacies of diverse sorts including amore fundamental importance for print literacy are of crucial impor-tance in restructuring education for a high tech and multicultural societyand global culture. It is a burning question what sort of restructuring of edu-cation will take place in response to the turbulent technological explosionof our times, in whose interests, and for what ends. Indeed, more thanever we need philosophical reflection on the ends and purposes of educa-tion, on what we are doing and trying to achieve in our educational practicesand institutions. In this situation, it may be instructive to return to Deweyand see the connections between education and democracy, the need forthe reconstruction of education and society, and the value of experimentalpedagogy to seek solutions to the problems of education in the presentday.

    Hence, a progressive reconstruction of education will require that it be

    International Journal of Technology and Design Education

    11, 6781, 2001. 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

  • done in the interests of democratization, ensuring access to new technolo-gies for all, helping to overcome the so-called digital divide and divisionsof the haves and have nots, so that education is placed la Dewey (1997[1916]) and Freire (1972 and 1998) in the service of democracy andsocial justice. Yet we should be more aware than Dewey of the obduracyof divisions of class, gender, and race, that we work self-consciouslyfor multicultural democracy and education, and that we valorize differ-ence and cultural specificity, as well as equality and shared universalDeweyean values such as freedom, equality, individualism, and participa-tion. Theorizing a democratic and multicultural reconstruction of educationthus forces us to confront the digital divide, that there are divisions betweeninformation and technology have and have nots, just as there are class,gender, and race divisions in every sphere of the existing constellationsof society and culture. The latest surveys of the digital divide, however,indicate that the key indicators are class and education and not race andgender, hence the often-circulated argument that new technologies merelyreinforce the hegemony of upper class white males must be questioned.

    With the proper resources, policies, pedagogies, and practices, we can,I believe, work to reduce the (unfortunately growing) gap between havesand have nots, although I want to make clear that I do not believe tech-nology alone will reconstruct anything in a positive way. That is, technologyitself does not necessarily improve teaching and learning, and will cer-tainly not of itself overcome acute socio-economic divisions. Indeed, withoutproper resources, pedagogy, and educational practices, technology mightbe an obstacle or burden to genuine learning and will probably increaserather than overcome existing divisions of power, cultural capital, and wealth(see Burbules and Callister, 2000).

    Studies of the implementation of technology in the schools reveal thatwithout adequate teaching training and technology policy, the results ofintroducing computers and new technologies into education is highlyambiguous. During the rest of this paper, I want to focus on the role of com-puters and information technology in contemporary education and the needfor new pedagogies and an expanded concept of literacy to respond to theimportance of new technologies in every aspect of life. My goal will beto propose some ways that new technologies and new literacies can serveas efficacious learning tools which will contribute to producing a moredemocratic and egalitarian society and not just providing skills and toolsto privileged individuals and groups that will improve their cultural capitaland social power at the expense of others.

    EDUCATION AND LITERACY

    Both traditionalists and reformists would probably agree that educationand literacy are intimately connected. Literacy in my conception comprisesgaining competencies involved in effectively using socially-constructed

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  • forms of communication and representation. Learning literacies involvesattaining competencies in practices in contexts governed by rules and con-ventions. Literacies are socially constructed in educational and culturalpractices involved in various institutional discourses and practices. Literaciesevolve and shift in response to social and cultural change and the inter-ests of elites who control hegemonic institutions.

    Literary thus involves gaining the skills and knowledge to read and inter-pret the text of the world and to successfully navigate and negotiate itschallenges, conflicts, and crises. Literacy is thus a necessary condition toequip people to participate in the local, national, and global economy,culture, and polity. As Dewey argued (1997), education is necessary toenable people to participate in democracy; without an educated, informed,and literate citizenry, a robust democracy is impossible. I would thus arguethat there are crucial links between literacy, democracy, empowerment,and participation, and that without developing adequate literacies differ-ences between haves and have nots cannot be overcome and individuals andgroups will be left out of the emerging economy, networked society, andculture.

