“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

Knowledgeable to Knowledge-ABLE

I finally had a chance to watch Michael Wesch’s new TEDxKC talk (October, 2010).

When I went to find the code for the video, I came across this article he wrote on the same subject here in the Academic Commons.

This new media environment can be enormously disruptive to our current teaching methods and philosophies. As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.

His argument that we need to be able to find, sort, analyze and even create new information in a new media landscape is perfectly in line with the principles of Transliteracy, but the section I was most struck by was around 6:30 when he talks about students seeking meaning in their lives. Near the end he states, “meaning is not just something you find, but ultimately something you create.” As someone also working with young people, I know he’s absolutely right and I find myself thinking more about context.

Knowledge Ability changes over time, based on the communication environment they are in.

Media are not just tools, they mediate relationships and allow us to connect with each other. When media change, our relationships change. Does that sound familiar to anyone who read Transliteracy: Crossing Divides?

The literacies (digital, numerate, oral) may be different, but the transliteracies (social, economic, political) often transect them in similar ways, depending on cultural context.

Wesch says learning is not a one-way conversation anymore – I say neither is librarianship! The old model with youth was “sit-down, be quiet and take in what I tell/give you.” We need to find ways to transform the one-way into two-way conversations.

But here is my great challenge as a children’s librarian in a public library. How do I help teach this in my informal learning environment? How can I help students learn outside the classroom? Wesch’s quote from Neil Postman, “You will do nothing” is not an option for public librarians!

So, what AM I doing? I’m going to do a quick self-audit of Wesch’s criteria to make young people knowledge-able:

  • Connect – We bring together students from across the district with shared interests through our programs and with their friends in the physical space. We’re working toward making our website/catalog (SOPAC) to become a social space where members can connect with each other through the site.
  • Organize – I don’t think I’m doing much of anything to help them organize.
  • Share – Our kids and teens have a voice. They can write comments on the website, write reviews in the catalog and I work hard to hire staff that listens and encourages the kids to share their stories and ideas.
  • Collect – I guess we help kids collect their research, but most often kids come in when they’ve finished their web research and the teacher is making them use a book. The nature of our work as Librarians allows us ample opportunity to collect resources and make them available, but I don’t see us having much of a role in our patrons experience of collecting anything.
  • Collaborate – Staff collaborates all the time using tools like google docs (I have introduced staff in other departments to these tools too) to plan summer reading programs, big events or preparing resource lists. Our Teen and  Kids Advisory Boards collaborate to plan events and collaborate with staff, and sometimes they may work together on a game or craft, but nothing I can identify as an organized effort in our department.
  • Publish – We are experimenting with an elementary school class to digitally publish their personal narratives and make them available on the library’s website. Close, but an unfinished project. Some of us try to “publish” content the kids and teens make in programs, but there isn’t much more I see us doing to publish kids’ creations at the moment. I see lots of potential in this area for public librarians.

Sadly, this makes me realize I am doing a better job of providing this structure for my staff than I am for my patrons. The places I see this type of work happening in a public library are through programming and through our Reference/Reader’s Adivsory with the public. I guess I need to think about those services with an eye toward this concept.

I will take his statement to heart and continue to keep this in my mind:

Knowledge-ability is a practice

I shall practice making more opportunities for my patrons that’s for sure!

Collaborative Consumption

One thing which excites me about Transliteracy is, because of its newness, the skills involved are not well-defined. It seems like many people interested in the topic have an “I know it when I see it” approach to identifying skills and these skew toward computer-related skills, which is entirely legitimate since the need to be transliterate most obviously manifests itself when confronted with a new technology. Of course, Transliteracy involves a whole swath of cognitive skills that transcend navigating new technology.

One factor that suddenly seems, to me, so essential to Transliteracy, and not, perhaps, a skill per se, is the issue of trust. This insight dawned on me while watching Rachel Botsman’s TED presentation. Because Transliteracy often concerns itself with social media, the development of trust becomes very important. To a certain extent, trust is a teachable skill and librarians invest a great deal of effort in instilling notions of trust. How do we trust that a web site is reliable? But beyond that, individuals need to learn how and when other individuals are trustworthy. In a way, this notion of trust seems an obvious component of Transliteracy, but it only recently dawned on me how essential it is to our discussion.

