Inquiry into

What does it means to be literate?

IB Dunia Conference 2012 (Sekolah Pelita Harapan, November 24th, 2012)

Tantri Almira Wardhani and Daniel Weaver



The modern world has truly forced educators to redefine what it means exactly to be literate as there are new forms of literacy evolving constantly.  This reality is worth exploration. The workshop is dedicated to a discussion and examination of new and old forms of literacy and how the world will never see literacy the same way again.

Understanding that there are new and different forms of literacy will expand the minds of teachers and students as both understand different aspects of literacy.  Fluency in other languages is not as vital as having an open-mind when it comes to forms of communication and ways of being literate.

The purpose of the workshop was:

  • to explore the new and old forms of literacy
  • to expand the minds of teachers of their roles in the 21st century learning

Here is the prezi presentation that I made for the workshop.

Our Inquiry…

Provocation- Tuning in…

To start the workshop, we played a video.

Guided Question: What does the video tell you about the world?


courtesy of youtube:

Change is a constant factor in human history (Robinson, 2001)

Before we go further, we asked the teachers to first explore how the world impacts upon their lives. They take few moments in personal reflection on their life journey.

By exploring our own perceptions, we may begin to appreciate where we stand in a rapidly changing 21st century. That is as a reminder that the world is developing and we, as teachers, need also to think about that.

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our students of tomorrow (John Dewey, 1916)

Preparing to Find Out…

Watching a video.

This video is an ad about lack of literacy. The illiterate in the video has missed out some opportunities that he could have gotten it if he could read the signs.

courtesy of youtube:

After watching the video, teachers discussed what it means to be literate according to their definition.

Finding info- Sorting Out

It’s the 21st Century? Really? When did it happen? 12 years ago?  Let’s move in!

Next, we showed the slides of some world facts and maps. We would like to know how much knowledge the teachers know about the world.

The teachers would be given a time to think/ search for the answers… 

So… What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century?

Let’s back to the past…

 and this…

 or this…

 and this?

 Then, teachers discussed their definition of what it means to be literate in the 21st century….

 Teachers had come up with some definitions of literate but most of them agreed that being literate is not mainly about the 3R (wRite, Read, aRitmethic) but being literate means to be able to ADAPT…

So… Back to the previous questions...

What do you know about Dongguan, Dalian, and Sialkot?

and this figure?

340, 282, 366, 920, 938, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000


Dongguan is now the third largest exporting city in mainland China, with 15.000 international companies based there and a population that has risen from 1 million in 1970’s to over 7 million today. It is a city where approximately 40% of the world’s computer parts are produced.

Dalian is the Silicon valley of north-cast China, with 22 colleges and universities and over 200.000 students, and it is where Japanese companies have now invested in the research and development of software.

Sialkot is in Pakistan, where 85% of the world’s footballs are made.

340, 282, 366, 920, 938, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000

The above figure , created by IPv6, the new internet protocol, represents the number of IP internet addresses in the world in 2009. The number of the internet addresses has continued to increase.

And teachers discussed…

We could conclude that:

These are just some examples of a rapidly changing world that requires new skills from teachers and learners. They are indicative of shifting global economy that, more than ever, challenges educators to ensure GLOBAL UNDERSTANDING, CULTURAL AWARENESS, and FLEXIBILITY OF INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING TO ENGAGE, motivate and prepare our young people for their new world.

So… How many forms of literacy are there?

We played anagram to find out some forms of literacy. This game was very interesting. It could be clearly seen that the teachers enjoyed moving around the room to figure out the jumbled letter and make them into words.

After exploring some forms of literacy, the teachers discussed about some other forms of literacy…


Going further- Taking Action

How do you see the future of education? So what skills that you need to have as teachers?

Reflection –> What’s all about?

Watching a video

courtesy youtube:

The 21st century learning is not only about using technology devices but also our attitudes as teachers and life long learners to always ADAPT, be OPEN MINDED, and get CONNECTED to the world. As teachers and learners, we need to keep improving ourselves so that we can support our students to enhance their learning.

Resources: Creating Lifelong Learners: Challenges for Education in the 21st Century (Ian Andain and Gerard Murphy, 2008)


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