    To reading, writing, and traditional print literacies, in an era of techno-logical revolution and new technologies we need to develop new formsof media literacy, computer literacy, and multimedia literacies that Iand others call by the covering concept of multiliteracies or multipleliteracies (Cazen et al., 1996; Luke, 1997a; and Kellner, 1998). New tech-nologies and cultural forms require novel skills and competencies and ifeducation is to be relevant to the problems and challenges of contempo-rary life it must expand the concept of literacy and develop new curriculaand pedagogies.

    I would resist, however, extreme claims that the era of the book and printliteracy are over. Although there are discontinuities and novelties in thecurrent constellation, there are also important continuities. Indeed, onecould argue that in the new information-communication technology envi-ronment, traditional print literacy takes on increasing importance in thecomputer-mediated cyberworld as one needs to critically scrutinize andscroll tremendous amounts of information, putting new emphasis on devel-oping reading and writing abilities. Indeed, Internet discussion groups,chat rooms, e-mail, and various forums require writing skills in which a newemphasis on the importance of clarity and precision is emerging as com-munications proliferate. In this context of information saturation, it becomesan ethical imperative not to contribute to cultural and information overload,and to concisely communicate ones thoughts and feelings.

    MEDIA LITERACY: AN UNFULFILLED CHALLENGE

    In the new multimedia environment, media literacy is arguably moreimportant than ever. Cultural studies and critical pedagogy have begun to

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  • teach us to recognize the ubiquity of media culture in contemporary society,the growing trends toward multicultural education, and the need for medialiteracy that addresses the issue of multicultural and social difference. Thereis expanding recognition that media representations help construct ourimages and understanding of the world and that education must meet thedual challenges of teaching media literacy in a multicultural society andsensitizing students and publics to the inequities and injustices of a societybased on gender, race, and class inequalities and discrimination. Recentcritical studies see the role of mainstream media in exacerbating ordiminishing these inequalities and the ways that media education and theproduction of alternative media can help create a healthy multiculturalismof diversity and more robust democracy. They thus confront some of themost serious difficulties and problems that face us as educators and citizensas we move toward the twenty-first century.

    Yet despite the ubiquity of media culture in contemporary society andeveryday life, although it is widely recognized that the media themselvesare a form of pedagogy, and despite copious criticisms of the distortedvalues, ideals, and representations of the world in media culture, media edu-cation in K-12 schooling has never really been established and developed.The current technological revolution, however, brings to the fore morethan ever the role of media like television, popular music, film, and adver-tising, as the Internet rapidly absorbs these cultural forms and creates newcyberspaces and forms of culture and pedagogy. It is highly irresponsiblein the face of saturation by Internet and media culture to ignore theseforms of socialization and education; consequently a critical reconstruc-tion of education should produce pedagogies that provide media literacy andenable students, teachers, and citizens to discern the nature and effects ofmedia culture.

    Media culture teaches proper and improper behavior, gender roles, values,and knowledge of the world. One is often not aware that one is beingeducated and constructed by media culture; thus its pedagogy is often invis-ible and subliminal, requiring critical approaches that make us aware of howmedia construct meanings, influence and educate audiences, and imposeits messages and values. A media literate person is skillful in analyzingmedia codes and conventions, able to criticize media stereotypes, values,and ideologies, and thus literate in reading media critically. Media literacythus helps people to use media intelligently, to discriminate and evaluatemedia content, to critically dissect media forms, and to investigate mediaeffects and uses (see Kellner, 1995a and 1995b).

    Developing critical media literacy and pedagogy also involves perceivinghow media like film or video can also be used positively to teach a widerange of topics, like multicultural understanding and education. If, forexample, multicultural education is to champion genuine diversity andexpand the curriculum, it is important both for groups excluded from main-stream education to learn about their own heritage and for dominant groupsto explore the experiences and voices of minority and excluded groups.

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  • Thus, media literacy can promote multicultural literacy, conceived as under-standing and engaging the heterogeneity of cultures and subcultures thatconstitute an increasingly global and multicultural world.

