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21st Century Literacies Maker Circles

Child using iPad


Professor Cathy Burnett, Professor Guy Merchant

Project date

2015 - ongoing

Developing support for 21st Century Literacies in primary schools

As communicative practices continue to change – and to become increasingly diverse, digital, mobile and multimodal – there is a need to re-examine the nature of literacy in the 21st century and to ensure that literacy provision in education is effective in supporting learners’ participation in their current and future lives.  Over the past two decades we have engaged in a wide range of projects designed to investigate 21st century literacies, recognising that children have varied – often extensive – understanding and experience of using digital tools and environments.  Our work has explored how literacy provision in schools can reflect and build on this experience and support children to use digital media with confidence, creativity, discernment and criticality.

Through the 21st Century Literacies Maker Circles Project, teachers work collaboratively to plan open-ended projects through which children from different schools share ideas in a shared digital space. This approach provides peer support for teacher planning and also generates meaningful, motivating opportunities for children to use digital media within the framework of the current English curriculum. The work is informed by nine principles derived from prior research which combine to form A Charter for 21st Century Literacies (see Burnett & Merchant, 2015, 2018).


Sheffield Hallam University


  • Burnett, C. & Merchant, G. (2018). New media in the classroom: rethinking primary school literacy. London: Sage.
  • Parry, R., Burnett, C. & Merchant, G. (Eds.) (2017). Literacy, media, technology: Past, present and future. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Burnett, C. (2017). Reading the future: the contribution of literacy studies to debates on reading and reading engagement for primary-aged children. In Ng, C. & Bartlett, B. (Eds.) Improving Reading in the 21st Century: International Research and Innovations. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.
  • Monkhouse, J., Bailey, C., Baker, W., Power, D., Bailey, C. Burnett, C., Daniels, K., Merchant, G. (2017). Word on the Street. English 4-11. Spring 2017, 59, 17-20.
  • Burnett, C. & Merchant, G. (2015). Promoting 21st Century Literacies.  Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacies. 59(3), 271-274.
  • Burnett, C., Davies, J., Merchant, G. & Rowsell, J. (Eds.) (2014). New Literacies around the Globe: Policy and Pedagogy. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Burnett, C. & Merchant, G. (2012). Learning, literacies and new technologies: the current context and future possibilities. In: J. Larson & J. Marsh (Eds.) Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy. London: Sage. Pp.575-586
  • Burnett, C. (2010). Technology and literacy in early childhood educational settings: a review of research. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy (Special Issue: Literacy and Technology), 10, 3, 247-270.
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