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 »

What’s Possible with Transmedia – free webinar

If you’ve read any of my work or seen me talk, you know I’ve referenced Interactive Fiction projects like The Amanda Project and Skeleton Creek, so I’m very interested in attending this free webinar hosted by StoryWorld on Transmedia.

“They might be called cross-platform stories, transmedia projects, branded entertainment, or even alternate reality games, but, whatever you call them, at the heart of these new forms of entertainment is engagement across platforms. It’s hard to believe that the earliest “extended” experiences are now at least a decade old, and it can be difficult getting a handle on the full scope of what’s already come in the world of transmedia storytelling.”

Read more at DigitalBookWorld.com: What’s Possible with Transmedia: Case Studies in Successful Projects (WEBCast 7/27) | Digital Book Worldhttp://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/what%e2%80%99s-possible-with-transmedia-case-studies-in-successful-projects-webcast-727/#ixzz1RwqU0WYZ

The webinar will be hosted by Michael Andersen, owner and senior editor at the Alternate Reality Gaming Network (ARGNet), and claims to lead attendees “through a tour of what’s possible with alternate reality games, cross-platform strategies, and transmedia storytelling.” This seems to be worth checking out for those of us who work in public libraries. And hey, it’s free – what have you got to lose?

The StoryWorld Conference + Expo is in San Francisco from October 31 – November 2, 2011 is not free, but sure does sound interesting!

“Be part of the first major gathering of industry leaders to come together for the purpose of exploring new business models, partnering across media boundaries, and building new revenue streams by changing the way consumers experience narrative.”

Wonder how many libraries or librarians will participate?

Posted in Education, Transliteracy, Webinars. Comments Off

The MacArthur Foundation and IMLS offer $4 Million in Grants for Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums.

We’ve written about the success of the YouMedia in the past, here’s your chance to create similar set up in your library.

From the site:

These grants will support the planning and designing of up to 30 Learning Labs in libraries and museums throughout the country. The Labs are intended to engage middle- and high-school youth in mentor-led, interest-based, youth-centered, collaborative learning using digital and traditional media. Grantees will be required to participate, in-person and online, in a community of practice that will provide technical assistance, networking, and cross-project learning. Projects are expected to provide prototypes for the field and be based on current research about digital media and youth learning. There will be two project deadlines for this grant program, with the second deadline planned for spring 2012.

Application guidelines are currently available:

Access FY 2011 Grant Program Guidelines Online Download Printer-friendly PDF Version (489 KB)

FY 2011 Deadline: August 15, 2011

Grant Amount: Planning and Design Grants: up to $100,000

Grant Period: 18 months

Matching Requirement: Cost sharing of at least one third is encouraged, but not required

Project Start Date: January 1, 2012

You can find out more by attending the upcoming free webinar on July 12th Click here for webinar instructions. (PDF)

Why Transliteracy at #ALA11

Why Transliteracy was the first of two panels at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans. If you were unable to make it here are the slidedecks of the presenters. Remember, of course, that slidedecks are generally intended to stand on their own without the speaker. There is also a link to a write-up listed below.

Bobbi Newman

Gretchen Caserotti

Tom Ipri

Lane Wilkinson

Write Up

Posted in ALA, Presentations. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Information Deserts

While listening to Bobbi speak today at ILEAD U about the importance of access in transliteracy, it got me to thinking about information deserts.  I am working on an article related to information deserts and thought I would share a few thoughts here:

How do we, LIS professionals, describe a locale in which access to unbiased information is difficult to obtain?   Are there areas in this country in which people cannot obtain information because of the lack of access to the Internet, community computer centers or a public libraries?  Are some people cut off from access to the sum of human knowledge, and all the benefits derived from such access?

An information desert exists where access to unbiased information is limited either through a digital divide or lack of access to public libraries.   In urban areas, like Chicago or New York, an information desert exists where computer-based Internet penetration falls below 60% and distance to a public library or public computer center exceeds .5 miles.  I come from the school of thought that does not think mobile Internet is a substitute for computer-based Internet or public libraries.

Digital Literacy Portal Launch at ALA Annual #ala11

If you will be at ALA Annual in New Orleans you should attend!

Digital Literacy Portal Launch in the Networking Uncommons Convention Center

Date: Saturday 06/25/2011 Time: 12:00-1:00pm

Sponsored by: NTIA, IMLS, and ALA

WHAT: Roundtable discussion on NTIA’s DigitalLiteracy.gov

WHO: American Library Association Washington Office, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and Institute of Museum and Library Services

WHEN: 12:15 p.m.; Saturday, June 25, 2011

WHERE: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Networking Uncommons (Lobby Level 1)

Do you teach digital literacy skills at your library? Whether you teach the basics or hold classes on Web 2.0, there is a new resource for you to use– and a place to add your own content– Digitalliteracy.gov. Hear how Digitalliteracy.gov can help you plan and design your classes. Learn how you can contribute your own resources. See how you can collaborate with peers.

