There is No Set of Skills for Transliteracy

One of the questions I am repeatedly asked about transliteracy is – what are the set of skills for transliteracy?  I understand where the asker is coming from – in a world where we base so much on standardized tests, having a list you can check off and mark complete is something we have been trained to expect. We need it for validation.

You don’t need me to tell you that the world is rapidly changing around us. That approaches to teaching and learning are changing and that the “old” way of doing things is no longer working.

There is no defined set of skills for transliteracy. That is not because Sue Thomas, or others researching, reading, writing and talking about transliteracy have not bothered to create one, it is because transliteracy is a moving target. It is fluid. As the world around us changes so must we change with it.  We must continually learn, unlearn and relearn. Transliteracy is more than a set of skills, it is a process and journey.

This is an older slideshow that attempts to illustrated all of the dimensions of transliteracy.

“Multiple literacies”? Who really talks like that? (Survey)

You may recall that last February we highlighted a great article by Trudi Jacobson and Thomas Mackey introducing  ‘metaliteracy’ as a framework for understanding information literacy. The number of alternative “literacies” has seemed to explode over the past few years, and the article does a great job of reining competing literacies in and organizing them under a more manageable conceptual framework.  But, certain questions remain. In particular, how are terms like ‘metaliteracy, ‘transliteracy’, ‘information literacy’, and other literacies understood in the library profession? Well, to find the answer, Jacobson and Mackey have come up with a survey to find out how “librarians and faculty members worldwide who teach information literacy in some form conceive of information literacy” in light of the explosion of alternative literacies.

I’ll let Jacobson explain, from a message circulating on various listservs:

If you teach information literacy at an academic institution (in any format, such as a stand-alone course, a component of another course, or single sessions), I welcome your participation in a survey. The online survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/metaliteracy

The purpose of the survey is to learn more about the impact of the changing information environment and social media on the teaching of information literacy. This research follows up on my work with Dr. Thomas Mackey in connection with our article, “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy,” which appeared in the January 2011 issue of College & Research Libraries. Data gathered via this survey will contribute to a book we are currently writing on the same topic, which will be published by Neal-Schuman in 2012.

Your feedback will be most helpful in getting a sense of changes that may be occurring as a result of the evolving information environment and emerging literacy frameworks. Learning what others are doing, through the information that will be presented in the book and through other venues, may be beneficial in considering your own teaching.

So, if you’re interested in transliteracy, metaliteracy, information literacy, or some other putative literacy (hyperliteracy, anyone?), please chime in on the metaliteracy survey. The more data they collect, the better will be the picture of multiple literacies in librarianship. Once again, the survey is available at:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/metaliteracy

As a bit of a bonus, Trudi Jacobson was kind enough to send me a selected reading list. Go ahead and check it out if you’re interested in the concept of metaliteracy (or of transliteracy).

Suggested Reading (thanks to Trudi Jacobson)

  • Bobish, Greg.  2011. “Participation and Pedagogy: Connecting the Social Web to ACRL Learning Outcomes.”  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37, no 1: 5463.
  • Breivik, Particia Senn and E. Gordon Gee.  1989.  “Taking a New Look at Libraries,” In Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library, 1-29.  New York: Macmillan.
  • Dunaway, Michele Kathleen. 2011.  “Connectivism: Learning Theory and Pedagogical Practice  for Networked Information Landscapes.”  Reference Services Review 39, no. 4: 675-685.
  • Ipri, Tom. 2010. “Introducing Transliteracy: What Does It Mean To Academic Libraries?” College and Research Libraries News 71, no. 10: 532-567.  http://crln.acrl.org/content/71/10/532.full.pdf+html
  • Mackey, Thomas P. and Trudi E. Jacobson. 2011. “Reframing Information Literacy as a  Metaliteracy.” College and Research Libraries 72, no. 1: 62-78. http://crl.acrl.org/content/72/1/62.abstract 
  • Siemens, George.  2004.  “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.” Elearnspace: everything elearning. http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
  • Society of College, National and University Libraries. 2011. “The SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy, Core Model for Higher Education.” Society of College, National and University Libraries. http://www.sconul.ac.uk/groups/information_literacy/publications/coremodel.pdf
  • Thomas, Sue, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Mills, Simon Perril, et al.  2007.    “Transliteracy: Crossing Divides.” First Monday [Online], 12 no. 12.                       http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2060/1908

