Two Free Books on Digital Literacies

Thanks to Sheila Webber at the Information Literacy Weblog for pointing me towards these. I haven’t only discovered them this morning so I can’t provide any sort of review. From her blog

… for those interested in digital literacies, there are substantial resources from established researchers in this field, Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. There are two books which can be accessed as complete pdfs: A New Literacies Sampler and Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices.

These can both be accessed from here:

Lankshear and Knobel’s blog is Everyday literacies at A recent post highlights the open-access Nordic journal of digital literacy which has English language articles as well as ones in Nordic languages.

A New Literacies Sampler (pdf)

Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. (pdf)

At 323 and 263 pages these are just one more reason I wish I had a Kindle for reading PDFs. :-) I’ll post more on them once I’ve finished in the meantime I would love to hear what you think.

Information Literacy Videos

Transliteracy and Millennial Students’ Mental Models of Search


"Concept Mapping" (2009). CC image courtesy of yish on Flickr

One of the common criticisms of transliteracy is that “we can’t describe what a transliterate person looks like.” As far as I’m concerned, this is criticism is rooted in a simple category mistake: people aren’t transliterate, transliteracy is a cognitive function. That is, transliteracy is best understood as a cognitive skill or ability, one that can and should be emphasized in our information literacy curriculum. This is why I think that Lucy Holman’s recent article1 in The Journal of Academic Librarianship is especially important for those interested in transliteracy.

In the latest issue of the JAL, Holman has provided valuable, empirical research into the nature and content of the mental models used by student researchers. The concept of mental models has a long history in information literacy. For example, Holman references Brandt’s (1997) constructivist approach2 of “connecting students’ existing mental models (for example, use of a telephone directory) to that of an online index” (p. 20). Appealing to mental models is a core aspect of successful information literacy. Yet, as Holman’s research suggests, the most common approaches to information literacy instruction are rooted in a print-based mental model of online searching that is at odds with “millennials’ own mental models of Internet-based information retrieval with engines that more accurately and effectively parse a simpler, more natural language query” (pp. 25-26). Holman concludes by advocating that information literacy instruction shift focus from search strategies to evaluation, which is nothing new, but in rooting this shift in mental models she has provided an excellent proving ground for transliteracy-based instruction.

Put simply, students’ mental models of effective research practices are both poorly constructed and wildly divergent. Library instructors need to address this, and many do: the idea of connecting mental models (the telephone directory to online index example) is well-established in information literacy, but the increasing complexity (and the increasing number) of research avenues has lead to a need for a more nuanced approach that is independent of any particular mental model. If we could address how students construct and apply these models, it may make a world of difference in library instruction.

Elsewhere, I have argued that transliteracy is about linguistic competency, and one of the basic features of linguistic competency is the ability to construct mental models. Moreover, with each new information system or domain we encounter, we add to our available mental models. Google, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, Quora, JSTOR, etc…each either creates a new mental model, or affects an existing mental model, of how an information system behaves. For example, my mental model of how Wikipedia works is playing a part in how I approach Quora. In turn, Quora itself might lead me to a new model of understanding information-seeking behavior. The ability to construct and evaluate effective mental models is key in transliteracy instruction, so it follows that transliteracy may yet prove itself as that more nuanced approach to addressing the problems Holman identifies.

Whether you like the term ‘transliteracy’ or not, Holman’s research provides substantive evidence that the underlying concepts are important.

1Holman, Lucy. “Millennial Students’ Mental Models of Search: Implications for Academic Librarians and Database Developers.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 37, no. 1 (2011): 19-27.

2Brandt, D. Scott. “Constructivism: Teaching for Understanding of the Internet.” Communications of the ACM 40, no. 10 (1997): 112-117.

Transliteracy at ALA Mid Winter #alamw11

We’ll be having two meetings at the Mid Winter meeting of the American Library Association!

The first an unofficial happy hour for those who wont make the official Interest Group meeting:
Sunday, January 9th from 6-9 pm
777 G Street
San Diego, CA 92101-6418

The second the official meeting of the Transliteracy Interest Group:
Monday January 10th 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm at
San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) – Room 24 C
First meeting of transliteracy interest group will be a round-table style discussion of the future and goals of the group.

Sue Thomas Weighs in on the Transliteracy Debate Among Librarians

I wondered if she was following the recent conversation and it turns out she was and blogged her take on it:

So transliteracy is a shape-shifting eco-system of behaviours and it is probably neither possible nor desirable for anyone to understand enough to know the whole elephant. The vital thing is to remember it is always there and in constant motion. This means recognising the limits of your own knowledge andaccepting a degree of messiness and uncertainty.

I appreciate that some people are uncomfortable with that and prefer to use concepts which are locked down and straightforward, but that’s not likely to happen with transliteracy and could even diminish its flexible strength.  Those who need that kind of tool should probably look for something else. But I hope they will occasionally set aside a moment or two to consider the elephant in all its complexity.

For those who aren’t familiar with Sue Thomas  some background:

Transliteracies was introduced by the Transliteracies Research Projectdirected by Alan Liu, Dept of English, University of California at Santa Barbara.

“Established in 2005, the Transliteracies Project includes scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering in the University of California system (and in the future other research programs). It will establish working groups to study online reading from different perspectives; bring those groups into conjunction behind a shared technology development initiative; publish research and demonstration software; and train graduate students working at the intersections of the humanistic, social, and technological disciplines.”

Sue Thomas attended the first transliteracies conference and was inspired to form the PART Group (Production and Research in Transliteracy, now

PART is a small group of researchers based in the Faculty of Humanities but researching in the Institute of Creative Technologies. The IOCT, which opened in 2006, undertakes research work in emerging areas at the intersection of e–Science, the Digital Arts, and Humanities”. – Thomas, et al.

Thomas and others, authored the First Monday paper Transliteracy: Crossing Divides.



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