Graphocentrism Must End

Caligraphy-Formal writing

Sometimes I find myself getting very impatient with the complaints of today’s youth.  How they show apathy and indifference to their education, and how they are so distracted with the technology of today.  So many people say that society is going downhill because of technology and that we are losing intelligence.  Most of the time technology and the so-called loss of literacy take the blame.  I was encouraged to read that “textual literacy has become so ingrained in Western society that it has reached the point of invisibility. But humans have only been using reading and writing for a very short time in our history” (Thomas & Joseph et al., 2007).  The article also explains how Transliteracy has far reaching historical roots and that in the long past, humans have used many different ways to communicate. Surprisingly, reading and writing have only been around a relatively short time.  “Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” (Thomas & Joseph et al., 2007). 

Why are we so obsessed with the formality of the written word? Why do the arguments continue about whether true literacy exists beyond the printed text?

To me the arguments and complaints are useless.  They will not produce fruit.  In my opinion all it does is exacerbate the generational divide between the digital natives and the digital immigrants.  If we are to reach the youth and promote the literacy we hold so dear, we must accept it on their terms.  We must place literacy in the context of what is important to our students. 

“…learning has to do with how people appropriate and master tools for thinking and acting that exist in a given culture or society. This anchors literacy and learning in societal perceptions of what is important for a particular society. Thus, the nature of “literacy” is not neutral, rather becoming literate has always depended on mastering processes that are deemed valuable in particular societies, cultures and contexts;” (Misfund, 2005).

If what we do in school continues to be so different than what happens outside of school, students will continue to display apathy and not become engaged in their schooling.  Outside of school students are continually reading, writing and publishing.  Often what they do is very public.  As educators we must harness these abilities and skills within our own curriculum context.  We must make these everyday processes about more than what happened on the weekend. 

Thank you for reading!!



Mifsud, L., (2005). What counts as digital literacy: Experiences from a seventh grade classroom in Norway. Retrieved from

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday, Vol.12 (12). Retrieved from 

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One response to “Graphocentrism Must End”

  1. kelasher says :

    You state how “many people say that society is going downhill because of technology and that we are losing intelligence.” I believe those sentiments were also used fifty years ago by people who felt television would bring about a similar result. Yet I can easily argue how tv has provided me with significant understandings and knowledge that I may not have been exposed to otherwise. I too find the thought of invisible technology encouraging, as it should really not be about the technology at all, but about our interactions with knowledge, others, our environment and ourselves.

    I appreciate and echo your sentiments about how too often the focus of literacy in school seems to be on the formality of printed text. Belshaw (2011) notes how schools traditionally focus on the “denotative, procedural, and cognitive elements of literacy” (p. 152) and don’t often provide students with experiences that reflect literacies practiced outside of school, criticizing the use of technology for traditional literacy tasks, as when students are required to type assignments for or make PowerPoint presentations, which “fail to immerse and induct young people into the kind of ‘discourses’ that they encounter outside and beyond school, college and university. (p. 152). Schools need to acknowledge that there are so many ways to ‘read’ and ‘write’ beyond merely words on a page.

    As educators, we must also recognize the need to merge real life experiences and the associated literacies with the learning experiences we provide for our students. Jason Ohler (2011) speaks of the need to help students lead one life and not two, stating that “the one-life perspective invites our students to bring their digital lives into our schools so that we can pursue these objectives in ways that are meaningful to them. (p. 26). Although his words are aimed more specifically at the notion of digital citizenship, I think the sentiment is equally applicable to the need for students to develop literacy skills that apply to all the different aspects of their lives, both in and out of school, whether digital or not.

    Great post!


    Belshaw, D. (2011). What is ‘digital literacy’? A pragmatic investigation. Retrieved from

    Ohler, J. (2011). Digital Citizenship Means Character Education for the Digital Age. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(1), 25-27. Retrieved from

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