Talking About Transliteracy: A Panel Discussion

The October 16 Parents’ Association (PA) meeting included a lively and informative panel discussion on transliteracy: its importance, definition, and integration into the classroom.
Moderated by Head of School Danielle Heard, the panel spoke about transliteracy from multiple vantage points. Panelists included Assistant Heads of School Regina Nixon and Jane O’Connor, Middle School science and homeroom teacher Kate Carson, Lower School art teacher Kara Angeloni-Williams, and Director of Educational Technology and Innovation Hank Bryant.

Danielle opened the meeting with reflections on the School’s recent visit from speaker Grant Lichtman. Given the reality of the rapid pace of change today, students will need to achieve fluency and flexibility with a variety of different skills to be prepared for the future in our rapidly changing world.

Teachers shared examples from the classroom to illustrate skills that are utilized across traditional disciplines.Kate Carson discussed students’ field observations as an example of such skills, noting that what “might make someone a phenomenal scientist can also make one a phenomenal artist.”

Kara Angeloni-Williams noted that students use of visual thinking strategies and communication skills in the art studio to help them connect with and build upon knowledge from other learning experiences and disciplines. Jane added that the concept of transliteracy creates opportunities for students to gain greater understanding and ability to articulate learning connections. “We often ask students to think and reflect upon the world. When we can see preschoolers take photographs of what they see in nature, it’s their way of communicating what they are seeing and thinking,” Jane stated.

Hank Bryant talked about transliteracy in terms of being both “fluent” and “adaptable” as the language of literacy changes. “There are more cell phones than human beings in the world,” he stated. “Fluency across platforms is a necessity in the world today.” In the classroom, students interact with technology in tangible ways—coding, engineering, robotics—to help students adapt to new technology while showing interconnectivity between math, science, and the arts.

Panelists tied the discussion to their thoughts and reflections on our summer reading, The Rise by Sarah Lewis. Regina Nixon talked about observations about mastery and the importance of resilience and a growth mindset in reaching goals. As stated in The Rise, ”Mastery is not merely a commitment to a goal, but a curved line, constant pursuit.”

Common threads of language emerged around the speakers’ comments. The importance of a student’s ability to adapt as well as having a growth mindset (“I’m not there yet, but I am developing…”) will help students build resilience and navigate the rapid pace of change for a future that is vastly less knowable than it has ever been before.

A Q&A session with audience members followed. We look forward to continuing our work and discussion around the important topic of transliteracy.

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Nashoba Brooks School is a coed Lower School from Preschool to Grade 3 and an all-girls Middle School from Grades 4 to 8 located in Concord, Massachussetts.