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Monday
May272013

Transilliterate

Education and librarianship have a bias toward print. This communication/ information format has served civilization well for a couple millennia. Most professionals now demonstrate high levels of proficiency in print literacy skills and they can be expected to defend the necessity of such skills vociferously. Most of my fellow professionals are in the same straights that I find myself - a competent reader, writer, and print analyst but neophyte video, audio, and graphic producer, consumer, and critic. And it is human nature to be dismissive of those competencies that we ourselves lack.

But I would argue that postliteracy is a return to more natural forms of multi-sensory communication - speaking, storytelling, dialogue, drawing, debate, and dramatization. It is just now that these modes can be captured and stored digitally as easily as writing. Information, emotion, and persuasion may be even more powerfully conveyed in multi-media formats. Libraries for a Post-Literate Society Multimedia & Internet @ Schools, July/August 2009

By any traditional measure, I am considered a literate person. I can read, speak, and write. I do it well enough that others will pay me for using these skills. Being literate has served me well both professionally and personally. I would say this assessment also applies to 99% of all educators I've known.

Yet I am increasingly feeling "trans-illiterate." I lack the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary needed to create a professional looking video, podcast, graphic, or game. I also feel I lack the analytic skills to deconstruct these media as I would a poem, novel, or essay. 

So I need to carefully consider how much my own transilliteracy impacts my answer to this month's ISTE Leading & Learning Point/Counterpoint question: "Should transliteracy replace language arts?" Is "language arts ... due for an update to encompass literacy in all the media that students must navigate in our mediacentric society" is the wicked question. 

Not being transliterate myself, I have a difficult time determining if traditional print literacy is a prerequisite to other literacies. Do I need to be able to write well if I am going created a quality video, for example? My approach to creating a video would be to write a script first, so I would consider traditional literacy foundational to transliteracy. But that's me. 

This feels like a classic "and" not "or" situation. It shouldn't be tradtional language arts or digital literacy but traditional language arts and digital literacy. And I would argue the class should be core at every grade level - required by all students. 

So who would we find among our current generation of teachers and librarians who could teach these fundamental skills for a post-literated society?

 

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Reader Comments (6)

The "post-literacy" thing drives me nuts. I am pleased beyond words that technology has democratized more means of communication. There are things (like how-to demonstrations) that are much more easily done visually. However, text is an information-dense means of communication and it can be processed quickly. It's easier to find things quickly within it, as with book indexes. Text supports a complexity the other means of communication can't always match. There are things I really, really want someone to write down -- think engineering specifications so bridges don't fall down. I'd really like the guy designing the bridge to have more than just a video on that. It preserves knowledge in the case of scholarly debate so that others may build on that knowledge.

Even now, people are texting, posting words to Facebook, using words (albeit abbreviated). We did not abandon storytelling when text arrived, because it still serves useful purposes. So does text. I like to look forward to a world where all these alternate methods are used where they are most effective, and text is used where it is most effective. Until someone proposes a realistic alternative that does the tasks where only text will do, I remain skeptical. I concur it's not an either-or, it's a both-and.

May 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBlueBindweed

Well said, Blue. I am convinced of the power and purpose of writing.

My prediction, however, it will be to entertainment and information what opera is to music - lovely, but less used communication form.

Doug

May 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I'm all for an "and" approach as much as possible. But, I have limited time with my students and I have already "anded" a few too many things. Should one get priority if I can't find ways to get both done? Should that be true for all students? (I know my special ed and less traditional learners benefit from the transliterate approach more.)

Slightly longer term, as states/districts decide how to address Common Core, I fear that I won't really have to decide. The test will push teachers to teach relatively standard reading and writing (hopefully at least high quality standard reading/writing) and it will take the majority of our time in many subjects. Wonder how many kids this will disengage?

June 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBalancEdTech

Hi Balanced,

I recognize how "packed" the curriculum has become, especially at the elementary level and am not sure what we do about it. Perhaps one solution is to teach transliteracy skills within the content areas instead of as a separate class.

I am already hearing political rumblings against the Common Core. I am hoping it goes away!

Doug

June 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Balanced,

I recognize how "packed" the curriculum has become, especially at the elementary level and am not sure what we do about it. Perhaps one solution is to teach transliteracy skills within the content areas instead of as a separate class.

I am already hearing political rumblings against the Common Core. I am hoping it goes away!

Doug

June 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Balanced,

I recognize how "packed" the curriculum has become, especially at the elementary level and am not sure what we do about it. Perhaps one solution is to teach transliteracy skills within the content areas instead of as a separate class.

I am already hearing political rumblings against the Common Core. I am hoping it goes away!

Doug

June 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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