Literacy is Recognizing Patterns

Literacy, of any type, is about pattern recognition, about seeing how art is like physics is like literature is like dance is like architecture is like …Literacy is not about knowing where the dots are. Literacy is not about finding dots about which you may not know. Literacy is about connecting the dots and seeing the big picture that emerges.

This quote about literacy got me thinking. I love the connection to patterns. I do think that literacy is about knowing where the dots are, except that it is not limited to that. There are two sides to a literacy, the reading and the writing (in the grand sense of each). But this idea about patterns is great, I wonder if staying in the realm of “patterns” is too abstract to be practical though.

Last week my students came across the word “pattern” and to my slight surprise many of them asked me what the word means. A slightly bigger surprise, is that I had immediate difficulty explaining it to them. Usually I’m very good at providing examples on the spot. However, I found that “pattern” just has too many apt examples to make it an easy concept to quickly grasp. Any example would highlight the example, not the concept. Maybe this is why it fits well with “literacy”, a concept that stretches across differing landscapes.

Unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to be any way to find the original source for this quote. Imagine that, a resource not out on the web somewhere.

Rob Wall. What You Really Need to Learn: Some Thoughts. Stigmergic Web (weblog). June 3, 2007.


More: The quote is taken from a series of posts following Jenny through Stephen Downes’ eLearning 3.0 class. They are a great read if you didn’t take the class, but were still interested in it peripherally. Stephen is always thought provoking.

The intro video is a good overview. I don’t know if the Q&A is included in the video, but at one point Stephen uses the phrases “You can always go more fundamental”, which I think undermines his emphasis on experiential learning, because it’s the more fundamental stuff that is great for classroom and structured learning. Like I said though, thought provoking.

Link to the first post (includes the video):

One thought on “Literacy is Recognizing Patterns

  1. Thanks for the reference. In the UK, the literacy curriculum includes speaking and listening as well as reading and writing. It’s interesting to think of how pattern recognition relates to this too.


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