What is transliteracy?

It originated with the cross-disciplinary Transliteracies Project group, headed by Alan Liu from the Department of English at the University of California-Santa Barbara. The main focus of that group is the study of online reading.

After attending a conference by this group in 2005, Sue Thomas, professor of new media at De Montfort University, came up with a working definition for transliteracy to be, “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 films, to digital social networks.” Transliteracy is basically what it means to be literate in the 21st century.

This terminology is new, so will most likely evolve over time. It is not about learning text literacy, visual literacy, and digital literacy in isolation from one another but rather an interaction and an integration among all of these literacies together, as explained by Tom Ipri in his article on, “Introducing transliteracy: What does it mean to academic libraries?”

The term “authentic” is often used in context with 21st century technology skills in integrating technology in education. The term, “authentic” explores the participatory nature of the new means of communicating, in a wider community than just the teacher, parents, and school. It emphasizes the benefits of knowledge and sharing via social networks. Thomas point to “an increasing need for organizations and individuals to develop wider, more open networks, partnerships and trusted communities to share ideas and to innovate.”

This year we started class blogs in the elementary department. Currently we have the blogs password protected so that only those who have a login name and password can have access to these blogs. Our elementary teachers would like to be able to show the middle and high school departments their class blogs, but due to the restricted privacy settings, this has been an exclusive activity. It goes against this idea of transliteracy. Our students should be able to write comments in an “authentic” audience.

Through having the blog sites more open, will only improve the frequency of discussions with our students about how to protect their privacy, by not using their own photos as avatars, using only first names, and not using an email account that a stranger could have access to the student without moderation. Teachers need to moderate their sites to only approve comments that are appropriate from students, parents, and the larger global community. Transliteracy is here. If we want to stay current, we need to embrace this idea and help our students to manage it successfully and not get left behind.