    Critical media literacy not only teaches students to learn from media,to resist media manipulation, and to use media materials in constructiveways, but also to develop skills that will cultivate citizens and that will makethem more motivated and competent participants in social life. Criticalmedia literacy is thus tied to the project of radical democracy and concernedto develop skills that will enhance democratization and participation. Criticalmedia literacy takes a comprehensive approach that would teach criticalskills and how to use media as instruments of social communication andchange. The technologies of communication are becoming more and moreaccessible to young people and average citizens, and can be used to promoteeducation, democratic self-expression, and social progress. Thus, tech-nologies that could help produce the end of participatory democracy, bytransforming politics into media spectacles and the battle of images, andby turning spectators into cultural zombies, could also be used to help invig-orate democratic debate and participation (Kellner, 1990, 1998; and 2000).

    Indeed, teaching critical media literacy could be a participatory, col-laborative project (see McLaren et al., 1995). Watching television showsor films together could promote productive discussions between teachersand students (or parents and children), with emphasis on eliciting studentviews, producing a variety of interpretations of media texts and teachingbasic principles of hermeneutics and criticism. Students and youth areoften more media savvy, knowledgeable, and immersed in media culturethan their teachers, and thus can contribute to the educational processthrough sharing their ideas, perceptions, and insights. On the other hand,critical discussion, debate, and analysis ought to be encouraged with teachersbringing to bear their critical perspectives on student readings of mediamaterial. Since media culture is often part and parcel of students identityand most powerful cultural experience, teachers must be sensitive in crit-icizing artifacts and perceptions that students hold dear, yet an atmosphereof critical respect for difference and inquiry into the nature and effects ofmedia culture should be promoted.

    Media literacy thus involves developing conceptions of interpretationand criticism. Engaging in assessment and evaluation of media texts isparticularly challenging and requires careful discussion of specific moral,pedagogical, political, or aesthetic criteria of critique. That is, one can, la British cultural studies, engage the politics of representation discussingthe specific images of gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, orother identity categories in media texts (Kellner, 1995a). Or one coulddiscuss the moral values and behavior represented, what specific messagesor representations of social experience are presented, how they are inter-preted by audiences, and potential pedagogical effects. One can also attemptto determine criteria for aesthetic evaluation, discussing what constitutesa good or bad media text.

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  • Diverse teachers and students will have very different interests andconcerns, and will naturally emphasize varying subject matter and chooseexamples relevant to their own and their student interests. Courses in criticalmedia literacy could thus be flexible enough to enable teachers and studentsto constitute their own curricula in order to address material and topics ofcurrent concern, and to address their own interests. Moreover, and, crucially,educators should discern that we are in the midst of one of the most intensetechnological revolutions in history and must learn to adapt new computertechnologies to education, and to develop new literacies.

    COMPUTER LITERACY: AN EXPANDED CONCEPT

    In this section, that is looking toward education in the new millennium, Iwant to argue that students should learn new forms of computer literacy thatinvolve both how to use computer technologies to do research and gatherinformation, as well as to perceive computer culture as a terrain whichcontains texts, spectacles, games, and interactive multimedia which requiresnew literacies. Moreover, computer culture is a discursive and politicallocation in which students, teachers, and citizens can all intervene, engagingin discussion groups and collaborative research projects, creating theirweb sites, producing innovative multimedia for cultural dissemination,and engaging in novel modes of social interaction and learning. Computerculture enables individuals to actively participate in the production ofculture, ranging from discussion of public issues to creation of their owncultural forms. However, to take part in this culture requires not onlyaccelerated skills of print literacy, which are often restricted to the growingelite of students who are privileged to attend adequate and superior publicand private schools, but also demands new forms of literacy as well, thusposing significant challenges to education.

    It is a defining fact of the present age that computer culture is prolifer-ating and transforming every dimension of life from work to education, thusto respond intelligently to the dramatic technological revolution of our time,we need to begin teaching computer literacy from an early age on. Computerliteracy, however, itself needs to be theorized. Often the term is synony-mous with technical ability to use computers, to master existing programs,and maybe undertake some programming oneself. I suggest expandingthe conception of computer literacy from using computer programs andhardware to a broader concept of information and multimedia literacy.This requires cultivating more sophisticated abilities in traditional readingand writing, as well as the capability to critically dissect cultural formstaught as part of critical media literacy and multimedia pedagogy.

    In my expanded conception, computer literacy thus involves learning howto use computers, access information and educational material, use e-mailand list-serves, and construct websites. Computer literacy comprises theaccessing and processing of diverse sorts of information proliferating in

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  • the so-called information society (for critiques of this concept see Webster,1995). It encompasses learning to find sources of information rangingfrom traditional sites like libraries and print media to new Internet websitesand search engines. Computer-information literacy involves learning whereinformation is found, how to access it, and how to organize, interpret, andevaluate the information that one seeks.

    One exciting development in the current technological revolution is thatthe library and information are accessible from the entire world. To someextent, the Internet is potentially the all-encompassing library, imperfectlyconstructed in Alexander, Egypt, that would contain the great books ofthe world. Yet while a mind-boggling quantity of classics are found onthe Internet, we still need the local library to access and collect books,journals, and print material not found on the Internet, as well as the essen-tial texts of various disciplines and the culture as a whole. Informationliteracy, however, and the new tasks for librarians, thus also involvesknowing what one can and cannot find on the Internet, how to access it, andwhere the most reliable and useful information is on hand for specifictasks and projects.

    But computer and information literacies also involve learning how to readhypertexts, traverse the ever-changing fields of cyberculture, and to par-ticipate in a digital and interactive multimedia culture that encompasseswork, education, politics, culture and everyday life. There are two majormodes and concepts of hypertext, one that is primarily literary, whichinvolves new avant-garde literary/writing strategies and practices, contrastedto one that is more multimedia, multisemiotic, multimodal, and that mush-roomed into the World Wide Web. Hypertext was initially seen as aninnovative and exciting new mode of writing that increased potentials forwriters to explore novel modes of textuality and expression (Landow, 1992and 1997). As multimedia hypertext developed on the Internet, it was soontheorized as a multisemiotic and multimodal form of communication thatis now increasingly seen as the dominant form of a new hyperlinked, inter-active, and multimedia cyberculture (see Burbles & Callister, 1996 and 2000;Snyder, 1996; and the articles in Snyder, 1997).

    Hence, on this conception, genuine computer literacy involves not justtechnical knowledge and skills, but refined reading, writing, research, andcommunicating ability that involves heightened capacities for criticallyaccessing, analyzing, interpreting, processing, and storing both print-basedand multimedia material. In a new information/entertainment society,immersed in new multimedia technology, knowledge and information comenot merely in the form of print and words, but through images, sounds,and multimedia material as well. Computer literacy thus also involves theability to discover and access information and intensified abilities to read,to scan texts and computer data bases and websites, and to access infor-mation and images in a variety of forms, ranging from graphics, to visualimages, to audio and video materials, to good old print media. The creationof new multimedia websites, data bases, or texts requires accessing, down-

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  • loading, and organizing digitized verbal, imagistic, and audio and videomaterial that are the new building blocks of multimedia culture.

    Within multimedia computerized culture, visual literacy takes onincreased importance. On the whole, computerized screens are more graphic,visual, and interactive than conventional print fields which disconcertedmany of us when first confronted with the new environments. Icons,windows, mouses, and the various clicking, linking, and interaction requiredby computer-mediated hypertext requires new competencies and a dramaticexpansion of literacy. Visuality is obviously crucial, requiring one to quicklyscan visual fields, perceive and interact with icons and graphics, and usetechnical devices like a mouse to access the desired material and field.But tactility is also important, as one must learn navigational skills ofhow to proceed from one field and screen to another, how to negotiate hyper-texts and links, and how to move from one program to another if oneoperates, as most now do, in a window-based computer environment.

    Thus, in my expanded conception, computer literacy involves technicalabilities concerning developing basic typing skills, mastering computerprograms, accessing information, and using computer technologies for avariety of purposes ranging from interpersonal communication to artisticexpression to political debate. There are ever more hybrid implosionsbetween media and computer culture as audio and video material becomespart of the Internet, as CD-ROM and multimedia develop, and as newtechnologies become part and parcel of the home, school, and workplace.Therefore, the skills of decoding images, sounds, and spectacle learned incritical media literacy training can also be valuable as part of computerliteracy as well.

