Tom Mackey’s presentation Advancing Metaliteracy to Rebuild Trust launched the Reason & Respect initiative at SUNY Empire State College. This series of online conversations “provides a forum for students, faculty, staff, and our broader communities to explore and discuss topics related to the election and learn about critical issues” (SUNY Empire). Tom’s presentation examines metaliteracy as a pedagogical strategy to address the challenges of misinformation and disinformation during this election cycle and a global pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic is also an “infodemic” that is defined by the spread of false and misleading information. The sharing of deceptive and untruthful information during a global pandemic is especially problematic when accurate and reliable communication is essential for saving lives. Misinformation and disinformation are amplified by echo chambers, tribalism, and contentious partisan environments that reinforce mistrust and division. How do we rebuild trust based on reason and respect? How do we engage in difficult conversations about critical issues while reexamining fixed mindsets and understanding multiple perspectives?
During an age of misinformation and well-orchestrated disinformation campaigns, it is especially vital to make informed decisions based on accurate content from reliable and truthful sources. Metaliteracy is a comprehensive model that helps individuals to become both critical consumers and ethical producers of information in participatory environments (Mackey & Jacobson, 2011; Mackey & Jacobson, 2014). Metaliterate learners are reflective, well-informed, and civic-minded contributors to shared communities. They adapt to changing information technologies and work conscientiously to build communities of trust (Mackey, 2019). Metaliterate learners reflect on how they feel about information and the specific contexts of information environments (Jacobson, et. al., 2018). They develop a metaliteracy mindset and examine their own predispositions while consciously seeking information from multiple perspectives and sources (Jacobson, et. al., 2018). Metaliteracy has been applied in many different educational settings, from classrooms and libraries to online virtual environments, showing that it is possible to advance rational and reflective dialogue among engaged participants in shared spaces. This presentation explores how metaliteracy is a lifelong practice for building truthful and trusted communities based on a shared commitment to both empathy and understanding.
This guest blog post is by Dr. Valerie Hill, Director of the Community Virtual Library (a library in virtual learning environments) and researcher of changing literacy in digital culture. Valerie believes metaliteracy aligns well to our philosophical era which many are beginning to call “metamodernism”.
Her recent book, Metamodernism and Changing Literacy: Emerging Research and Opportunities, focuses on metaliteracy for all age groups through an exploration of our metamodern moment. In the Foreword to this book, Thomas Mackey states, “Hill provides a fascinating exploration of metamodernism through the perspective of metaliteracy. This intersection between both theories is vital to our understanding of the relationship between digital culture and literacy.”
Certainly, over the past few months instructors and learners have been challenged by the need to plunge into virtual learning environments (like it or not!) due to Covid 19. Many educators have scrambled to learn new tech tools connecting to students through ZOOM and other apps. Obviously, lecturing online through a web camera has obstacles and limitations as there is little chance for interactive hands-on learning without a “shared space”. Entering virtual platforms for learning requires metaliteracy and the ability to reflect on information in multiple formats as we participate in digital spaces both consuming and producing information. We are surrounded by evidence that metaliteracy is essential, realizing that literacy is no longer defined as the ability to read and write. Options for online learning continue to evolve and a look at our philosophical era in relation to literacy helps us understand how deep learning can occur today and in the future.
The End of Postmodernism
Metaliteracy, as defined by Mackey and Jacobson (2014), is a term developed to better understand the need for digital citizens to reflect on their own literacy in globally networked culture through four domains: behavioral, cognitive, affective, and metacognitive. The ongoing process of learning through these domains takes place again and again over time. This need for metaliteracy was a perfect match to the changing era of postmodernism and the rise of networked culture; however, it is even more critical as we move beyond postmodernism. Several new concepts are emerging, such as: post-postmodernism, post-millennialism, trans-postmodernism, and the term used in this writing, metamodernism.
One of the hallmarks of postmodernism was deconstructionism and the tearing down of grand narratives and established belief systems. Postmodernism emphasized irony, engendered an abundance of dystopian literary works, and promoted a sense of the “death of history”. Metamodernism, in contrast, allows room for hope. Vermeulen and van den Akker (2010, p. 2) suggest, “History, it seems, is moving rapidly beyond its all too hastily proclaimed end.” Understanding changes in literacy may be better understood by exploring metamodernism and embracing metaliteracy.
Metaliteracy in Virtual Spaces
Literacy, we all know, has been revolutionized by digital culture bringing opportunities to access, create and curate content through a plethora of apps and digital platforms. Rapidly expanding digital tools have disrupted education, leading to the need for new nomenclature and a new look at literacy. As information landscapes continue to evolve, metaliteracy addresses goals and learning objectives for digital citizens which include 1) Evaluation of content and bias; 2) Advocating respect for intellectual property; 3) Producing and sharing through collaboration; and 4) Adapting to change through lifelong personal and professional goals.
While innovative learning spaces can be new and exciting, the metamodern individual seeks a balance of innovation with respect for history and tradition. Much can be gained by studying the past and reflecting on the learning journey of those who lived before us. These oscillations between the past and the present, between the physical and the virtual (or digital), and between numerous opposing concepts (the concrete and the abstract) surround us in our metamodern world and impact literacy as we juggle and swing between them in our minds. This juggling between modes of literacy and thinking influences our behavior, our knowledge and understanding, our feelings toward information, and our reflection on how we learn (notice the four domains of metaliteracy).
Choosing the best learning environment is challenging for educators and for learners as online classroom management platforms compete to provide educational applications and virtual spaces (even VR headsets) continue to rapidly expand. Many online spaces offer little interaction beyond observation through a webcam or interactive chat. Evaluating the criteria necessary for specific learning objectives is critical and a shared sense of place and presence can be of tremendous value.
3D virtual environments may play a greater role in simulating a shared learning experience using avatars, a simulated space across distance with the ability to learn in collaboration in a persistent environment (a space that remains over time rather than a one-time disposable experience). Research has documented the potential for high quality educational simulations for over fifteen years. Virtual worlds, such as Second Life or Kitely, offer learners tools to build alone or in collaboration with others. These virtual learning spaces require metaliteracy as users employ various new skills such as embedding online media, coding and scripting, using voice or text, collaborative building, applying the laws of physics, or back channeling through other platforms to communicate.
Great potential for learning and creating in virtual environments is evident; yet, so too is the need for a balance between the virtual world and the physical world. Metamodernism calls for a balance of both worlds and an appreciation of both. The process of becoming metaliterate is lifelong and the metamodern individual must be aware of the personal responsibilities we each hold as digital citizens. As XR (Extended Reality), VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality) continue to evolve, metaliteracy will become essential to education and daily life. Certainly, the unprecedented shutdowns caused by Covid 19 have brought a new appreciation of our physical world and our social interactions. A deep appreciation for the physical world alongside multiple “realities” is a metamodern concept.
Metaliteracy for all Age Groups in Digital Culture
From infancy through old age, we are all called upon to become digital citizens in today’s globally connected culture. Tiny tots see digital devices around them from birth and elderly people are often expected to utilize digital modes of communication from email and online shopping to texting and social media. Much of our online interaction takes place through social media and networked communities. “Metaliteracy promotes critical thinking and collaboration in a digital age, providing a comprehensive framework to effectively participate in social media and online communities” (Mackey and Jacobson, 2011, p. 62).
Becoming metaliterate is a process that begins at birth with the modeling of literacy (print books preferred for infants and toddlers!) imperative to development. Parents, children, educators, students, and lifelong learners are challenged to develop a personal awareness of metaliteracy and to “apply metaliterate learning as a lifelong value and practice” (Metaliteracy Goal 4:9) (Jacobson, et. al., 2019).
Hill, V. J. (2020). Metamodernism and Changing Literacy: Emerging Research and Opportunities. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
As educators respond to the COVID-19 crisis and transition to online and remote learning, or expand what they are doing at a distance, consider several metaliteracy resources that are adaptable for these purposes. We’ve seen an increase in the use of our MOOCs during these unprecedented times and would like to highlight those resources and other OER that were designed for teaching and learning with metaliteracy:
iSucceed College Success – SUNY OER Services recently launched this expanded College Success course with a new metaliteracy module to prepare students for the college environment. The Metaliteracy Module is adaptable to K-12 and college environments and provides open content, learning objects, videos, and assignments that are adaptable to your educational setting.
Empowering Yourself in a Post-Truth World – This Coursera MOOC addresses the challenges of the post-truth world and is especially relevant now that accurate and reliable information is paramount during this global pandemic.
Metaliteracy Digital Badging – All of the content developed for our Metaliteracy Digital Badging system is openly available to apply online and through remote learning.
Two Metaliteracy MOOCs are now available for registration via the Coursera platform. First, our original Coursera MOOC Metaliteracy: Empowering Yourself in a Connected World has been streamlined and enhanced with new video content, resources, and learning activities. Learners will be introduced to the metaliteracy model, learn about copyright, intellectual property, and open-licensing through the Creative Commons, and explore digital storytelling as a creative form of information production. By the end of this MOOC, learners will see themselves as content creators and develop a digital artifact or story of their own. Registration for this MOOC is open now for launch on October 14, 2019.
Second, the recently revised Empowering Yourself in a Post-Truth World MOOC is being offered on Coursera for the first time. Registration is open now for immediate launch. This course explores a wide range of issues related to the post-truth world and empowers learners to think about the role of experts in society, examine false representations in constructed media, reflect on their own biases, and explore ways to build collaborative communities of trust and reinvent a truthful world. Learners will be empowered to raise and share their own voice by creating a digital response to the post-truth world.
Both MOOCs provide dynamic video content, updated links to open readings and resources, discussions, and interactive learning activities. The MOOCs can be explored independently, or in sequence (if new to both MOOCs, you may want to start with the Connected World and move to Post-Truth World, but either sequence is fine). These updated resources are available to teachers, students, librarians, administrators, and lifelong learners interested in applying metaliteracy to a variety of teaching and learning situations and/or everyday life. Metaliteracy supports reflective learning and the active production of new knowledge in collaborative communities.
