Connecting the Multiple Literacies: A Librarian Call to Action

Even though the work of Gee, Prensky, Jenkins, and others have addressed videogames value to literacy. And with the ALA focusing on gaming and literacy, drawing connections, and increasing our patron/students’ ability… students have still struggled on traditional evaluations. Squire (2005) suggest that the failure is not in the students but in the way our traditional education systems are structured. While the discussion of how our education system assesses students is important, it is not the focus of the post. The successful engagement of students in multiple literacies can start with librarians at every level. Continued documented success of these literacies will lead to institutional acceptance and value.

To work toward that end goal, understanding the multiple literacies students engage in is necessary. Our patrons and students are seeking text that have meaningful context within their lives. Videogames and other transmedia stories are shaping their expectations of what a story can do. A non-linear, multi-layered experience that rewards their previous knowledge is a way for students to flex their understanding and thought processes. This application is important not only for increasing students and patrons literacies but also their information literacy skills. We have the opportunity to seek out these multiple literacies and help students and patrons evaluate and responsibly apply their knowledge.

Engaging these multiple literacies through videogames is just on of the many possibilities and examples we can create. I recorded a podcast segment yesterday for the ALA Gaming podcast on fantasy football. My discussions on fantasy football are focused on more than encouraging libraries to use fantasy football to connect with users of their libraries (which is a good thing). My discussion and application here is larger and I believe ultimately more rewarding:

  • Seek out and create connections with existing interest (pop culture or otherwise) that students/patrons already value and have an existing knowledge base. Game stories that transcend videogames and move into graphic novels, novels, and other media involve our readers in deep and complex narratives that allow them to flex those multiple literacy muscles.
  • Our job can be to use these experiences and help students recognize the traditional, information, and other literacy skills they are currently practicing through their multiple literacy experiences.
I’ve used the bridge metaphor before and will continue to do so. We have the opportunity to bridge our students/patrons existing knowledge and skills in these multiple literacies to the traditional academic skills and literacies our educational systems value. Our successful bridging may be just the evidence and documentation needed to help create the changes and shifts that leaders like Gee, Squire, and others have advocated for so long.