Old McLiteracy had a #MOOC

…a #metaliteracy sing-a-long to the tune of Old McDonald’s Farm: here a literacy there a literacy everywhere a literacy, (meta)literacy, (trans)literacy…(multi/ple)literacies…eieieo

[Caveat: this post recycles blogged notes and reflections from the Trans/Meta units of CMC 11, version 1.0. I focus on sorting out, distinguishing among and finally (I hope) integrating trans/meta and multi iterations of literacy]

Literacy resonates & connects at multiple points. These cannot but shape how I approach metaliteracy (or, for that matter, any of the literacy variants). I entered mooc-dom via Vance Steven’s Multiliteracies, directed a local Family Literacy program, studied colloquial Arabic from transliterations, etc. Reflection on libraries, languages, literacy and name changes over time. A literature (with its unavoidable sidekick, theory) background informs my sense of “metaliteracy” as opposed to the trans variety. Literacy signals competency understanding and manipulating signs and symbols. The symbolic realm represents the real without being real: like the virtual but long before computer and the network. Literacy and the literacies are ways of knowing: everywhere literacy but never enough.

So then, what is literacy? What was it? What is it now?


Let’s start closer to the beginning: with literacy and library science.

Literacies as Ways of Knowing

Remember when literacy was just about reading and writing? Then came numeracy, media literacy, visual literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, computer literacy, information literacy. Directing a local literacy program immersed me in gradations and nuance of text literacy. Many people still tend to think of basic literacy as either/or (you can either read or you can’t.) That is an oversimplification. There are levels according to comprehension and processing skill that could probably be aligned, more or less, with a Bloom’s Taxonomy. Before computers, accessing and processing recorded information was text based.

Strictly speaking, metaliteracy (Warning: I’ve done the pomo litcrit thing, so know my way around a meta) would have to be literacy about literacies (cf metafiction and metacognition).

Transliteracy suggests transferring, not quite translating but more than transliterating information from one mode or medium to another.  The term hints at crossing literacies, perhaps occasionally transgressing, transforming them. From yet another perspective, what would it mean to be transliterate?


“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.” (from Librarian by day)

The term has its basis in the verb transliterate, which means “to write or print a letter or word using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language.”

The essential idea seems to be that transliteracy maps meaning across different media, not in isolation from one another, but interacting.


Someone transliterate know the systems (like the alphabets of languages with different writing systems) can access, process and share information across multiple literacies associated with different media.

Metaliteracy moves beyond transliteracy from processing to production and distribution ones. It integrates technologies (presumably old and new), unifies and coordinates multiple literacy types or modes, and redefines/updates information literacy, expanding its scope with an emphasis on active participation (creating, remixing and sharing) over passive consumption. So we climb the pyramid.

Multiliteracies (always plural)

I’ve been taking Vance’s EVO Multiliteracies workshops for a few years now and have to admit that even now I’m sometimes less than clear on articulating what they are, especially concisely. Now coming across first transliteracy and now metaliteracy, neither seems, pardon me to anyone who might feel strongly about the distinction, all that different one from the other. The three are like sisters  from different mothers.

Both transliteracy and metaliteracy are library science (to use the older term I grew up with) oriented.

Multiliteracies (which is the one I ought to know best) refer to the ability to adapt to changes in communication due to new technologies, different cultures and shifts in English usage within and across different cultures.  As taught in the EVO workshops and other TESOL courses, Multiliteracies focuses on teaching, specifically teaching English using strategies suitable for environments described above. The language teaching focus, obviously, emphasizes communication.

From http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com/w/page/10972799/FrontPage

“A multiliterate teacher understands the many ways that technology interacts and intertwines with academic and interpersonal life, and actively learns how to gain control over those aspects impacting teaching, social, and professional development. Multiliterate individuals are aware of the pitfalls inherent in technology while striving for empowerment through effective strategies for first discerning and then taking advantage of those aspects of changing technologies most appropriate to their situations. These strategies include accessing, identifying, aggregating, processing, and analyzing a constant influx of information, filtering what is useful, and then enhancing the learning environment with the most appropriate applications.”