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Literacy requires mastery not just of the linguistic elements of reading and writing, but of the tools that support effective performance in a variety of activities. Tool as we are using it here is the generalized concept of tool in activity system theory: all the technologies and systematized practices that support effective performance. Thus, at several levels of abstraction, we may note such tools as the following:
  • Fundamental literacy tools such as pencil and paper, pen and ink, chalk and slate that directly support reading and writing without requiring advanced technology.
  • Fundamental technology literacy tools, such as the printing press, telegraph machine, computer (keyboard, monitor, printer), cell phone, e-reader, and other physical devices intended to support transmission and reception of text.
  • Secondary literacy tools, such as dictionaries, thesauruses, library catalogs, indexes, tables of content, citations and bibliographies, and other resources designed to support specific aspects of literate practice.
  • Secondary technology literacy tools, such as word processor and presentation software, browsers, or the software that supports Internet forums and chat rooms.

Highly literate individuals can make effective use of a variety of literacy tools, including electronic technologies, to participate in the activity systems of literate life, and hence can collaborate as participating members of a wide range of literate communities. Development Table 1 presents an overview of hypothesized development for literacy skills.

People who demonstrate this kind of facility with the tools of literacy will meet Writing Standard 6 from the Common Core State Standards.

Development Table 1. Development of Skills Using Literacy Tools

(oral to sentential)
Can read text in a variety of media, including in paper and digital formats, and in a variety of styles, including print and cursive
Has been familiarized with a variety of individual fundamental technological tools including Internet tools and can use them singly or in groups with adult guidance and support
Can use fundamental tools such as paper and pencil to form characters, words and sentences.
(single sentence to paragraph)
Is familiar and reasonably fluent reading text in a variety of media, formats and styles.
Can use a variety of fundamental technological tools including the Internet to work alone or to collaborate in tasks that require one to read, produce and publish texts (with some degree of adult guidance and support.)
Can fluently produce text using fundamental tools, and can use technological tools such as keyboards to produce text in electronic form.
(paragraph to longer text)
Is highly fluent in reading and comprehending texts across a variety of media, formats, and styles.
Is familiar with a variety of secondary tools to support reading, writing, and thinking, and has mastered key elements such as links and citations that allow one to participate in a larger discourse.
Is highly fluent in producing text in multiple formats, whether by hand or on a keyboard.
(text to context)
Is reasonably fluent in using a variety of fundamental and secondary tools to support comprehension of text
Is fluent with a variety of literacy tools and is able to make strategic choices about which tools to use in which contexts to control format and presentation and thus maximize the effectiveness of literate activities.
Is reasonably fluent in using a variety of fundamental and secondary tools to support the writing process
(text and context to discourse)
Can make effective use of all available tools, including the Internet, to support comprehension of text.
Is able to make full use of all available tools, including the Internet, to participate effectively in ongoing discourse in a variety of literate communities, responding appropriately to new ideas, arguments, and information as they become available.
Can make effective use of all available tools to produce texts fluently and strategically within a variety of communities and discourses

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