Join Tony Wilhelm (NTIA), Susan Hildreth (IMLS), and Emily Sheketoff (ALA) in a roundtable discussion and interactive session about the portal.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the American Library Association’s (ALA) Washington Office will hold a roundtable discussion about DigitalLiteracy.gov at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, 2011, during the ALA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans. DigitalLiteracy.gov is a new online portal that brings together online learning tools, curriculum, job skills training and a host of other resources.

The program will include a question-and-answer session. Media and bloggers are encouraged to participate.

Media and bloggers planning to attend should contact Jenni Terry, press officer to the ALA Washington Office at jterry@alawash.org.

Read more about the Digital Literacy Portal

Transliteracy in your Summer Reading Program

It’s that time of year again when Children’s Librarians in public libraries all across the nation are busy making their plans for the summer reading program. You remember those, right? Read 10 books and get a cheap prize like a READ pencil made in China?  Aw c’mon,  everyone has those fond memories, nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when the public library was all about BOOKS!
I’d like to share some ideas about ways to incorporate Transliteracy into your library’s summer reading program. Or at least share with you how we are trying to do it at MPOW.
When I started at my library a few years ago, I sat down with the Children’s Librarians and we talked about what the goal of the summer reading program (SRP) was. I wanted us to step back from the traditions and examine the core values we desired in an SRP. We agreed that we wanted it to be about reading, sure, but also about creativity, discovery and FUN. So, we set out to restructure our program to focus on those elements and embrace multiple literacies. At the time, I had never even heard the term Transliteracy. Yet, what we came up with actually supports it! We created a Passport that is filled with about 30 Reading Quests (though not all quests are actually about reading). Quests are activities that ask kids to read, think and create through various platforms. Children record their answers and ideas in their very own mini Library passport. Over the last 2 years Quests have included:

  • picture of child's drawingRead a book set in the future (read)
  • What is the coolest invention of your lifetime so far and why? (write)
  • Draw a futuristic car and name it (draw)*
  • Draw a map of your bedroom. Be sure to include a key (draw – spatial)
  • Take a picture of yourself holding your favorite book this summer and email it to the Children’s Library (digital)
  • Watch a movie about a different time period (visual)
  • Use Google Translate to translate the first line of the book you’re reading into another language (digital)

*in case you’re interested, the cars of the future will have ice cream machines in them, if kids have anything to say about it.  

And so on. Some quests could be done many different ways like Find out when the town of Darien was founded. Some kids read it on the town marker sign, some went to Town Hall, some looked it up on Wikipedia, some IM’d a Librarian – all kinds of different ways to answer! When kids had completed Quests, we stamped their passports and entered them into raffle drawings. The kids wrote and drew in their passports all summer long and the more Quests they completed, the more chances they had to win in raffle drawings for prizes. Instead of spending a ton of money on cheap prizes, we spent our money on prizes they would be willing to compete for – iPod Shuffles, Flip video cameras and this year, an iPad! Everyone got a free book prize just for singing up and we had other ways to win prizes throughout the summer.

The program as we run it now has been a HUGE success. The parents have raved about how their kids are eager to participate, the family can participate together or the kids can go alone. Each family is different. It also levels the playing field. A 3rd grader can zip through series books lickety-split while a 5th grader may take all summer to get through a dense chapter book. With the passport, kids can imagine and create at whatever level is right for them.

We also ask the kids to write reviews and tag items in our catalog (SOPAC). We’ve gotten our school librarians to help us spread the word and all the kids have been shown how to do this simple activity. We’ve shown them how they can use tags to create custom reading lists and ask them to write reviews in the catalog in order to receive an invitation to our finale event where they get to meet a popular author and get an autographed copy of his/her book.

For kids who couldn’t come into the library to check in, they could enter their quests online through a simple form we created using WuFoo to be entered into raffle drawings. I think our web portion of the program has much room for improvement, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got!

You know who has a GREAT summer reading website that also incorporates the ideas we talk about here? The NYC Summer Reading website. They have the traditional elements of summer reading available digitally, but also include elements of social media and gaming through the use of avatars, the ability to “Like” another child’s review and win badges. I see this activity as embracing a few literacies beyond simple traditional print literacy and have been impressed with it’s first year out and will watch to see how it evolves.

Summer Reading Programs are a great way to experiment with Transliteracy. What does your program look like? Would kids want to participate or do they only do it because their moms make them?

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