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Strategies for Integrating Multiple Literacies

Instructor: Susan Graziano

Susan has taught high school English and has worked as a school administrator. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Today, 'literacy' refers to more than the ability to interpret printed text - even Googling is part of literacy. In this lesson, you will learn the definition and competencies of multiple literacies and how to integrate them into your Media Center.

There's More Than One Way To...

You thought I was going to say ''skin a cat'', didn't you? Well, that may be true (I've never personally confirmed this proverb), but for the purpose of our discussion today, we will move in a different direction. There is more than one way to transmit and receive information. For our students, there are many ways they can search for and obtain the information they are seeking. Likewise, there are many ways they can communicate their knowledge. In most schools, the Media Center acts as one of the primary hubs of information. Following is a list of strategies for incorporating multiple literacies into your practice as a library media specialist.

What Are Multiple Literacies?

The term multiple literacies refers to our ability to interpret the many formats, sources, or media through which we obtain information. The four competencies that comprise multiple literacies are visual literacy, textual literacy, digital literacy, and technological literacy. Visual literacy refers to how we understand and interpret visual representations of knowledge. Textual literacy refers to how we understand and interpret text. It also refers to our ability to communicate through written expression. Digital literacy refers to our ability to locate, evaluate, and synthesize digital sources (sources we find online). Technological literacy refers to our ability to use technology appropriately and responsibly.

As you can imagine, the digital age has transformed the ways in which we seek information. Gone are the days of thumbing through hundreds of small slips of paper to locate a source in the library. Technology has completely changed this process. As a result, library media specialists and teachers are tasked with exposing students to information through multiple literacies while teaching them about digital citizenship, a term that refers to the responsibilities imposed upon those who use technology in order to ensure its appropriate use.

Integrating Multiple Literacies

So, how can you incorporate strategies and practices in the Media Center that will enhance students' abilities in multiple literacies? Below are some recommended practices that will help you accomplish this.

Strategy #1: Use your physical space to convey information in a variety of formats.

In terms of the physical space of the Media Center, there are many possibilities. You want to encourage students to locate, read, and understand information from a variety of sources. You can use your walls and your physical arrangement to support this goal. For example, you likely have a variety of posters on the walls that encourage your students to read. While these posters certainly have value and merit, consider replacing a few of them with posters of infographics (see sample infographic image below) that communicate information that you would like your students to know. If you are celebrating ''Banned Books Week,'' for example, there are many statistics reflecting the reasons behind recognizing this week. You could also take it one step further and ask students to create their own infographics regarding a particular topic. You could turn it into a contest, host a school-wide event, or come up with another way to bring more attention to your efforts.

Infographic

Also consider incorporating information nooks. You likely have some sort of reading nook in place for students to relax and read a book. What about spaces that cater specifically to those who would like to listen to podcasts, read an ebook, or listen to an audiobook? These media are all forms of information and strengthen your students' multiple literacies.

Strategy #2: Use your digital space to convey information in a variety of formats.

Your physical space is limited, but your digital space has endless possibilities. Use the website for the Media Center as another forum for you to expose students to multiple sources of information. With the appropriate permission, consider creating a Twitter account specifically for the Media Center. Post information about the responsible use of technology, links to interesting videos or podcasts, and other resources that will encourage your students to access multiple formats of information. Social media is a very powerful tool that can be used for very positive reasons. This strategy will allow you to model appropriate ways to establish an internet presence while strengthening your students' visual, textual, digital, and technological literacies.

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