Multiple Literacies

New communication tools, emerging technologies, and social and cultural forces are constantly redefining what we mean by “literacy.” Students now need to use a broad range of literacies to achieve their immediate learning objectives and to recognize and develop their own creative possibilities.

Many students are already collaborative writers and content creators in the digital world. This world provides learners with unprecedented and powerful opportunities to develop multiple literacies. In doing so, learners
can develop deeper understandings of the global community. Making writing more meaningful and relevant to today’s students means engaging them in this interactive online environment. The Learning Commons helps schools address these challenges.

In the Learning Commons, the teacher-librarian designs multiple literacy experiences with teaching partners so that students will:
  • Pursue academic and personal reading and writing interests
  • Examine ideas, information and interpretations critically and creatively
  • Engage meaningfully with multiple kinds and levels of texts and multimedia in a resource rich environment
  • Develop information literacy skills (e.g., analyze conflicting data and ideas through the inquiry process)
  • Utilize appropriate technologies to learn and communicate collaboratively
  • Demonstrate respect for intellectual property and practice academic honesty

Ideas to Consider


 Literacy Type & Competencies
 Implications for Learning
Traditional Literacy
  • Reading and writing with depth and understanding
  • Transferring information to new learning situations
  • Broader definition of "texts" includes print, media, and digital media
  • Learners respect a wide variety of viewpoints in reading material
Information Literacy
  • Accessing, processing, transferring, and communicating information
  • Adapting to changing information and communication technologies
  • Envisioning new ways to use these technologies to display new understandings

  • An open, safe environment for exploring innovative uses and applications of technology is required
  • Equitable access to technology
  • Power and impact of social networking tools
  • Reality of "just in time", 24/7 access to information
  • "The medium is the message"
Media Literacy
  • Constructing meaning through the combination of several media "languages" - images, sounds, graphics, and words
  • Applying critical thought to what is viewed, heard and read
  • Understanding the intended audience and purpose for communication

  • More informed consumers of information and ideas
  • Utilizing emerging tools to critically assess and analyze both the media and its messages
  • Awareness of increasingly complex forms of media persuasion
  • Engagement and relevance
Visual Literacy
  • Interpreting, creating, and using visual images
  • Thinking, decision making and communicating
  • Being aware of emotional impact of visuals
  • Analyzing for patterns and trends, graphics, and words.

  • Information increasingly represented visually with complexity, and used to convey changes, patterns and data to the world
  • Visual models used increasingly to create or demonstrate understanding
  • Developing visual spacial intelligence
Cultural Literacy
  • Gaining understanding and appreciation for cultural diversity
  • Communicating effectively with diverse cultural groups
  • Respecting differing cultural points of view

  • Increased respect for a wide variety of cultural norms, perspectives, and realities
  • Created awareness of personal biases
  • Common goal of increased global harmony
  • Understand and contribute to Canadian identity
Digital Literacy
  • Understanding, evaluating and integrating information in multiple formats
  • Constructing information from multiple sources
  • Utilizing multidimensional and interactive skills

  • Fluid construction of knowledge and understanding
  • Communicate learning in real time
  • Shared learning experiences
  • Networked and participatory
Critical Literacy
  • Looking at multiple sources
  • Analyzing, synthesizing, retelling, relating, and reflecting
  • Bringing personal experiences and understandings to information

  • Text to text / self / world connections
  • Knowledge transferred and applied to predictable and unpredictable situations
  • Demonstrated awareness of personal significance
  • Critical consumers of information, ideas and opinions


Defining literacy is a process of continuous negotiation that is fueled by social, economic and technological changes. To be literate is to have the skills and knowledge to make meaningful connections between what one knows and what one is trying to understand, apply, or communicate.

– Loertscher, Koechlin & Zwaan, 2008