    MULTIMEDIA AND MULTIPLE LITERACIES: THE NEW FRONTIER

    The new multimedia environments thus require a diversity of types ofmultisemiotic and multimodal interaction, involving interfacing with wordsand print material and often images, graphics, and audio and video material.As technological convergence develops apace, one needs to combine theskills of critical media literacy with traditional print literacy and new formsof multiple literacies to access and master the new multimedia hypertextenvironments. Literacy in this conception involves the abilities to engageeffectively in socially-constructed forms of communication and represen-tation. Thus, reading and interpreting print was the appropriate mode ofliteracy for books, while critical media literacy requires reading and inter-preting discourse, images, spectacle, narratives, and the forms and genresof media culture. Forms of multimedia communication involve print, speech,visuality, and audio, in a hybrid field which combines these forms, all ofwhich involve skills of interpreting and critique.

    The term multiple literacies thus points to the many different kindsof literacies needed to access, interpret, criticize, and participate in the

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  • emergent new forms of culture and society. Obviously, the key root hereis the multiple, the proliferation of media and forms that require a multi-plicity of competencies and skills and abilities to access, interact, andhelp construct a new semiotic terrain. Multiple literacies involve readingacross varied and hybrid semiotic fields and being able to critically andhermeneutically process print, graphics, and representations, as well asmoving images and sounds. The term hybridity suggests the combina-tion and interaction of diverse media and the need to synthesize the variousforms in an active process of the construction of meaning. Reading a musicvideo, for instance, involves processing images, music, spectacle, and some-times narrative in a multisemiotic activity that simultaneously draws ondiverse aesthetic forms. Interacting with a website or CD-ROM ofteninvolves scanning text, graphics, moving images, and clicking onto thefields that one seeks to peruse and explore, looking for appropriate material.This might involve drawing on a multiplicity of materials in new interac-tive learning or entertainment environments whereby one must simultane-ously read and interpret images, graphics, animation, and text.

    While traditional literacies involve practices in contexts that are governedby rules and conventions, the conventions and rules of multiliteracies arecurrently evolving so that their pedagogies comprise a new although bustlingand competitive field. Multimedia sites are not entirely new, however.Multisemiotic textuality was first evident in newspapers (consider the dif-ference between The New York Times and U.S.A. Today in terms of image,text, color graphics, design, and content) and is now evident in textbooksthat are much more visual, graphic, and multimodal than the previouslylinear and discursive texts of old. But it is CD-ROMs, web sites, and newmultimedia that are the most distinctively multimodal and multisemioticforms. These sites are the new frontier of learning and literacy, the greatchallenge to education for the millennium. As we proceed into the 21stcentury, we need to theorize the literacies necessary to interact in theseemergent multimedia environments and to gain the skills that will enableindividuals to learn, work, and create in new cultural spaces and domains.

    Cultivating new literacies and reconstructing education for democrati-zation will also involve constructing new pedagogies and social relations.New multimedia technologies enable a group projects for students andmore of a problem-solving pedagogy la Dewey and Freire than tradi-tional transmission top-down teaching models (1972 and 1998). To enablestudents to access information, engage in cultural communication and pro-duction, and to gain the skills necessary to succeed in the new economy andculture require that students cultivate enhanced literacies, abilities to workcooperatively with others, and to navigate new cultural and social terrains.Such group activity may cultivate more egalitarian relations betweenteachers and students and more democratic and cooperative social relations.Of course, it also requires reconsideration of grading and testing procedures,rethinking the roles of teacher and student, and constructing projects andpedagogies appropriate to the new cultural and social environments.

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  • Moreover, we are soon going to have to rethink SATs and standard testsin relation to the new technologies; having the literacy and skills to suc-cessfully access, communicate, work, and create within computer andmultimedia culture is quite different from reading and writing in the modeof print literacy. While traditional skills of reading and writing continueto be of utmost importance in cyberculture, they are sublated within mul-tiliteracy, so eventually an entirely different sort of test is going to needto be devised to register individuals multiliteracy competencies and topredict success in a new technological and educational environment. Inthis new environment, it becomes increasingly irrational to focus educa-tion on producing higher test scores on exams that themselves are becomingobsolete and outdated by the changes in the economy, society, and culture.

