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Book Reviews

Metaliteracy in a Connected World: Developing Learners as Producers. Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson, eds. Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2022. 232p. $64.99 (ISBN: 978-0-8389-4944-3).

Book cover for Metaliteracy in a Connected World: Developing Learners as Producers

Is the term “information literacy” a valuable descriptor of what we try to teach as librarians? In Metaliteracy in a Connected World, Thomas Mackey and Trudi Jacobson make a strong case for the adoption of the metaliteracy framework, a pedagogical model that seeks to empower learners to be reflective and informed consumers and producers of information in an increasingly connected (digital) world. This monograph builds on Mackey and Jacobson’s previous efforts, spanning two decades, to normalize metaliteracy as the framework for teaching and learning in libraries.

You may have used the term “metaliteracy” to describe information literacy. In the first two chapters, Mackey and Jacobson describe the metaliteracy framework as a model informed by other pedagogical approaches, such as critical thinking, self-directed learning, and metacognition, as well as influential learning theories, including Paulo Freire’s problem-posing education, among others. In brief, the metaliteracy model is constituted by four components: domains, characteristics, roles, and goals and learning objectives. The metaliterate learner is trained in four domains: cognitive, metacognitive, affective, and behavioral. Each domain fosters one or more key characteristics of a metaliterate learner, such as being adaptable, open, collaborative, reflective, and civic minded, among others. Finally, each characteristic is associated with a specific role, such as that of a teacher, collaborator, communicator, or researcher. Metaliteracy goals and learning objectives serve as learning principles for educators looking to apply the model in practice. Chapter 2 explores the relationship between metaliteracy and multimodality. This is crucial, given that a metaliterate learner is at once a consumer and producer of information. Mackey and Jacobson point to the digital environment in which learners are operating—an environment constituted by text, hypertext, audio, video, and AR/VR—and encourage educators to take advantage of this medium to foster producers while maintaining reflective practices.

As this short summary suggests, the first two chapters are packed to the brim. Until chapter 3, Mackey and Jacobson’s discussion focuses on defining the parameters of metaliteracy in theoretical terms, focusing on iterative development and precedential learning theories, with brief gestures toward how metaliteracy may present itself in the classroom. The theoretical discussion, from Piaget’s Social Construction of Knowledge to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and the development of Bloom’s Taxonomy, is illustrative of Mackey and Jacobson’s knowledge and passion. While thorough, these chapters may leave certain readers wishing for a translation of the metaliteracy framework into concrete practices. For those readers, chapters 3 and 4 deliver.

Chapter 3 focuses on the intersection of metaliteracy and open pedagogical practices. In short, open pedagogy, defined as a practice that positions the learner as a “constructor of knowledge through their own discovery and creation processes,” is in many ways a practical distillation of the metaliteracy framework. Indeed, asking learners to demonstrate proficiency through the act of creating an openly licensed and reusable object is an example of the learner-producer paradigm in practice. Chapter 4 continues this discussion by offering specific examples of how metaliteracy and open pedagogy can work in the classroom, such as nondisposable assignments (editing a course textbook, creating a syllabus, editing Wikipedia, and so on).

Chapters 5 and 6 will not appeal to every reader. The former is a comprehensive case study of an online course on metaliteracy developed by one of the authors, while the latter “explores how metaliteracy encourages individuals … to be effective digital citizens” (165). While the learning activities in chapter 5 are interesting, the overall content is likely not applicable for most academic librarians; how often does a librarian get the chance to develop and run a MOOC?

Librarians interested in pedagogical theory and the development of teaching and learning more generally will do well to pick up a copy of this title. One criticism is that the book does not address some of the stark realities of library instruction, as evidenced by some of the examples offered in the final chapters. In particular, the authors would do well to acknowledge the underresourced and overworked conditions in information literacy departments and the consistent last-minute requests for instruction from faculty that are interested in bibliographic instruction rather than, as the book suggests, cultivating “productive digital citizens”—and one could go on. Indeed, breaking out of this loop may be the first step in adopting a framework such as the one proposed in this book. A second step may include adopting some of the excellent resources included in the appendix of this title, which provide starting points for activities and lessons that model the metaliteracy framework.—Cal Murgu, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada

Copyright Cal Murgu


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