metaliteracy conference recap

A week or so ago, I attended a one-day conference facilitated by Thomas Mackey and Trudi Jacobson called “Transitions in Learning: Preparing Engaged Students for the E-Learning Environment.” It was in part a promotion of metaliteracy and, depending on the workshop one attended, a discussion of web tools or team-based approaches to learning (I attended the latter, but that will have to be a discussion for another day). I’m glad I went as I came away with a better understanding of metaliteracy as well as some inspiration for my own work.

There was some skepticism on my part when I tackled one of their publications in my last post. For instance, I wondered if the truly literate person needs to be able (or actively) to collaborate and creates new media in digital environments. These might be considered somewhat privileged activities that require an immersion that not everyone desires to have (I suppose “desire” is different from need). Even if they are things that people should do on some level, which is something I believe, do these additions warrant a “reframing” of information literacy (IL)?

In the article, they also stated that metaliteracy “is a concept that promotes active engagement with emerging technologies and learner-centered production of information.” While these are important to have in the 21st century classroom, they struck me a broad pedagogical aims that were just lumped in. At the conference, they even presented (in a handout) the following learning domains for each desired outcome to consider when developing instruction:

  • behavioral
  • cognitive
  • affective
  • metacognitive

I tend to agree with a colleague of mine who thought the article was trying to oversell the idea of metaliteracy as whole. Not because I don’t agree with it, but because I think the technology piece is actually enough of a sell without considering learning domains. It seems to complicate things unnecessarily.

Admittedly, it could make the process of designing inclusive assignments a little easier. What I grappled with for months in my course design work was what the underlying and authentic understandings or goals were that students were striving for when learning and practicing the skills laid out by existing standards and how they could all fit together.

At the time, I also concluded that the standards seem to come up short in some areas. Turns out that what I eventually came up with aligns well with this idea of metaliteracy, so maybe the fact that I feel better about integrating these ideas into my own work is mere confirmation bias.


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