    The technological revolution thus forces us radically to rethink and recon-struct education. The terrain and goals of education must be reconsideredand the conception of literacy expanded. Questions of the digital divide mustbe confronted and the ways that education can promote democratization andsocial justice should be discussed and developed. While there are certainlydangers that the technological revolution will increase divisions betweenhaves and have nots, it is possible that old gender, race, and class divi-sions can be overcome in a society that rewards new literacies and providesopportunities for those who have developed competencies in the new tech-nologies and culture. In this context, it is especially important thatappropriate resources, training, and pedagogies be cultivated to help thosegroups and communities who were disadvantaged and marginalized duringthe past epoch of industrialization and modernity.

    In addition, individuals should be given the capacities to understand,critique, and transform the social and cultural conditions in which theylive, gaining capacities to be creative and transformative subjects and notjust objects of domination and manipulation. This requires developingabilities for critical thinking, reflection, and the ability to engage in dis-course, cultural creation, and political action and movements. Active andengaged subjects are produced in social interaction with others, as well aswith tools and techniques, so social skills and individual capacities for com-munication, creativity, and action must be part of the multiple literaciesthat a radical reconstruction of education seeks and cultivates.

    Crucially, multiliteracies and new pedagogies must become reflective andcritical, aware of the educational, social, and political assumptions involvedin the restructuring of education and society that we are now undergoing.In response to the excessive hype concerning new technologies and edu-cation, it is necessary to maintain the critical dimension and to reflectupon the nature and effects of new technologies and the pedagogies devel-oped as a response to their challenge. Many advocates of new technologies,however, eschew critique for a purely affirmative agenda. For instance, afteran excellent discussion of new modes of literacy and the need to rethinkeducation, Gunther Kress argues that we must move from critique to design,beyond a negative deconstruction to more positive construction (1997).

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  • But rather than following such modern logic of either/or, we need to pursuethe logic of both/and, perceiving design and critique, deconstruction andreconstruction, as complementary and supplementary rather than as anti-thetical choices. Certainly, we need to design new technologies, pedagogies,and curricula for the future, and should attempt to design alternative socialand pedagogical relations as well, but we need to criticize misuse, inap-propriate use, overinflated claims, and exclusions and oppressions involvedin the introduction of new technologies into education. The critical dimen-sion is needed more than ever as we attempt to develop novel teachingstrategies and pedagogy, as we design new technologies and curricula, wemust be constantly critical, practicing critique and self-criticism, puttingin question our assumptions, discourses, and practices as we experimentallydevelop new literacies and pedagogy.

    In all educational and other experiments, critique is indeed of funda-mental importance. From the Deweyean perspective, progressive educationinvolves trial and error, design and criticism. The experimental method itselfcomprises critique of limitations, failures, and flawed design. In discussingnew technologies and multiple literacies, one also needs to constantly raisethe question, whose interests are these new technologies and pedagogiesserving, are they serving all social groups and individuals, who is beingexcluded and why? We also need to raise the question both of the extentto which new technologies and literacies are preparing students and citizensfor the present and future and producing conditions for a more vibrant demo-cratic society, or simply reproducing existing inequalities and inequity.

    Finally, cultivating multiple literacies must be contextual, engaging thelife-world of the students and teachers participating in the new adventuresof education. Learning involves developing abilities to interact intelli-gently with ones environment and fellow humans, and requires rich socialand conversational environments. Education requires doing and can begained from practice and social interaction. One can obviously spend toomuch time with technologies and fail to develop basic social skills and com-petencies. As Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, and Dewey argued, educationinvolves developing proficiencies that enable individuals to develop suc-cessfully within their concrete environments, to learn from practice, andto be able to interact, work, and create in their own societies and cultures.In contemporary U.S. culture, for instance, multiple literacies require mul-ticultural literacies, being able to understand and work with a heterogeneityof cultural groups and forms, cultivating literacies in a multiplicity of media,and gaining the competencies to participate in a democratic culture andsociety.

