Transliteracy…or Metaliteracy?

One of the goals here at Libraries and Translitercy is to situate transliteracy within an increasingly diverse array of competing “literacies”. While information literacy has persisted for decades as a core concept in librarianship, we now also have to grapple with digital literacy, visual literacy, cyberliteracy, new media literacy, and a host of other responses to defining literacy in the digital age. Keeping track of these literacies is rather confusing, so the recent article1 by Mackey and Jacobson in College and Research Libraries is sorely needed.

In a nutshell, Mackey and Jacobson argue that information literacy needs to be recast as a unifying concept providing the framework for different literacy types. ‘Metaliteracy’ is offered as this unifying concept. As they write,

“metaliteracy provides a conceptual framework for information literacy that diminishes theoretical differences, builds practical connections, and reinforces central lifelong learning goals among different literacy types.  Rather than envision these methods as unrelated or disconnected, we see information literacy as the essential framework that informs and unifies additional literacy types.  Through this approach we recognize the standard information literacy characteristics (determine, access, evaluate, incorporate, use, understand) as integral to related literacy formats.” (p. 76)

The authors even briefly mention transliteracy, correctly describing it as a unifying approach to literacies that has been developed outside of the library world (p.69).  In fact, the authors’ description of metaliteracy is so strikingly similar to those given to transliteracy that I feel I have to ask…do ‘metaliteracy’ and ‘transliteracy’ refer to the same concept? If so, which term should we use?  If they are different, how are they different?

I, for one, have no problem with using either term so long as the same practical concerns are addressed, but I’m curious to see what others think. Are transliteracy and metaliteracy (as described by Mackey and Jacobson) the same thing?

1Mackey, Thomas and Trudi Jacobson. “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” College and Research Libraries 72, no. 1 (2011): 62-78.

Clay Shirky Discusses the Emergence of New Literacies

Clay Shirky responds to Nicholas Carr’s assertion that “the Internet is making us dumber” with his essay, “Does the Internet Make You Smarter” in the Wall Street Journal. Shirky thoughtfully makes the case that we are living in a transitory period in which new forms of reading and writing are emerging as well as evolving meanings of “literacy.”

Every increase in freedom to create or consume media, from paperback books to YouTube, alarms people accustomed to the restrictions of the old system, convincing them that the new media will make young people stupid. This fear dates back to at least the invention of movable type.

This essay can help educators and librarians better conceptualize the scale of change and provides insights into the paradigm shift we are experiencing in how we define literacy.

First Grader Creates iPhone App of His Version of “The Three Little Pigs”

Here is a terrific example of how even the youngest learners can demonstrate transliteracy! Henry Dewey created his own illustrations to interpret “The Three Little Pigs” and then with the assistance of his father, created an iPhone app for people to read his version of the story, which includes Henry’s narration of the tale.

Henry Dewey is a typical 8-year-old. He loves to build with Legos and annoy his little sister, hoping to someday own a reptile to terrorize her with.

The first-grader at Trinity Episcopal School in Rollingwood is also doing some nontraditional things: Henry just released his first iPhone application, an e-book version of the folk tale “The Three Little Pigs.”

Using pen and ink, Henry spent the entire fall semester creating the illustrations for his book during an after-school art program at Trinity.

“I like being creative, making bobbleheads on paper,” Henry said.

Early in the process, he decided he wanted to transform his project into an iPhone application to provide more options on the gadget for children.

He told his father, Mark Dewey — himself an iPhone application developer — about his idea. When Henry finished the illustrations, the drawings were converted into a digital format. Then his dad helped turn the project into the application, rewriting the story and having Henry narrate it.

“At a young age to know you can be a creator, in the mainstream of American culture, that can be powerful,” said Mark Dewey, whose digital media company, Geoki, published the app. “We hope that carries on through his growing and his life.”

Watch young author and app developer Henry Dewey discuss his app in this video! You can also click here to view and purchase Henry’s app for his story.

This story reinforces the call from the Knight Foundation for libraries of all kinds and schools to step up to the plate in positing transliteracy as a primary literacy to close the digital divide and participatory gap.

Wired – Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

You often here people bemoaning what Twitter and texting are doing to our writing skills and language.  This article from Wired magazine offers a different perspective. It quotes Andrea Lunsford, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University:

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

Lunsford collected 14,672 student writing samples from 2001 to 2006 —”everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions” and analyzed them.

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text.

An interesting observation on writing in general.

Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

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