I got into the topic of ‘multiple literacies’, more commonly known as multiliteracies, in my previous blog post; so forgive me if I sound a little repetitive. Although this is a topic that I have previously discussed, I am thrilled to be talking about it again, as I cannot stress enough the importance of multiliteracies and how it fits into my conception of literacy. In short, multiliteracies pedagogy is the modern and contemporary rethinking of literacy and literacy education. As I discussed before in my previous blog, the traditional emphasis and way of ‘literacy’ was always twofold: reading and writing. Today’s multiliteracies pedagogy has been restructured to reflect the diversity that is central and critical to our society. In Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis’s “‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning” (2009) (which I will be referring to throughout this post), they explain that because society and the world has changed so drastically throughout the past few decades, there is a need for schools, education, and especially literacy to change their range, goals, and modes of representation.
Traditional literacy has ignored the learning potentials and differences that exists across a diverse range of students. Diversity has become universal, therefore our instruction in schools must reflect this. Additionally, as our workforce, citizenship, and everyday life has vastly changed, we as educators need to adapt and use pedagogy that will best suit ALL of our students. As teachers and students, we need to value the trajectory of change and we need to use it in our classroom. Multiliteracies, a term coined by the New London Group in the mid nineties, is a pedagogy that considers the broader changes and new media in our communications environment (Cope and Kalantzis, 2009). Multiliteracies is two dimensional: multilingual and multimodal. This encompasses all forms of representation, including language, regarded as dynamic processes rather than just reproduction (Cope and Kalantzis, 2009, p. 10). With this approach, there is a shift from written language to multiple modes such as oral language, visual, audio, tactile, gestural, and spatial representation.
My big takeaway from my last post was the idea that some learners may be more comfortable in one mode of representation than another, or in other words, they may have a preferred mode of representation, which is what comes easiest for them or how they can best express themselves and also understand the world around them. I know from my experience with children, in particular one of the 5-year-old boys that I babysit, that students may not be able to read or write at an “age-appropriate level”, yet they have the skills and knowledge of social situations, or the ability to build a “mailroom”; using the words stabilized, equipped, etc. (just as an example). This is a key concept of multiliteracies, as well as the idea that students are transformed from passive learners to agents and active learners. In Cope and Kalantzis’s words:
“A pedagogy of Multiliteracies… requires that the enormous role of agency in the meaning making process be recognised, and in that recognition, it seeks to create a more productive, relevant, innovative, creative and even perhaps emancipatory, pedagogy. Literacy teaching is not about skills and competence; it is aimed at creating a kind of person, an active designer of meaning, with a sensibility open to differences, change and innovation. The logic of Multiliteracies is one which recognises that meaning making is an active, transformative process, and a pedagogy based on that recognition is more likely to open up viable lifecourses for a world of change and diversity” (p. 10)
Multiliteracies is not just about literacy in a conventional school setting, yet it is about literacy in the context of society, citizenship, and humanity. Furthermore, multiliteracies considers the media-rich society that our students have been immersed in. In Tonya Dousay’s “Reinforcing Multiliteracies Through Design Activities” (2015) , she explains that in today’s society, technology and literacy are intertwined in life and learning. Therefore, a goal of our literacy education should focus on our students becoming visually literate citizens. There is a new focus on visual and media in our society, so our literacy education should reflect this and we should fully adopt a multiliteracies perspective of the necessity of multiple modes of representation.
Although reconfiguring our mindsets as educators to adopt this multiliteracies pedagogy may seem like it is a big deal, it honestly works to our benefit. There are many engaging activities and ideas that can be discovered and explored through multiliteracies. Like Dousay explains, “Educators who seek to address multiliteracies may find that there are practical benefits to introducing and applying these skills in the classroom. From news outlets to social media, sharing videos, images, photographs, and user-generated memes are common practice” (p. 29). She also goes onto discuss the importance of design-based learning activities and then discusses in detail both generating comic books and digital stories. In addition to this, I explored a few webpages that incorporate both literacy in technology [digital stories] (http://blog.visme.co/10-mind-blowing-interactive-stories-that-will-change-the-way-you-see-the-world/) and literacy in multiple subject areas/fields (http://multiliteraciesproject.com).
With this… I am not only extremely optimistic that these types of resources can be utilized in the classroom, but I am also encouraged that teachers can do this. We can ALL adopt a pedagogy of multiliteracies—and it will work to our benefit.
Additionally, like my last post I will leave my readers with one quote that resonates with me from Cope and Kalantzis’s “‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning” (2009):
“Such a transformative pedagogy is, we would argue, based both on a realistic view of contemporary society (how does schooling offer cultural and material access to its institutions of power?) and on an emancipatory view of possible paths to improvement in our human futures (how can we make a better, more equal, less humanly and environmentally damaging world?).” (p. 17)