There was a time when nobody knew how to write lit­er­ary prose. The geniuses who invented it shared their spe­cial tool with a few friends, and they rel­ished in their pri­vate, elite com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Eventually monks, politi­cians, and aca­d­e­mics joined the club. Now, we judge a society’s over­all level of intel­lec­tual advance­ment by the lit­er­acy rate: the per­cent­age of peo­ple who have learned to read and write.

Long ago, it would have been ridicu­lous to assume a whole soci­ety could be judged by its abil­ity to read and write prose. It feels ridicu­lous now, to assume that we might use com­puter pro­gram­ming as a sim­i­lar bench­mark. Yet it may happen.

Daniel Jalkut - Learn To Code.

The new definition of literacy

Suzi Steffen pointed me to this post by Doug McLennan ear­lier. I like it. Doug writes,

I think the new lit­er­ate goes beyond words, and beyond mak­ing video and image and sound. I think code and meta-data are the new lit­er­acy, and that in turn leads to a new lit­er­ate­ness. Information and ideas are multi-dimensional. Those who can take dynamic infor­ma­tion and mash it up and mix it and find cre­ative ways of pre­sent­ing it in ser­vice of ideas have the pos­si­bil­ity of com­mu­ni­cat­ing in more com­pelling ways than with just words or video or image.

He’s spot on. It reminds me of some­thing Matt said ear­lier this year in a Q&A ses­sion with Memburn. He said,

Scripting is the new lit­er­acy, and the abil­ity to learn and exe­cute on your ideas with­out rely­ing on any­body else is going to be invalu­able as you iter­ate and exper­i­ment on build­ing some­thing. It’s good to build for your­self first, because in the worst-case sce­nario where no one else likes it, at least you will.

That type of individual-driven cre­ation and pub­li­ca­tion is some­thing schools still strug­gle to grasp. Our school sys­tem must move quickly to adopt new ideas of lit­er­acy beyond what’s traditional.

I par­tic­u­larly like that Doug pointed out it’s more than the act of cre­ation that makes for lit­er­acy. You need to do more than write, record, or pho­to­graph. A cre­ative form of pre­sen­ta­tion is an inher­ent part of his def­i­n­i­tion. Your abil­ity to use, mas­ter, and build those tools deter­mines how much you con­trol your path.