Listicle about Skills and Literacies


9 thoughts about skills and literacies


1. Literacies

The dictionary definition of literacy is the ability to read and to write, to deal adequately with a written system of communication. For centuries human mankind needed basic reading and writing skills. Literacy is a key skill and a key measure of a population’s education.

Although illiteracy (lack of reading and writing skills) is often said to be the root cause of major problems humanity faces, access to basic education was not important until the Middle Ages. So, literacy rates grew slowly. After the middle of the 20th century, the expansion of basic education became a global priority. With the expansion of education systems more and more people have access to basic education and literacy. Despite this fact studies show that more and more people are facing functional illiteracy.

A functional illiterate person is incapable of decoding the written language, although they can read and write simple sentences and have a limited vocabulary. The dictionary defines functional illiterate as “a person with some basic education who still falls short of a minimum standard of literacy or whose reading and writing skills are inadequate to everyday needs”. (Source:

“Around 15 per cent, or 5.1 million adults in England, can be described as 'functionally illiterate.' They would not pass an English GCSE and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old. They can understand short straightforward texts on familiar topics accurately and independently, and obtain information from everyday sources, but reading information from unfamiliar sources, or on unfamiliar topics, could cause problems.” (Source:

As a consequence of global economic, social, technological and environmental changes, schools – teaching and learning - are transforming. So is the content of education. The use of technology, 21st century technologies require more than the simple ability to read and write. We need to be able to use a wide range of technologies as we have access to information through different media technologies (books, newspapers, magazines, tv, radio, internet, visuals, info graphics, social site, text messages, blogs etc.). The abilities needed are called new literacies. You can read about it below.

“In schools today, a text can be any form of communication including articles, novels, non-fiction books, movies, plays, posters, photographs, paintings, advertisements, and even computer games – any medium that is used for communication.”



2. The rise of “new” literacies

In the Knowledge Society we need a wide range of skills and literacies (competences) to succeed in work, life and citizenship. In other words, we need new literacies to master „new ways of reading and writing”, to have access to knowledge and information in different formats. It means there is a significant shift in what a “literate” person looks like. It also means the necessary change of the content of education. The mushrooming of literacies is due to our need for understanding new „texts”. However, the root cause of the growing number of literacies is the fast development of (Information and Communication) technologies. It is obvious that technology shapes literacies, but other dimensions of learning are also of importance. The list of the so called “new” literacies is the following:

  • Closely related to ICT
    • Digital Literacy – Cognitive skills that are used in executing tasks in digital environments
    • Computer Literacy – Ability to use a computer and software
    • Media Literacy – Ability to think critically about different types of media
    • Information Literacy – Ability to evaluate, locate, identify, and effectively use info
    • Technology Literacy – The ability to use technology effectively in several different ways
    • Visual Literacy – The ability to critically read images
  • Less related to ICT
    • Political Literacy – Knowledge and skills needed to actively participate in political matters
    • Cultural Literacy – The knowledge of one's own culture
    • Multicultural Literacy – The knowledge and appreciation of other cultures

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3. “Other” literacies

In addition to the above literacies there are many more, but less closely – if at all – related to the use of ICT.

  • emotional, physical, health, social, environmental literacies (Google),
  • legal, gamer, country music literacies (E. Baker)

The latest(?) literacy: 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 – according to Sue Thomas of DeMontfort University (source:

4. Information literacy

An information literate person knows:

  • when and why you need information,
  • where to find it, and
  • how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.

Information literacy means:

  • identifying
  • planning
  • scoping (assessing or investigating information)
  • gathering
  • evaluating
  • managing
  • presenting of information.

5. Evaluating information sources

Since information can be unreliable, false or unsuitable for your purposes, it is essential to evaluate information. Since the quality standards of printed materials are controlled (peer reviewing, editing etc.), published materials need less evaluation as far as their reliability is concerned. However, they still might be unsuitable for your research.

Since web 2.0 technologies make it possible for anyone without supervision and control to publish unsupervised, uncontrolled content, it is our (the users’) responsibility to examine the content critically and evaluate the information sources.

6. Hedging

Optional, but highly recommended

Since you do this course in English, which is not your native language, there is one more important thing. Studying in another language is never easy. You need to learn from foreign language texts, and sometimes it is not easy to make out the meaning. The English tend to be overcautious in their statements. They use different linguistic devices (words, phrases etc.) to distinguish between facts and opinions. This is called hedging.

Whenever you are writing for publication, you need to be cautious in your statements, and make it clear for your reader whether the statement contains facts and claims. We use different linguistic devices to express facts, hesitation or uncertainty. This is known as “hedging”. Hedges in your text indicate how confident you are about the claims you make. But they also indicate that you (the author) are careful and would like to avoid generalizations. The English use “hedged” language a lot, so do English speaking people all over the world to conform to the accepted style of academic writing.

You will find a list of linguistic devices used in hedging. As the list is far from being complete, you can add more to the list.