A reasonable objection to transliteracy

'Disagreement' by cabbit, on Flickr

A legitimate criticism

‘Transliteracy.’ Is it a bold new concept or the current enfant terrible of librarianship? It’s no secret that transliteracy has a polarizing effect, with the past year’s worth of commentary ranging from uncritical acceptance to critical analysis to dogmatic skepticism, and everywhere between. Obviously, this blog leans towards a more positive approach to transliteracy, But, what of the objections to the concept? Are there substantive concerns that we should be addressing, or is it all just snark?

Given the novelty of the term, the enthusiasm of early-adopters, and the “almost-but-not-quite” similarity of transliteracy to other “literacies”, it’s only natural for librarians to be skeptical. Unfortunately, this skepticism frequently manifests itself as snarky comments on Twitter, false analogies with Library 2.0, or obsessively pedantic linguistic prescriptivism. Some critics hammer away at style rather than substance. Others object to any nontraditional uses of the word “literacy” or the prefix “trans-“. Yet others lament that librarians would be interested in a concept that doesn’t come pre-packaged with a precise, committee-approved definition and bulleted-list of standards, objectives, and outcomes. And, my personal favorite, the red herring that we’re just confusing our patrons. These are all common objections to transliteracy, but they don’t amount to much more than impassioned rhetoric.  (Of course, there’s also a lot of empty rhetoric in support of transliteracy, but that’s a topic I’ll save for another post).

However, there is at least one really good objection to transliteracy as it is currently being applied by libraries, namely, that the concept of transliteracy is redundant…it’s already covered under existing information literacy standards. As Meredith Farkas wrote several months ago,

“The way librarians and other instructors teach information literacy instruction has grown and changed in response to the changing information ecosystem…And while there are librarians who don’t change the way they teach, that’s just being a bad instructor. It has nothing to do with information literacy instruction somehow being insufficient.” (12/21/2010)

So, existing information literacy standards already have mechanisms in place to cover transliteracy. Moreover, any real or perceived failures to meet the stated goals of transliteracy (communicating across media, reading and writing across platforms, etc.) are failures on the part of lazy librarians who resist change, not on information literacy. So, why do we need some new, faddish term when we already cover the same concepts under information literacy? I think this is a fair criticism, though I’m not convinced that information literacy already covers transliteracy. So, here goes an attempt at addressing this legitimate criticism of transliteracy. I have two responses…

Read the rest of this entry »

Transliteracies: Libraries as the Critical “Classroom”: Computers in Libraries 2011

Yesterday I had the honor of presenting with Gretchen Caserotti at Computers in Libraries over transliteracy and ways to understand, implement, and collaborate in your library.  Below are both of the slidedecks used.


 

 

Photos from the presentation courtesy of Courtney Young.

My Tuppence Worth

The heated online discussion with challenges and questions about the term “transliteracy” and it’s place in Library Land seems to have subsided, but I had yet to chime in with my two cents to respond to the request for definitions and desire to see results.

A Brief Background:

When I decided to go to library school, I was drawn to children’s librarianship and found that storytelling was a natural fit for me with my theatrical background. While in the MLS program at Pratt, that interest began to cross into multi-media. My professors opened my eyes to see that Stories exist through forms of media. It wasn’t something that was taught. It wasn’t something that was even discussed (that I remember). It didn’t have a name and I couldn’t identify it, but knew it excited me.

A year or so later I attended a presentation by Bobbi at Computers in Libraries on Transliteracy and it clicked for me. This was a concept that aligned with my ideas! It helps me frame discussions with patrons and staff in my everyday work.

