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:

Blogging

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:

Coding

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:

conceptmap

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

Gaming

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.

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Do You See What I See? Developing Visual Literacy Skills

Visual literacy is the ability to both read and write visual information. In an increasingly visual rich society, visual literacy has become more important than ever. Both the ISTE and the ALA recognize the importance of visual literacy for lifelong learning.

Along with information literacy, librarians should be focusing on teaching students visual literacy skills as well. That’s because visual literacy and information literacy are intricately connected. Visual literacy requires information literacy skills.

How can we help develop students’ visual literacy skills? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Visual essays. The visual essay is an alternative to the traditional essay. Using a traditional thesis statement, students can create an essay using pictures and images instead of just words. Those images can persuade, inform, or tell a story. In many ways, this is more difficult than the traditional essay. The research aspect of developing a visual essay requires a higher level of information literacy skills. The images that the student finds becomes the essay itself, so the student must carefully and thoughtfully find and select images that support the thesis statement.The visual essay assignment provides a great opportunity for librarians to incorporate both visual and information literacy instruction. Click here for an example of a visual essay.
  • Visual search engines. Visual research is more than just finding images. Visual search engines can also help students to better identify and understand their information needs. Here are some visual search engines you may not have heard of:
  • Infographics. I’ve written about infographics before as a tool that combines information and visual literacy.There are plenty of infographic tools out there. And infographics make great additions to visual essays. Here are a few more infographic tools:
  • Digital collages. Collages are visual stories. And it’s never been easier to create collages digitally. Here are a few collage maker tools:

Visual literacy is increasingly becoming an important skill for lifelong learning. Today’s students will be expected to be visually literate as they enter the workforce. Visual literacy is highly dependent upon information literacy, and visual literacy activities provide librarians with the opportunity to teach both visual and information literacy skills. Add digital tools into the mix, and you’ll also be developing digital literacy skills.