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Future Literacy.

Metaliteracy is a comprehensive model of information literacy that includes the creation as well as the consumption of information. It has become a hot topic among information literacy experts. Metaliterate Learning for the Post-Truth World, edited by Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson, focuses on how metaliteracy is applicable in our current climate of fake news and political turmoil.

Mackey and Jacobson are recognized leaders in the field. Together, they wrote an important article that introduced the concept of metaliteracy as well as two earlier books about metaliteracy and information literacy. Mackey is a professor in the department of arts and media at SUNY Empire State College and was previously a faculty member in the department of information studies at the University at Albany. He researches the use of metaliteracy in pedagogy. Jacobson is the head of the information literacy department at the University at Albany, holding the rank of distinguished librarian. Her work focuses on information literacy; she co-chaired the ACRL task force that created the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, adopted in 2016.


Metaliterate Learning for the PostTruth World assumes that readers have some knowledge of metaliteracy and focuses on its place in our current "connected yet partisan world" (p. xvii). In the first chapter, Mackey provides a quick refresher on the elements of metaliteracy, including its four domains: behavioral, cognitive, affective, and metacognitive. He suggests a number of characteristics of the metaliterate learner, including being participatory, collective, reflective, adaptable, open, productive, informed, and civic-minded. These learners evaluate their own biases, produce and share content, and develop their own learning strategies. Mackey hopes that "the metaliterate learner pursues truth through ongoing inquiry, ethical participation, and informed knowledge production" (p. 24).

The following chapters focus on various aspects of metaliteracy that are particularly related to the current social and political climate. In his chapter, Josh Compton (Dartmouth College) discusses inoculation theory, which suggests that attitudinal exposure to weak attacks can provide resistance to stronger ones, similar to physical inoculations. It can be used to prepare students for future challenges as well as to produce proactive thinkers and doers. Inoculation complements metaliteracy by making learners more prepared to engage in this challenging work.

Thomas Palmer (University at Albany) explores how images and text can be linked in deceiving ways. He emphasizes the power of combining words and images to create a strong narrative, which can be false if the two don't actually belong together. Most of us have probably been fooled by a news story with a compelling but misleading photo. Palmer discusses the failure of journalistic ethics, the siloing of written and visual journalism, and the current "morass of contextual misrepresentation across the media spectrum" (p. 137). This disregard for reality contributes to the post-truth atmosphere, but metaliterate learners can spot these issues and ascertain reality.

Several chapters present case studies of teaching using metaliteracy concepts. Allison Hosier (University at Albany) describes a lesson for her first-year seminar, Empowering Yourself as a User and Creator of Information. The lesson focuses on being wrong and includes three stages: discussion of common beliefs that are wrong, a personal story from the teacher about a time she was wrong, and reflection by the students on a time they were wrong. The point of this lesson is to adopt an optimistic model of wrongness, in which students are comfortable being wrong, exploring ideas, and changing their minds. They will learn that right and wrong are often changeable rather than immutable.

Jaclyn Partyka (Temple University) describes the use of fictional materials in first-year college writing courses. The study of how narratives are constructed in various formats and genres promotes broader understanding. With the presence of fake news and other untrue written materials, the study of fictionality can help students better understand writing and reading as they develop their own skills.


Metaliterate Learning for the PostTruth World presents current thought about and applications of metaliteracy; for novices, the earlier works by the editors may provide a better overview. This book will be of most interest to those who are already familiar with metaliteracy, bringing it to bear on current information issues such as fake news.

Gwen M. Gregory, M.L.S., M.P.A., is head of the resource acquisition and management department at the University of Illinois--Chicago Library. Send your comments about this column to or tweet us (@ITINewsBreaks).
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Author:Gregory, Gwen M.
Publication:Information Today
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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