Before I head off on vacation, I thought I’d make one last shot at clarifying my position on transliteracy. As far as I’m concerned…
1. Transliteracy is a pedagogical method. Nothing more.1
The people talking about transliteracy come from many, varied backgrounds and each brings a different approach to transliteracy, so I can’t speak for their use of the term. For my part, I understand transliteracy strictly as a teaching method. It’s another pedagogical tool to add to the toolbox. A chapter in a book of teaching strategies, if you will. Transliteracy has nothing to do with combating the librarians who hide from Wikipedia or avoid the web…that’s just negligence. I’m only concerned with the students and faculty who are drawing distinctions between “academic” and “non-academic” research. One way I tackle student apprehension is to make a structured appeal to their existing competencies using analogy and cognitive transfer. I might make active use of, say, Wikipedia, in order to teach them about Academic OneFile. Of course, I also use games, demonstrations, quizzes, lectures and a whole slew of teaching tricks, so I don’t see transliteracy as a . But, since I don’t know the actual name for the former method, I’m using transliteracy. In sum, teaching best practices for navigating the information ecosystem is good old information literacy, not transliteracy. Using Wikipedia as a means for teaching a library database, that’s what I want to focus on. Anything outside of that is outside of my realm of expertise.
2. Transliteracy is something librarians already engage in.
The criticisms are predictable: we already do this. Agreed. Libraries are already incorporating social media and other assorted digital sundries into their instruction. That’s just good practice and it’s nothing new. I’m only using transliteracy as a catch-all for one particular slice of information literacy that I haven’t seen before. Marcus Banks sums up my position nicely: “transliteracy, as a concept, is an attempt to label what we are already doing–linking up traditional notions of authority with the realities of how people obtain information today.”
3. ‘Transliteracy’ is just a word. It’s the underlying concepts that matter.
Again, transliteracy is not a replacement for information literacy, it is a particular approach within information literacy. So, it isn’t just information literacy and its an approach I don’t know another name for. Fill in the blank: “_____________ is an instructional approach that attempts to harness students’ existing linguistic competencies in one medium for use in another medium.” Or, something like that. Whatever word works, we can just use that.
4. There is no unified front for transliteracy.
My take on transliteracy is mine alone. I can’t speak to how other people use the term because that’s outside my area of expertise. To borrow a term from John Jackson, I use transliteracy strictly as a metonym for a particular instructional approach. Others use the term to refer to different conceptual areas. Further, I’ll grant that I don’t always understand the various blog posts on transliteracy; many of them I find down right absurd. But, by and large these are smart people and there’s always an instructive takeaway…whether from critics or supporters.
I could go on with the observations, but I’m almost off the reference desk, so I’ll leave them for another time.
1 Adapted from my comment on Meredith Farkas’ recent post about transliteracy.