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Multiliteracies of a 21st-century educator

The story of Issunboushi  いっすんぼうし

Once upon a time, there was an old couple who really wanted to have a child. Since they were old this was a bit difficult for them but they kept praying for a baby. One day their wish came true and the old woman gave birth to a small boy. The boy was so small people had a hard time seeing him, he was actually as small as the old man’s thumb, they called him Issunboushi (Issunboushi  いっすんぼうし).

Issuboushi wanted to be a samurai and one day left his home with a needle (his sword), a bowl (his sandal) and 2 chopsticks (his paddles). He was soon discovered by the forces of the local governor and assigned as the guard of the princess. Shortly after, he and the princess were attacked by an Oni (鬼, the devil) and the devil swallowed Issunboushi. He managed the jabbed the needle into the devil’s body from the inside and this was when the devil puked him out. The devil then ran away by leaving the magical hammer behind. The princess used the magical hammer (Uchidenokozuchi打ち出の小槌) to make him a normal size prince. Issunboshi and the princess got married and lived happily after…

(Dino Lingo, 2018)

Technology brings change to our world and our schools, and evolves our way of thinking and doing; Issunboushi. Social tools and resources can be used to support learning in formal and informal contexts. As conceptualised by Albert Bandura many years ago, his social cognitive theory and agency “enable[s] people to play a part in their self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times” (Bandura 2001, in International Baccalaureate, 2018, p 1).

Being technologically literate, how we use ICT as 21st-century educators, develops students’ ability to engage with multiple texts in multiple modes. Some examples of multiliteracies include:

· Digital literacy:knowing and using a range of digital devices, including networking, as well as computing devices such as tablets, laptops, smartphones, and so on

· Media literacy:knowing how to access, analyse, evaluate and create media

· Information literacy:collecting, exploring and using information, data and evidence

· Critical literacy:critical thinking through digital technologies, questioning and comparing what aids, extends and hinders learning

· Design literacy:knowing that the world has been designed to aid and extend. For example, maintaining the focus on play by structuring early learning spaces with technological design choices that aid or extend children’s play

(International Baccalaureate Organisation, 2018a, p 53)

These multiliteracies combine into a super formation of literacy and communication teaching and learning identified as multimodality. These multiliteracies are forms of expression and design modes to gain an ability to understand and communicate, opening the door to a multitude of actions in teaching and learning through inquiry.

Navigating through the plethora of opportunities to learn via social tools can be daunting for educators to manage, design and integrate appropriately and effectively. How we use these types of resources relies on student agency and how the learning community can support action. Back in 2001, Marc Prensky wrote an eye-opening article which recognised the differences of people as digital natives and digital immigrants. This realisation that not everyone has the ability to access or be born into a technological world, and taking action as educators with technology may be scary or challenging to migrate into. Nevertheless, 21st-century educators are ensuring that our students as digital natives can learn through an adaptation of new methodologies and resources.

This general idea of what ICT knowledge and skills means in education today heavily relies on what a 21st-century educator is. The educational hyper-blogger George Couros (2016) provides us with a good summary of what this 21st-century educator should be all about.

This image indicates how modern educators have to be examples of lifelong learners, and for this moment in time, they can be a blend of digital immigrants and natives (Prensky, 2011), serving and supporting old mate Bandura and his social agency ideas.

As modern schooling continues to evolve our digital immigrants and natives, their attributes must always enhance and grow, for the benefit of the required life and ICT skills children of today need in their future.


Couros, G (2016) ’10 essential characteristics of a 21st-century educator’, The Principal of Change, [blog] Available at:

International Baccalaureate Organisation (2018) The Learner, Petersen House, Cardiff, U.K.

International Baccalaureate Organisation (2018a) The Learning Community, Petersen House, Cardiff, U.K.

Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’, On The Horizon, MCB University Press, Vol. 9, No. 5. Available at:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf Accessed on: 29 April 2019

Wordpress (2013) Azuki, ‘Japanese mosters and legends – day 23 Issunboushi’ [blog] Available at: Accessed on: 29 April 2019

Flickr (2018) Issunboushi by Anna said [open image]

Cresswell, M. (2019) ‘Four Deloreans’ [photo] My own T-shirt from my cupboard.

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