Definitions:

I do agree that there are many similar qualities between the two terms Transliteracy and Information Literacy, but I don’t see them as equal. To me, the term Information Literacy is very academic, with a focus on formal instruction. My work in a public library does not include or require formal instruction. In fact, I am not sure that I know of a public library anywhere that requires continuing education for librarians. What I do know is that there are still librarians who lack basic technology skills (I recently heard a story from a colleague of visiting a library where she had to demo how to cut and paste – no joke) and my thinking is that we have to keep exploring and presenting new ways of thinking about learning and literacy in the hopes that something will click for them too.

girl reading on laptop screen

photo by Flickr user yohann.aberkane

Transliteracy allows me to include fun, art, creativity, playfulness and what brought me here to begin with…Story. The definition from transliteracy.com works just fine for me – “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media…” Sure there are other terms that are very similar like 21st Century Learning, e-literacy, and transmedia, but like Buffy J. Hamilton, I think Transliteracy is an umbrella term that allows us to explore the possibilities of communication and creation through many media forms (not necessarily just electronic) and quite frankly, I just like it!

Results:

Here is where the challenge lies. I don’t work in conducting research and formal studies with large groups. I work with a large cross-section of people, but in small groups. My task is to encourage and assist them in using modern tools to access information and entertainment as well as tools from the past.

My hope through working with this group is that I can share my own projects of exploration in my everyday work and hear stories of other libraries facing this challenge. Clearly formal educational environments provide more opportunities for exploring the concept while the absence of a classroom makes it difficult for those of us in public libraries to measure the effectiveness of an initiative. What a shame since public libraries have the potential to reach the largest audience!

So, I’m curious to know how public librarians are exploring multiple literacies at their libraries? How are you teaching transliteracy at your institution?

What Is Transliteracy? An Introduction from Sue Thomas.

Listen to this 2:19 minute interview with Sue Thomas from last years Transliteracy conference (she mentions libraries at 1:13).

Some key points

  • unifying literacy
  • aggregation of knowledge and sharing of knowledge
  • one is not better than the other they are simply different from each other

On Defining Transliteracy and Why Transliteracy Matters

I’d like to bring your attention to a post by Lane Wilkinson. Most of the post is about the definition of the word transliteracy and if we need to redefine it.  Lane takes an indepth look at the the why, how and need of defining or redefining including covering extensional and intensional definitions, concluding in part

… there is nothing yet to be gained by specifying the precise necessary and sufficient conditions for being an instance of transliteracy. Why? Well, transliteracy is in its infancy, and part of the fun in tracking its development is that there really is no consensus about what, exactly, ‘transliteracy’ means.

The whole post is worth a read if you are interested in the definition of transliteacy. Even if you are comfortable with the term, you may want to pay attention to his final paragraph where he raises the question: “One last thing…why should librarians be involved in transliteracy?”

It’s simple, really. Libraries are on the front lines of traditional literacy initiatives. But, libraries are also the vanguard for information literacy and digital literacy. In fact, if you can call it a type of literacy, you’ll probably find it in a library. This is important because it follows that libraries should be the natural proving grounds for exemplary instances of transliteracy. As a reference and instruction librarian, I see potential transliteracy every day. Whether it’s the cognitive code-switching when students effortlessly glide between touch-screens, keyboards, and pencils, or it’s the cognitive effects of 140-character constraints, or it’s the preference for digital access over print, or any other activity I see daily in the library, I can tell that that something is happening to our conception of literacy. Some sort of information related cognitive process is very well-developed in some patrons, and not so well developed in others. I can’t give a precise definition yet, but I can point to similarities, and, for the moment, that is how we should be approaching ‘transliteracy’. Librarians are perfectly situated to contribute to the extension of ‘transliteracy’ and, moreover, once a sufficient understanding of exemplary cases is reached, librarians are perfectly situated to explain why transliteracy matters.

I really like what Lane has to say, my only point of contention would be that since we are seeing transliteracy everyday, and “libraries should be the natural proving grounds for exemplary instances of transliteracy” we should not wait to explain why transliteracy matters.  Transliteracy matters because it reflects the demonstrated change in the needs of our communities whether that community is school, public, academic or special library.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 272 other followers

%d bloggers like this: