Aiden Thinking

Transliteracy is a concept that captures the field of literacy and describes language arts as more than a function of  foundational skills, such as reading and writing, but also encompasses the ability to communicate across traditional and emerging platforms (Thomas, S. et. al., 2007). Simply put, transliteracy is the understanding of traditional literacy components alongside the nuances that living in a touchscreen world brings. Transliteracy puts aside the differences between traditional and emerging literacies to focus on the interconnected path of all literacies and the role they play in developing a literate member of society. Students need to become fluent, not only in their reading and writing practice, but also in the digital skills that are put to regular use in the world around them.

Reading and writing are at the core of transliteracy, as we interact with both traditional and digital print in our daily lives. Whether we are flipping through the pages of our favorite paperback or checking the weather on our smartphone, foundational reading skills (letter knowledge, sounds, and word reading) and meaning- based skills (comprehension, conceptual knowledge, and vocabulary) play an integral role. However, new skills, such as recognizing icons, setting up preferences, mastering multi-tap and swipe gestures, all play a pivotal role becoming a transliterate individual.

With an increasingly wide range of communication platforms and tools available to anyone, what it means to be a “literate” person is rapidly evolving. In the past, educators have used terms like “digital literacy,” “media literacy,” and “new literacies” to describe these concepts. Whatever the term, we know that emerging technologies play a large role in the skills and dispositions that we need to build in our transliterate students.

What do students of all ages need to learn in order to create what they know about literacy, learning, and content learning, via transliteracy?

Literacy in a digital age is no longer a linear process, in fact, it is more of a hyperlinked experience, where we locate information, read, process, find links to other relevant information and move on. Literacy in a digital age is also much more than interacting with traditional print materials. In addition to the books, newspapers and magazines we are all comfortable with, we now interact with digital text, blogs, websites, video and audio.

With a diverse and increasingly online set of learning resources available to them, students no longer need to memorize and recall basic factual information. Searching, locating and validating information is an increasingly important tool set for students to develop. Gone are the days of a single set of encyclopedias for classroom research as students today are more inclined to search out a YouTube video or Wikipedia entry to locate the information they need. Free, open and easily accessible online resources present an incredible opportunity not only to answer questions and solve problems, but also for students to begin to show what they knew in new and creative ways while sharing with a global audience.

What do today’s teachers need to know about transliteracy?

The students coming to their classrooms are not the same learners they were. Student literacy experiences are much different than today’s teachers were at their age. Growing up in a digital age, with instant access to information and the sum of human knowledge at their fingertips is creating a whole new realm of literacy experiences for students. Educators should place an emphasis on a seamlessly integrated approach to technology. Technology should not drive the curriculum nor determine content; rather, technology should be seamlessly integrated at every available opportunity because of the increased opportunities for expanded depth and breadth of student learning.

Teachers must look beyond literacy–to the development of transliterate practices, in their classrooms and in their daily lives–to ensure they develop a thorough understanding of skills and dispositions a transliterate individual possesses. As teachers can begin to model these skills through the creation of new learning spaces that support and embrace information flow and communication beyond the walls of the classroom. Teachers also must empower students to lead their own learning by shifting their pedagogical approaches and practices, taking risks and learning alongside their students.


Thomas, S. , Joseph, C. , Laccetti, J. , Mason, B. , Mills, S. , Perril, S. and Pullinger, K. (2007), “Transliteracy: crossing divides”, First Monday, Vol. 12 No. 12, available at: (Accessed 1 April 2016).