Evaluation, Literacy and Transliteracy

As previously described I’ll be using my Connective Model for ICT-remediated Didactic Design for the general analysis of my PhD data. A first step in this process is working with the 9 basic elements in the model and in this post I’ll focus on some preliminary work I’ve done on the element of Evaluation as depicted in the model below.

Given that definitions shape the way we think about and practice particular phenomena the very act of defining something should not be done without prudence. I’m quite confident that working with the different elements in the model will refine the way I’ll end up describing them, so for now I settle for working definitions and as such I’ve found inspiration in UNESCO’s definition of Evaluation and after modifying it so that it fits better into my study field of Didactic Design it would read as follows:

Evaluation means arriving at a value judgment on the basis of measures (qualitative or quantitative) considered to be valid and reliable, which compare the actual results of a Didactic Design with its anticipated results.

The element of Evaluation is to some degree connected to all the other elements, but according to the working definition there is a particular strong connection to the element of Goals, since this is where we can derive the criteria for evaluating the results. When dealing with Didactic Design there will always be a least two major perspectives from which we can look upon certain elements, namely the teaching perspective and the learning perspective, and in what follows I’ll present some initial reflections on the particular part of evaluation that concerns the evaluation of learning outcome/results. To do so I want to dwell a bit on the concept of Literacy, which I consider to be vital when discussing the purpose and goals of especially formal education.

In its most narrow sense literacy refers to the ability to read and write, but used as a more general concept literacy refers to being knowledgeable or educated within a particular field. In an interesting UNESCO report on the plurality of literacy and the concept’s connection to the right to education as stated in article 26 of  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the evolving notion of literacy is discussed and defined: “Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.” (UNESCO.2004:13). Above all the plurality of literacy refers to the many fields in which literacy can be employed – specific literacies denominated by prefixes such as information, computer or media to name a few.

In my research on literacy I recently came across a very interesting article in First Monday that explores the concept of Transliteracy, which the authors Thomas; Joseph; Laccetti; Manson; Mills; Perril & Pullinger. 2007 define like this:

Transliteracy is 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)

What interests me the most is actually not the definition, but rather the idea and purpose of developing some sort of meta-literacy concept. According to the authors Transliteracy can be characterized as:

  • a possible unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty-first century
  • an extension of transliteration that also includes the increasingly wide range of communication platforms and tools at our disposal
  • a concept that calls for a change of perspective away from the battles over print versus digital, and a move instead towards a unifying ecology not just of media, but of all literacies relevant to reading, writing, interaction and culture, both past and present
  • a concept that doesn’t replace but contains both media and digital literacy
  • a possible literacy for (media) convergence
  • a concept of not just computer–based materials, but about all communication types across time and culture
  • a concept that insists on a lateral approach to history, context and culture, an interest in lived experience and a focus on interpretation via practice and production
  • an inclusive concept which bridges and connects past, present and, hopefully, future modalities
  • a concept that pays attention to the whole range of modes and to the synergies between them to produce a sense of a ‘transliterate lifeworld’ in constant process
  • both a concept and a practice productively situated in a liminal space between being a new cognitive tool and the recovery of an old one
  • a concept that deliberately refuses to presuppose any kind of offline/online divide
  • the kind of literacy we require to be able to simultaneously attend to multiple media and modes of communication as well as the kind of literacy we use to apply the literacies of one mode or medium to another one

Based on these characteristics I would interpret Transliteracy as a meta-literacy and I do find the characteristics both relevant and much needed in trying to define some sort of unifying literacy. The authors describe their work with the concept as a work in progress and “a good example of open source thinking between diverse collaborators” and they encourage further discussion and development of the concept. First author, Sue Thomas and her co-writers are all involved in the Production and Research in Transliteracy (PART) Group at the Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) at De Montfort University, UK and they’ll be hosting a conference on Transliteracy on February 9th 2010, which can be followed via several social media. In the video lecture below Sue Thomas explains the concept of Transliteracy based on the above mentioned article:

Returning to my interest in Literacy and especially new forms of literacy, I believe that there is a strong need to consider and develop new ways/methods of evaluation of learning outcome – not least when the learning processes and products have been facilitated by ICT-remediated Didactic Design. In this process of developing new evaluation methods, I think concepts like Transliteracy can prove quite valuable in giving indications of what criteria to focus on. Especially in Academia we seem to be stuck in using evaluation criteria and methods based on traditional literacy giving primacy to old media and modalities. Quoting Yancey. 2004: 90 “we use the frameworks and processes of one medium to assign value and to interpret work in a different medium”, which obviously is not the most appropriate way of accommodating the use of multiple and/or new media. In my third research cycle in the MIL case, I experimented with both criteria and methods of evaluation, and the results from this experiment will form the basis of a forthcoming post on evaluation of new media productions/compositions…

/Mariis

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