We welcome this guest posting from Holly Wehmeyer, Communications & Marketing Coordinator and Educator from the Intensive English Language Program at the University at Albany, SUNY. Holly participated in the first session of our Open edX MOOC Empowering Yourself in a Post-Truth World and created a Metaliteracy Infographic as her final project. Our Post-Truth MOOC is now in a self-paced mode so feel free to join and create your own project!
Characteristics of a Metaliterate Social Media User
by Holly Wehmeyer
Characteristics of the Metaliterate Learner (Mackey & Jacobson, 2019)
For my final project, I chose to create an infographic on the characteristics of a Metaliterate social media user. I have watched the social media space become polarized and partisan along with the nation’s politics and wondered about my role in developing online communities of trust. I have watched friends and strangers argue past one another, post inflammatory memes, and eventually unfollow each other. How are we to compromise on important issues if we can’t even talk to one another? Taking this course was one step I chose to take in becoming part of the solution to this problem.
The infographic attempts to draw on the concepts we’ve learned in the course to help social media users reflect on how they approach social media and what and how they share information. I wanted to create a simple guide to being a responsible online citizen. I created the graphic using Canva, an online design tool that I’ve used previously while working on newsletters and other publications. It allows the user to create simple designs and offers a number of free icons and other graphics. I also used quotations and information from Mackey and Jacobson’s book, Metaliterate Learning for the Post-Truth World, which was not required reading for the course (other than the Introduction and first chapter), but which I read on my own.
Working on this final project certainly involved all four metaliteracy learning domains. In the behavioral realm, I was reminded of what I should be DOING – how I should be interacting with other people on social media – in responsible and civic-minded ways. My actions have consequences, so I should strive for the action that avoids harm and creates constructive dialog. In the cognitive realm, I’ve learned a lot about confirmation bias, inoculation theory, ideas about experts, and more. My background in Journalism had already given me a good grounding in the way media outlets choose photos, write captions, and construct headlines, but the course readings were an excellent reminder of how things have changed since I worked in publishing in the 1990s. In the affective domain, this course actually made me feel a lot better about my own behavior. I haven’t been doing such a terrible job online as I perhaps thought! However, there is always room for improvement. The course helped me recognize why I’m reacting strongly to certain posts or why I feel frustrated when my arguments don’t convince my opponent. Finally, in the metacognitive domain, I have reflected frequently on why I post certain stories and why I have certain reactions to other people’s posts. It has helped me ask questions of myself, many of which I’ve put into my final project.
In conclusion, by modeling the characteristics of a metaliterate social media user, both through this infographic and through my online behavior, I hope to teach others about the value of metaliteracy, to build those communities of trust, and to help return our online discourse to a place of civility and discovery.
Trudi Jacobson and Tom Mackey co-authored a feature article entitled Why You Should Fight for Metaliteracy on Your Campus for the HigherEdJobs leadership newsletter. This publication is sent to approximately 40,000 subscribers at the executive level, including presidents, provosts, and deans. The article was written to support all educators interested in applying metaliteracy in a wide range of disciplines and institutional contexts to advance metaliterate learning. As Jacobson and Mackey (2018) argue in this new essay:
Metaliteracy provides a model for thinking and knowing in a social media age that is fraught with misleading and downright false information from a wide range of questionable sources. Metaliterate learners are developed across many academic disciplines through teaching and learning situations that promote self-direction, collaboration, participation, and metacognitive thinking. This approach requires us to work together and innovate, applying the metaliteracy goals and learning objectives, and supporting institutional partnerships among key stakeholders such as faculty, librarians, and instructional designers.
As noted in this essay, collaborative conversations among key stakeholders at the campus level are ideal to advance metaliteracy initiatives. If you have questions about how to get these conversations started or to share innovative programs already in place, feel free to reach out directly to Trudi Jacobson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tom Mackey at Tom.Mackey@esc.edu.
As part of his review for the co-authored book Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners, Virtue concludes: “Mackey and Jacobson offer a foundational work that challenges how we understand literacy in the digital age. Furthermore, their argument for the need of metaliteracy is compelling. Metaliteracy is not only interesting but a necessary concept to understand the complexity of communication embedded within our continually evolving technologies—one that will help us, as teachers and librarians, help learners become more astute in their everyday lives.” We appreciate the thoughtful reviews by Drew Virtue and the support from Facet Publishing, the international publisher for both books in association with ALA Publishing in the United States.
The ICDE 2017 panel presentation was included in the session Badges and Alternative Credentials for Learning and also included Wayne Mackintosh, UNESCO – ICDE Chair in Open Educational Resources, OER Foundation, Burt Lo, Director II of Digital Curriculum & Instructional Technology, Stanislaus County Office of Education, and Alexandra Pickett, Director, Center for Online Teaching Excellence, Open SUNY, State University of New York (SUNY).