Saturday, March 10, 2012

Does Posting Text Qualify as Transliteracy?

Posted on behalf of Jonathan:

After reading Sue Thomas’ post (Thomas, 2012) and watching her video
lecture (Thomas, 2008), I found myself contemplating the concept of
transliteracy amongst young people and giving consideration to the
question she posed at the end of the blog post: “Imagine that you have
been asked to measure the transliteracy levels of students and
teachers at your school. How would you do this?” (Thomas, 2012).
Immediately, I thought about the young people that I taught when I was
an active classroom teacher, just over four years ago. I felt that so
many of those young people were quite adept at using a number of
tools, but yet the default mode for expressing ideas seemed to be
text. Whether it was using email, posting to facebook or sending an
SMS message – the dominant mode for expression was text regardless of
the medium used.

Brian Hulsey’s video (Hulsey, 2010) also raises the question of mode
versus medium (if I may use those terms to describe these ideas). In
all but one of the instances being described by Hulsey, the dominant
mode for expression is text (or at best hypertext). He demonstrates
his concept of transliteracy by discussing the sharing of a blueberry
smoothie recipe and shows how it can be sent by email, posted to
Twitter, shared on Facebook and written on a sticky note. The only
time he illustrates the use of another mode besides text, is when he
discusses using the telephone to tell his grandparents about the

So the question for discussion is this: is transliteracy accurately
described by using multiple tools to express oneself using a single
modality or does transliteracy also indicate a use of multiple modes –
text, speech, music, film, dance, drama, etc. Based on Thomas’
definition it would. She says, “transliteracy is the ability to read,
write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from
signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to
digital social networks” (Thomas etal, 2007).

An important measure for determining the transliteracy level of
students in a school setting then must include their amount of
exposure to arts education. Students would need to be able to express
themselves using pictures, film, theatre and music as well as text in
order to be truly transliterate, otherwise they are simply using text
with different tools. As a math teacher, I would also say that
students should be well versed in communicating using numbers,
symbolic logic, charts and graphs. All of this speaks to a public
education system that emphasizes a variety of literacies and includes
a strong emphasis on not just English language arts and mathematics,
but also art, music, dance and drama.

1 comment:

  1. I would agree Jonathan that Sue Thomas appears to include all of those areas in her definition of transliteracy. I got the sense it was a very broad definition - even signing for the deaf is a form of literacy, as I noted in my posting.

    I would include the need to be media savvy if we are to be truly transliterate. Literate implies an ability or capability of understanding and I would include in that an ability to judge and assess the value and validity of messages that are transmitted via these various tools and platforms.

    I know there are courses in our schools that teach our students to be informed consumers (something no one thought to teach my generation). The need to enhance these lessons in media transliteracy is going to be so important for our youth. The rate at which the messages will come at them, and the variety of sources they may need to manage, are only going to increase.