Staying in a transliterate flow

by | Oct 24, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Suzana Sukovic

Findings of the digital storytelling project iTell have been
recently reported in the Australian Academic and Research Libraries (ALIA)
under the title ‘iTell: transliteracy and digital storytelling‘. Workshops have been offered for three years in a row,
research findings have been reported and action research cycles have been closed
for now. But, iTell data has been talking to me ever since. One of the ideas
that make me wonder and speculate is a possible connection between
transliteracy and student engagement, a possibility of transliterate learning.

Audience with the Cupcake Queen by Nyari Morales
But, firstly, a bit of a background. iTell was offered at
St.Vincent’s College, Potts Point, an independent high school for girls in
Sydney, as a series of workshops in which students created digital stories
based on stories they knew and liked. They looked into fiction of their choice from
different perspectives, presented some oral stories for digital media or
created their own digital stories. An important aspect of the project was the
development of transliteracy skills through the process of creating digital
stories. (Transliteracy relates to the ability to apply a range of skills in
many different contexts while communicating and interacting with different
media and technologies.) A research aspect of the project considered the
development of transliteracy skills, student engagement with learning and any impact
on learning after participation in the workshops. 

At the time when I decided to include engagement as a
research question, I thought I was, most likely, setting myself for a failure.
Why would students engage with iTell differently than with any other learning
at school? Is there anything new in observing more of the same behaviour? Curiosity almost killed the cat but, in the end, student engagement,
turned to be a particularly successful part of iTell. Some of the students in
iTell workshops were gifted high-achievers, others were self-selected because
of their interest in creative work, but many others were encouraged or even
required to attend. A number of iTell participants were notoriously disengaged
learners for whom iTell was an opportunity to try a different approach to
learning. Their literacy levels covered a broad spectrum from struggling to
highly literate students. Regardless of all the differences in skill and
motivation, they all found something in iTell that kept their attention. In interviews, students
reflected on how iTell was different from their classroom experiences. The
difference was to do with the length of half- or whole-day workshops, which
created opportunities for engagement; relaxed rules around how they were
sitting and using space; the playful nature of some activities and the way they
were set up to create opportunities for individual work and peer-support. The
lack of assessment and any formal requirements had potential to become an issue
when student self-motivation didn’t go far enough to sustain many hours of work.
It may have been the case with few students but, for the majority, the absence
of assessment created opportunities for a more organic integration of
reflection and evaluation through the ‘story circle’, watching each other’s
stories, providing informal feedback, public screening and reflection in
research interviews. 
Student survey response (4 is maximum)

A context for transliteracy is an important aspect of
student engagement, I suspect. ‘Transliteracy is about fluidity of movement across
the field — between a range of contexts, modalities, technologies and genres’
(Sukovic 2014). While mastering a range of specific skills is important, it
seems that a transliterate way of working brings another quality. I speculate
that a context for transliteracy encourages creativity and a sense of internal
and external connections. Through these ongoing and evolving connections of
skills and meanings, engagement is maintained and deepened. It seems that the
fluidity of transliterate way of working supports ‘staying in the flow’ as
defined by Csikszentmihalyi. Context for transliterate learning allows moving
between a range of tasks, ideas and technologies providing mechanisms to
maintain interest and the right level of challenge. Particularly important are
different access points to learning. For example, writing a digital story can
be approached as traditional story writing, visual story board, dramatic
improvisation or developing a framework to work with technology, opening
different approaches to the writing task.   

The idea of transliteracy came from the field of media and
communication studies, but it has captured the interest of library and
information professionals who are well positioned to take the idea of
transliteracy further and, hopefully, provide some evidence for inklings and
speculations about the nature of transliteracy. Working ‘across’ disciplines,
technologies and practices is modus
for most librarians. More focused on the information needs of the
person or group at hand rather than on any
external requirements, librarians are in a position to think of new ways of
applying their tool set to individualised transliterate contexts. 

Sukovic, Suzana. 2014. iTell: Transliteracy and Digital Storytelling. Australian Academic & Research Libraries 45 (3):205-229. 

iTell stories are available here
Dr Suzana Sukovic is the Head of the Learning Resource Centre at St.Vincent’s College, Potts Point and Co-Chair of the ALIA Research Advisory Committee


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