Modal (auxiliary) verbs

may, might, can, could, would, should

Probability adjectives

likely, unlikely, possible, impossible, probable, improbable

Probability adverbs

perhaps, possibly, probably, practically, likely, presumably, virtually, apparently


Frequency adverbs

often, occasionally, generally, usually, seldom, commonly


claim, suggestion, evidence


to seem, to appear, to believe, to assume, to suggest, to estimate, to tend, to think, to argue, to indicate, to propose, to speculate

Impersonal passive

It is implied that ... , It is thought that ... , It has been asserted that … , It is supposed that … , It is reported that … , It has been known for some time that …


Introductory phrases

To our knowledge, It is our view that

If clauses

if true, if anything

Prepositional phrases

to some extent, to a certain degree, in some circumstances


Conventional wisdom holds …, The evidence for … is surely growing stronger …, There are many reasons to believe …, Recent economic analysis indicates that …, The survey suggests that …, The report suggests that … The evidence indicates that …, The evidence suggests that …, On the basis of studies in several countries …, According to detractors from either side of a debate about the future of …, Practitioners say …, It seems reasonable to …,It  looks probable that …


List of linguistic devices used in hedging

7. visual literacy

We live in an era when a photo is worth a thousand words, and visuals speak louder than texts. That is why we need to read visual images. The interpretation of visuals needs a special ability: visual literacy.

“The basic definition of visual literacy is the ability to read, write and create visual images. It is a concept that relates to art and design but it also has much wider applications. Visual literacy is about language, communication and interaction. Visual media is a linguistic tool with which we communicate, exchange ideas and navigate our highly visual digital world.”


Visual literacy is a staple of 21st century skills, which state that learners must “demonstrate the ability to interpret, recognize, appreciate and understand information presented through visible actions, objects and symbols, natural or man-made.” Derived from definition attributed to John Debes, per the International Visual Literacy Association (Source:

“Less than 30 years ago, when the Internet first launched, everything was black, white, and plain text.” With Flash in 1996, the Internet started to resemble what it is like today.

But why do we need so many images? Because human’s attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds and visual content reaches our brain faster than textual information. (Source:

“Sixty-three percent of social media is made up of images. That means nearly two-thirds of the updates you see on social media are visual content…”.


According to the 2013 Pew Research Study “54 percent of all Internet users have posted an original photo or video that they personally have created.”

We live in an “image-driven cultural renaissance”. We need to interpret diagrams, maps and visual instructions etc. With the ease of photo taking, we take photos obsessively. More and more people are keeping a photographic food diary, others are making selfies, while still others are making screen and white board captures. By the way, if you are interested in the technique of visual note-taking, watch the videos here: You can use your digital camera for building reference collections.

Our obsession with visual images has created new genres, such as picture manual, screen capture, audio visual essay, visual novel etc.

Obviously, visuals serve communication, so it is of utmost importance to understand visuals, pictures in a multicultural world, where millions of people live in countries whose language they do not master or speak at all. Photos and visuals speak the same language. So, they can be used in various situations. But is also important that we understand how photos, visuals affect us. If you are interested in the power of photography, here is a useful link:


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8. Visualization

Texts can be visualized to make them easier to understand or memorize. Below you will see an example. Which do you prefer? Which is more effective before a geography test?

  1. China
  2. India
  3. USA
  4. Indonesia
  5. Brazil
  6. Pakistan
  7. Nigeria
  8. Bangladesh
  9. Russia
  10. Mexico


Source: Ten Countries with the Highest Population in the World

Visuals, photos, images, that is visual stimuli, can:



There are numerous applications, software and tools, even freely available ones to choose from when we would like to visualize numerical and textual data. Useful info is available here:

9. Presentation skills

Presentations are oral reports presented with illustrative material, such as slides, graphs, images etc. You can use handouts or audio clips.

Presenting information clearly and effectively is a key skill today. Communication and presentation skills are important to academic and/or business success, leadership etc.

Presentations have different types, they can be informative, instructional, arousing, persuasive, and decision making.

You might be most familiar with academic presentations, when you present the results of your research on topics assigned by your teachers. They are informative presentations. Although political, religious, business or judicial presentations are quite different, you can learn a lot of things from them about how to make a good presentation.

Watch the following online video here:

You will see parts of a Steve Jobs presentation. Steve Jobs was an excellent presenter, a storyteller. You can learn from him. After seeing the clip make a list of the tips how to do a great presentation. But don’t forget you will need a lot of practice to become a great presenter.

When you prepare your presentation, you will need to think of the following:

  1. The subject of your presentation
  2. The objective of your presentation
  3. Your audience (the size, their age, their knowledge about the topic, their needs etc.)
  4. The place and the available technology
  5. Length of the presentation and timing
  6. Content: main points and supporting info
  7. Structure of your presentation: introduction, middle, conclusion
  8. Form: colours, fonts, visuals etc.
  9. Language: verbal and nonverbal or body language

If you are a novice, here you can learn the basics of how to make a presentation:

Presentation templates available here:

Further resources:

Last modified: Friday, 11 May 2018, 3:57 PM