We recently had the opportunity to meet (via Zoom) Thomas Mackey and Trudi Jacobson to discuss their influential metaliteracy concept. We wanted to understand how this idea differs from our approach to critical media and information literacy. Trudi and Tom were incredibly open about their work, the evolution of the metaliteracy concept, as well as the various critiques of it. Moreover, their willingness to take the time to discuss the topic with two people they’d never met speaks volumes about how they view and approach collaboration in higher education.

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To us, this exemplifies the idea of educators working openly to support each other in their teaching and research (whether that work is in the same area or across disciplines). Our research and teaching was at a point where we had to understand metaliteracy better to move forward. Of course, we’d already read their published works but learned much more about the evolution of their research during that hour-long conversation.

Below, are some main ideas from our conversation with Tom and Trudi:

  • There is some misunderstanding about the metaliteracy concept – it is not a combination of literacies but an overarching idea for higher education
  • Metaliteracy was conceived as an overarching literacy, and it was hoped that it would serve as a unifying term
  • As their work has evolved, the overarching concept is less important and theories of metacognition are more critical

Collaboration is an overused word (and does anyone actually to think of themselves as uncollaborative) but what does that actually look like in practice? Over the last few years, we have moved from traditional and often entrenched proprietary ideas of “my” work. After all isn’t this how “we” make names for ourselves, achieve promotions, books deals, etc.

But after collaborating in the classroom, and in writing, and then working with others in both of our fields, it is obvious that ideas will evolve, be implemented faster and be far more interesting if more are involved. It’s great to be able to work in such similar areas, employing multiple literacies from a critical perspective.

Too often academia is petty and competitive. You read the works of someone but then meet them in person, and there is a disconnect. Mackey and Jacobson have renewed our faith in what it means to work openly and connect with people (and their work) who we might not have otherwise had the opportunity to talk with. They understood our work, approach and perspective, and encouraged us to continue our research, despite commonalities, critiques or differences.

So, thanks again Trudi and Tom.

Natasha & Spencer

P.S. As always, thanks to Ian O’Byrne for his continued, great work, pushing the importance of working open in higher ed.

*Credit to Ian O’Byrne for this title and idea: http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/wakefulness-digitally-engaged-publics/

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