5 Activities That Pack a Super-Literacy Punch!

For librarians, supporting 21st century learning means supporting the multiple literacies that go with it: digital literacy, information literacy, visual literacy, media literacy, technology literacy, and so on. I like to refer to these as the ‘literacies of information’ since they all have roots in information technology. Often, I find that these literacies are treated and discussed as separate entities.

They shouldn’t be. Why? Because even when you are teaching, say, information literacy skills, you’re typically touching on other literacies as well (e.g. digital literacy, media literacy). That being said, some learning activities are more literacy-rich than others.

Here are 5 activities that pack a super-literacy punch:


Not blogs, blogging. And not writing a single blog post for an assignment (that’s not blogging, blogging suggests multiple blog posts). Blogging as a literacy-rich activity is an ongoing effort over a period of time — semester, trimester, curricular unit, you get the picture. It even makes for a good library programming activity, such as a YA lit blog hosted by the library, but run by student authors.

What makes it a super-literacy activity?

Reading and writing. Crafting a media message. Finding or creating audiovisual objects. Researching and synthesizing information. Learning how to use a digital tool. Commenting.That’s critical, media, visual, information, digital and technology literacy learning.

Blogging tools

You already know the big ones, but here are some classroom blogging tools you may be unfamiliar with:


While learning to code is a great skill, it’s not the coding per se that makes it a literacy-rich activity in classrooms and libraries. Coding teaches design thinking, which is a creative problem solving process.

Design thinking in a nutshell:

What makes it a super-literacy activity?

I see information literacy in the design thinking process (above image), with critical literacy being a function of information literacy. Add in coding to teach design thinking, and you’ll also promote digital, media, technology, and visual literacies.

Coding tools

Concept Mapping

Concept mapping is typically seen by librarians as a strategy that assists students in the planning stages of the research process. It’s so much more than that! Concept mapping can be an entire research activity in and of itself, and a great alternative to the annotated bibliography (you can still annotate within the concept map). A well-developed concept map resembles a bowl of spaghetti or a spider web:


What makes it a super-literacy activity?

Researching, analyzing, and organizing information. Identifying relationships between concepts. Creating a visual display of information. Learning to use a digital tool. That’s critical, information, visual, digital, and technology literacy learning.

Concept Mapping Tools

These concept mapping tools include linking words, which are essential to the concept mapping process (otherwise it’s really mind mapping).

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is an activity that runs the gamut from simple (images and text) to complex (including movie elements). And digital storytelling fits anywhere within the curriculum, from fictional stories in a language arts or English class to memoirs in a History class to heavily researched documentary-like projects in a Science or Social Studies class.

What makes it a super-literacy activity?

Gathering information. Finding, developing, and synthesizing multiple media elements. Arranging visual information. Writing. Storyboarding. Learning to use digital tools. That’s critical, information, media, visual, digital, and technology literacy learning.

Digital Storytelling Tools


Yes, gaming. And especially virtual worlds, roleplaying games (RPGs) and puzzlers. The cognitive benefits of gaming is a growing area of research, as is game-based learning. Though, most of what you see developed for classrooms today is the use of gaming elements to increase engagement and motivation. Games themselves, the ones designed by honest to goodness game designers, the kinds of games that are difficult to master, those are the games that make for literacy-rich experiences. And libraries are the perfect avenue for promoting gameplay to support multiple literacies.

What makes it a super-literacy activity?

Exploring environments to find clues and information. Using information to solve problems or mysteries. Learning how to build virtual worlds. ‘Reading’ the actions of game characters or other players. That’s critical, information, digital, technology, media and visual literacy learning. Also spatial literacy learning.

Literacy-Rich Games

I wrote about these games and more in a previous post.

10 Digital Games Every Library Needs

The word has gotten out that gaming is a great way to draw teens (especially boys) into the library, and maybe…just maybe get them hooked on a book. International Games Day @ your library is proof of that. That’s the carrot and stick approach to reading. While I’m sure that approach has had some success, it’s the games themselves that are valuable tools for developing 21st century literacies and learning — something all libraries should be fully supporting.

I personally developed an enthusiasm for digital games as a literacy and learning tool in a Games and Simulations course I took awhile back. That course also gave me the incentive to explore games, and as I began to play, I began to recognize the literacy-rich environments that encompass games. Now, I play games more frequently, and have even encouraged my daughter to play more games (she enjoys Minecraft). I’m pretty sure her problem solving and strategic thinking skills have improved as a result. Problem solving and strategic thinking are broad skills that serve as a foundation for many academic areas, including math, science, critical literacy, and yes, even information literacy.

So, in my opinion, digital games should have a prominent place in every library (public, school and academic), and librarians should encourage gameplay in the same way they have always encouraged reading.

Here are 10 games that I think belong in every library (enjoy exploring them!):

  1. Minecraft 
  2. Portal 2
  3. Sid Meier’s Civilization
  4. Myst
  5. Tengami
  6. Colossal Cave Adventure  (one of the first text adventure games, now available on iOS and Android)
  7. Inanimate Alice (transmedia storytelling)
  8. Ticket to Ride (online adaptation)
  9. Gone Home
  10. The Stanley Parable