ogy has changed
literacy as we know
it. Schools need to
look outside of the
to pinpoint skills
that will make students more competi-
tive in today’s world. Even résumés for
employment are now interactive. That
means we must educate students beyond
written text using multiple literacies (bit.
ly/12HzPkm). This may put teachers
at a disadvantage in terms of skill. But
instead of avoiding the task, we should
embrace our students’ ability to do more.
While expanding the curriculum
can sometimes lead to bells and
whistles taking over scholarship, it is
important to place emphasis on con-
tent first and save “the pretty” for sec-
ond. Visual literacy and visual think-
ing are components of graphicacy
( bit.ly/zdbojX), and therefore play an
important part in transliteracy.
Transliteracy, like graphicacy, uses
pictorial encoding and decoding,
presents information using multiple
formats, and combines a roster of
skills to communicate an outcome. It
involves visual thinking and ability
to deconstruct what the brains sees,
whereas visual thinking refers to output. It is about learning how to design
by combining images, audio, and text.
It is multidimensional, uses different
platforms, and creates a level of communication that is multisensory.
Transliteracy is essential for today’s
learners. It is about integrating the
design of information using a variety
of technologies for the best possible
result to convey meaning. It is the
process of taking an idea and adding
layers of information to take it to its
final stage well beyond a traditional
approach. Transliteracy will become
the underpinning of good educational
design, because it is driven by the best
way to communicate an idea. We have
long advocated for teaching students
to think like designers, and it will
transform the way they learn.
Today, there is a burgeoning need
to categorize and reshape information
in innovative, recognizable, image-based ways. Transliteracy is just that.
first master the
ability to read
and write effec-
and with clarity
before they can
interact transliterally. 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.
The application of transliteral skills is
contingent on our ability to do these
things. In other words, transliteracy is
predicated on the ability to read and
write. We must first be literate before
we can be transliterate.
When we begin to teach transliteral
skills, there is an assumption that students are already adept at interacting
with texts. I am not sure how transliteracy would satisfy the development
of these essential language skills. It
is not, therefore, prudent to replace
traditional language arts skills—the
practice of reading and writing and
interacting with a variety of texts—
with transliteral skills.
I do believe that it is important to
embrace the notion that transliteral skills
are here to stay and that they are vibrant
and vital. Transliteracy, then, should
be considered and valued as a non-
negotiable skill set that all students must
possess, but let’s leave poor language arts
out of it. That is to say that transliteracy
is not necessarily within the purview
of language arts teachers alone. Just as
language arts teachers have long fought
to share the responsibility for reading
across the curriculum, transliteracy be-
longs to all educators.
As a former English teacher, I feel I
must defend the power of creative and
analytical thinking that comes from
reading both fiction and nonfiction
texts. These skills are vastly different
from the experiences that our students
may have on, say, Tumblr or Vine. I
don’t mean to suggest that our schools
should not embrace transliteracy. All
educators need to promote transliteracy as vital to the effective development
of 21st century skills—across the curriculum—not in lieu of language arts.
Should Transliteracy Replace Language Arts?