What is Transliteracy?

ImageTransliteracy is a new word for me.  I am developing my understanding of transliteracy and how education is evolving in response to rapid developments in technology.  Transliteracy is defined as “… 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.” (Thomas et al., 2007).  Transliteracy is not just about digital literacy; it is all the ways that we communicate. 

So why transliteracy versus literacy?  “Modern literacy has always meant being able to both read and write narrative in the media forms of the day, whatever they may be. Just being able to read is not sufficient.” (Ohler, 2009, p. 8).  So what does it mean to be literate now?  In the context of this blog, I am practicing the skills needed to synthesize and clearly express my thoughts and reflections, construct meaning from reading others work, and edit my work.

One thing is clear – literacies are emerging at an incredible rate.  “This puts literacy in what one can call a “time-frame” – the meaning of literacy changes as means of communication change over time – being literate at the turn of the 19th century had different implications than it has now.” (Mifsud, 2005, p. 133).  Education is notorious for being slow to respond to change.  How then do educators respond in a timely fashion while continuing to value reading and writing?

As educators, we are striving to develop student’s abilities to apply essential literacies with proficiency.  The quality of the communication is dependent on how well students learn to blend and apply these literacies.  “However, a well-rounded approach to the new media collage requires blending a number of literacies, both traditional and emerging, into a cohesive narrative.” (Ohler, 2009, p. 10). 

“The essential idea here is that transliteracy is concerned with mapping meaning across different media and not with developing particular literacies about various media. ” (Ipri, 2010, p. 532).   My next step is to consciously make connections with transliteracy, learner outcomes and the digital world my students live in. 


Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567. Retrieved from 


Mifsud, L., (2005). What counts as digital literacy: Experiences from a seventh grade classroom in Norway. Retrieved from http://www.socialscience.t-mobile.hu/dok/9_Mifsud.pdf

Ohler, J. (2009) Orchestrating the media collage. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar09/vol66/num06/Orchestrating-the-Media-Collage.aspx

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday, Vol.12 (12). Retrieved from http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2060/1908


1 thought on “What is Transliteracy?

  1. I couldn’t agree more that we are living in a world where literacy is not just the ability to read and write. The true definition of what it means to be literate is constantly changing as new communication platforms are added to our repertoire. As a teacher I feel like I am frantically trying to catch up with all the different ways my students are communicating both within and outside the classroom. My students have brought to my attention a website called ask.fm where you can ask and answer questions with people all over the world. As well, the privacy setting are nothing like Facebook so if a student puts their actual picture up on the website along with other personal information it is out there for everyone to see. Like Facebook this site has developed into one where people who don’t even know each other bully each other to the point where people are in fact killing themselves. Below is a link to the article I am referring to.
    Not only do I feel a responsibility to teach my students about the different forms of communication available through electronic devices and the internet but I also feel the need to teach them that their words have power (which they most likely already know) and what is appropriate and what is not. Questions and answers are able to be delivered so quickly online that it seems like someone barely has the chance to take a breath before another message pops up on their screen. Teaching quality rather than quantity of communication I think is an important lesson. More is not necessarily always better. Therefore, not only do we need to incorporate digital media with our learner outcomes and lesson plans but we also need to teach responsibility when using these different forms of media so that our students’ voices are heard as those that can make a positive difference. Rather than meant to harm and drive people to do horrible things because they can’t stand the messages they are receiving online.

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