    Moreover, as Freire reminds us (1972 and 1998), critical pedagogy com-prises the skills of both reading the word and reading the world. Hence,multiple literacies include not only media and computer literacies, but adiverse range of social and cultural literacies, ranging from ecoliteracy (e.g.understanding the body and environment), to economic and financial literacyto a variety of other competencies that enable us to live well in our social

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  • worlds. Education, at its best, provides the symbolic and cultural capitalthat empowers people to survive and prosper in an increasingly complexand changing world and the resources to produce a more cooperative,democratic, egalitarian, and just society. Thus, with Plato, Rousseau,Wollstonecraft, Dewey, Freire, and others I see philosophy of educationas reflecting on the good life and the good society and the ways that edu-cation can contribute to creating a better world. But as the world changes,so too must education which will be part of the problem or part of thesolution as we enter a new millennium.

    The project of transforming education will take different forms indifferent contexts. In the overdeveloped countries, individuals must beempowered to work and act in a high tech information economy, and thusmust learn skills of media and computer literacy, in order to survive inthe new social environment. Traditional skills of knowledge and critiquemust also be fostered, so that students can name the system, describe andgrasp the changes occurring and the defining features of the new globalorder, and can learn to engage in critical and oppositional practice in theinterests of democratization and progressive transformation. This requiresgaining vision of how life can be, of alternatives to the present order, andthe necessity of struggle and organization to realize progressive goals.Languages of knowledge and critique must thus be supplemented by thediscourse of hope and praxis.

    In much of the world, the struggle for daily existence is paramount andmeeting unmet human and social needs is a high priority. Yet everywhereeducation can provide the competencies and skills to improve ones life,to create a better society, and a more civilized and developed world.Moreover, as the entire world becomes part of a global and networkedsociety, gaining the multiple literacies discussed in this paper becomesimportant everywhere as media and cyberculture become more ubiquitousand the world economy requires ever more sophisticated technical skills.

    This is a time of challenge and a time for experiment. It is time to putexisting pedagogies, practices, and educational philosophies in question andto construct new ones. It is a time for new pedagogical experiments tosee what works and what doesnt work in the new millennium. It is a timeto reflect on our goals and to discern what we want to achieve with edu-cation and how we can achieve it. Ironically, it is a time to return to classicalphilosophy of education which situates reflections on education in reflec-tions on the good life and society at the same time that we reflect on howwe can transform education to become relevant to a high tech society. Itis time to return to John Dewey to rethink that intimate connection betweeneducation and democracy at the same time we address the multicultural chal-lenges that Dewey in the midst of a still vital melting pot ideology andliberal progressivist optimism did not address.

    Most saliently, it is time to take up the Deweyean attitude of pragmaticexperimentation to see what it is that the new technologies can and cannotdo, to see how they can enhance education, but also to resist the hype, to

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  • maintain a critical attitude and pedagogy, and to combine print literacyand classical materials with new literacies and materials. It is a mistaketo cultivate an either/or logic of print literacy versus computer literacy, orto privilege books over new technologies, for both can enhance educationand life and require different literacies. In the current turbulent situationof the global restructuring of capitalism and worldwide struggles for democ-ratization, I believe that technology is a revolutionizing force, that wehave for the first time in decades a chance to reconstruct education andsociety, that all political parties and candidates are paying lipservice toeducation, to overcoming the digital divide, and to expanding literacy.Hence, the time is ripe to take up the challenge and to move to recon-struct education and society so that groups and individuals excluded fromthe benefits of the economy, culture, and society may more fully partici-pate and receive opportunities not possible in earlier social constellations.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    An earlier and different version of this study appeared in Educational Theory(Kellner, 1998) and I am grateful to its editor Nicholas Burbules for dis-cussion that helped develop my ideas. A later version was published in aRoutledge volume on multiculturalism (Kellner, 1999), edited by GeorgeKatsiaficas and Teodros Kiros and I am thankful to the editors for discus-sions which helped with clarification of my position on multiculturalismand education. Yet another version was presented at UCLA in February26, 1998 at my Kneller Chair Inaugural Lecture and I am grateful tomembers of the audience for discussion of the issues that I am engaging.Finally, the current version was presented at the Philosophy of EducationSociety convention in Toronto on April 1, 2000 and I am grateful to thisaudience for vigorous polemic and to commentator Nicholas Burbules forconstructive critique and supplementation, which helped in the productionof this text. For ongoing discussions of the issues in this paper I am espe-cially grateful to Rhonda Hammer and Allan and Carmen Luke. Finally,for productive editorial suggestions, I would like to thank Leonard Waks.

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