Watch what Botsman has to say about trust. Does it seem like trust is an important element of our conversation? How teachable is trust? Can the level of trust she talks about be taught or are we relying on a cultural shift?

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

Matt Richtell, in his New York Times article, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” raises the concern that computers and smart phones pose “a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.” He opens with the story of Vishal Singh, a seventeen-year-old high school student who prefers YouTube to books because, as he says, “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.” Richtell paints the usual portrait of students too distracted to succeed in school, but he also raises many poignant issues.

He writes that

even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.

Richtell does not portray technology as an evil but as a tool that can be harnessed for educational purposes and relates many of the complex tensions that arise between traditional ideas of education and more recent thoughts which attempt to utilize newer technologies.

The article also looks at some of the science behind distractions, pointing to various research, including this finding that was published in the journal Pediatrics:

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words.

The article ends with the story of Singh’s passion for and success in video editing and points to this as his desired career. The article subtly argues that the nature of academic success is changing. He states one major reason why Singh succeeds with video editing: interactivity. Richtell writes, “As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback.”

Richtell’s thoughtful article succeeds in humanizing some of the issues facing students who are exposed to a wide-range of technology and doesn’t shy away from examining the complex and changing nature of how we need to address learning.

Eli Pariser on the Future of the Internet

Salon posted an interview with Eli Pariser of Moveon.org fame in their series “The Influencers.” Pariser introduces the idea of “the filter bubble,” which is an important concept to consider when thinking about how people interact with various web services. He discusses how web services such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, are creating highly individualized experiences which undermine the idea of a shared Internet community. He defines this filter bubble as “a personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms to who they think you are.”

He explains why he thinks this is dangerous:

We thought that the Internet was going to connect us all together. As a young geek in rural Maine, I got excited about the Internet because it seemed that I could be connected to the world. What it’s looking like increasingly is that the Web is connecting us back to ourselves. There’s a looping going on where if you have an interest, you’re going to learn a lot about that interest. But you’re not going to learn about the very next thing over. And you certainly won’t learn about the opposite view. If you have a political position, you’re not going to learn about the other one. If you Google some sites about the link between vaccines and autism, you can very quickly find that Google is repeating back to you your view about whether that link exists and not what scientists know, which is that there isn’t a link between vaccines and autism. It’s a feedback loop that’s invisible. You can’t witness it happening because it’s baked into the fabric of the information environment.

This type of individualized encounter with the Internet and with social networking is an important concept to consider since everyone’s experience is growing more and more unique.

Pariser also delves into his thoughts about net neutrality in the interview. The entire article can be found here.

Information is Always Evolving

The video below was made in 2007, the same year the term Transliteracy was coined by Production and Research in Transliteracy (PART).  It was created by Dr. Michael Wesch to show the way we find, house, and share information was changing.

Now in 2010, the video and its content are still relevant  This video really shows how the transliterate individual can do so much with the access to information we now have.  In addition to this, the video shows a clear need to educate people on how to transverse this now limitless sea of information. I think that this is where Participatory Librarianship and Transliteracy go hand in hand.  We need to understand how to help or patrons, students, friends, family, and colleagues become cognizant and comfortable with the tools they will need to communicate and collaborate with others.

Visual Learning and Mind Mapping


Visual Learning & Mind Mapping was created and originally presented by Roger Hannon and Kaitlyn Mesley of Adult Learning Centres Grey-Bruce-Georgian for Transliteracy Conference 2010 in Owen Sound, Ontario. These videos give you a great visual representation of mind mapping, immersive learning, and how we are primarily visual learners. They also go into explaining how to use Power Point and mental models to educate adult learners.

These presentations will give you some great tools and ideas for your adult technology/non-technology programs and help you understand how they learn and retain information.

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