Transliteracy, Minecraft, and Will Richardson

An image of a library designed in Minecraft.

Reading and writing skills are absolutely crucial for any learner (child or adult!) to develop and maintain, and librarians have always felt empowered to foster those skills in their patrons. Increasingly, we’re also concerned with transliteracy: the ability to engage with a variety of tools and media, from social network literacy to visual literacy to sound literacy.

As AWS prepares to send several facilitators to help guide conversations at the Northwest Association of Independent Schools’ Fall Educator’s Conference in October, I’ve been preparing by reading Why School?, by Will Richardson, as Richardson will be the conference‘s keynote speaker. Here’s one passage where Richardson talks about his son’s learning to show how a game like Minecraft can support transliteracy:

I look at how he’s learned Minecraft and totally understand why school is becoming more of a struggle. First, he has a passion for learning the game. That’s crucial. He creates his own, constantly updated curriculum based on what he knows and needs to know next. He cobbles together his own multimedia texts using YouTube videos. He finds his own teachers, both local (his friends who tutor him via ooVoo) and global (the other players he interacts with on the Massively Minecraft server, hosted in Australia). He’s engaged in assessing his own work, scraping it and starting over when something fails, building or refining when he gets new ideas, and offering feedback to his peers on a regular basis.

This isn’t to say that playing Minecraft doesn’t come with all the risk that might occur through interactions across the internet; instead, let’s continue to develop our transliterate abilities. School is one place to focus on these skills. The library is another. But there are plenty of other spaces (and mediums) to challenge us and motivate us to better our skills and performance while developing the sense of resilience and curiosity that help us stay learners for life.

For further reading, check out Richardson’s book:

Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere (Kindle Edition, September 2012)

Or, check out the talk Will Richardson gave to TEDxNYED:

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