literacy multimodal practices - University of South Carolina

JANUARY 29, 2011
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Checking Facebook
Texting friends
Pen and paper format
School curriculum is text based
Individual presentations are common
The written word is not enough
“This is an age of multimedia authoring where
competency with the written word is still vital,
but no longer all that is needed” (Mills, 2010,
p. 36).
Some significant stats
 Number of households with internet capability
rose from 47% (1999) to 74% (2004)
 8-18 year olds spent an average of 6.5
hours/day involved in media (Roberts, Foehr &
Rideout, 2005)
 Availability of technology in K-12 schools is on
the rise; 99% schools are connected to the
internet (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear & Leu, 2008).
 87% of 12-17 year olds use the internet; 68%
use it at school (Rainie & Hitlin, 2005).
How well do you know your students?
1. Do your students have internet access at home? How
do you make accommodation for students who do not
have internet access?
2. What do you know about their internet use? What do
you know about their internet navigation skills?
3. Do your students find the quantity of information on
the internet overwhelming? How do you assist them
develop effective information seeking skills?
4. What informal adolescent literacies do your students
use? Do your encourage your students to use these in
your classroom? If so, what,
New challenge for learning in our schools
Current research emphasizes how students
INTUITIVELY acquire new “deep and rich”
literacies in out of school spaces .
 Students’ out of school literacies promote
processes of learning that are “deeper and
richer than the forms of learning to which they
(students) are exposed in schools” (Gee, 2004,
p. 107).
 Digital Youth Project describes rich learning
outside school mostly in settings of peerbased interaction (Mizuko et al., 2008).
Bridging the divide
 Students draw from their informal experience
with multimodal texts to connect with mature
literacy practices in school contexts, creating
distinct borders between home & school
(Dyson, 2003).
 Street (2003) argues that we need to
the divide separating literacy learning from
the lived experience of students in their
Opposing mindsets about literacy
 Literacy exists in
traditional paper and
pencil form - scarcity
and production of
goods is valued.
 Literacy thrives in
activities involving
multimedia –
participation and
distribution of goods
& information is
Shifting our definition of literacy
Schools can take advantage of digital
technologies that adolescents use. Instead of
limiting focus on teaching students to read
using textbooks and write using paper and
word-processing programs, schools might
expand their notion of literacy instruction and
treat it as read & writing for the purposes of
communicating in many traditional &
contemporary modes using multiples tools &
resources (Tarasuik, 2010).
What do you know about your students’ digital
1. Do your students read digital texts for meaning in
the same way as they read traditional texts?
2. What digital reading strategies need to be
developed for deeper levels of inferential,
analytical, critical and evaluative understandings?
2. What differences are there between the process of
sending a text message and handwriting a message
on paper?
3. How do we incorporate the possibilities of
imaginative design and production possible for a
website, blog or DVD into the English curriculum?
Multimodality matters
 Multimodality is vital to the literacy practices of
youth and adults in the globalized communities
environment (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000). It is
incumbent on teachers to include new literacies
using digital media to make connections between
learning spaces of home & school.
 Not all adolescents today are “digital natives”
(Prensky, 2001). Greater emphasis must be
placed on expert scaffolding of new literacies in
school settings in order to extend students’
repertoire of skills and genres.
What is multimodality?
 Multimodality: the combination of two or more
modes in representation - linguistic (written
words), visual, audio, gestural, and spatial (New
London Group, 1996).
 Example. Social networking eg designing a
Facebook profile.
What others can you think of?
Multiple platforms in culturally diverse social settings
 Japanese style comics, or manga- “amusing
drawings” (Schwartz & Rubenstein-Avila, 2006).
Digital movie composing (Brass, 2008; Ranker,
Graffiti (Vasudevan , 2006)
Online fanfiction (Black, 2005)
Cell phone advertising (Ajayi, 2009)
Illustrated stories (Debruin-Parecki & Klein,
Rap lyrics (McGinnis, 2007)
Vooks (Groenke, Bell, Allen & Maples, 2011)
Examining assumptions about adolescent
Not all adolescents are “digital natives.” (Differences
in multimodal & digital practices exist across social
groups. Teachers have a role in guiding students to
participate in new practices for social, recreational &
civic engagement).
2. Adolescents’ engagement in multimodal textual
practices is not only about “fitting” English to the
interests of students. (Textual practices can be
created and encouraged).
3. Students multimodal practices are essentially
recreational. (These practices need to be “balanced”
with scaffolded multimodal practices in school
How much should social, workplace, and recreational
literacies influence the curriculum?
Dewey (1929). Emphasized learners’ readiness to learn
and need to account for the knowledge, skills &
interests of learner as motivation for instruction. This
view supports thinking for not teaching practices of
formal or recognized literacies because they are
situated beyond the student’s direct experience.
Is this your view?
Vygotsky (1978). Argued that adults should not deny
students abstract learning experiences on the basis of
their supposed level of development but rather assist
students to achieve their potential within the ZPD. This
view suggests that ELA teachers need not surrender
school sanctioned literacies to the informal literacies of
adolescents. The converse also applies.
What is your view?
Guiding students to new multimodal literacy
 “Just as we should not lose sight of the
adaptability of some unschooled abilities,
we must also guard against expecting
more of them than they can
deliver”(Damon, 1990)
 “… generative multimodal practices among
youth are often limited by uneven access
to technologies, critical literacies, and
specialist knowledge of media &
technology” (Mills, 2010, p. 40).
Rethinking multimodal design
ELA teachers approach multimodal
designing with significant background
knowledge of the linguistic mode
(written word) eg genre or text
structure, vocabulary choice, sentence
construction. These linguistic design
elements have different degrees of
stability or change in new multimodal
texts eg film making.
Multimodal literacy using film
In film making, commonality exists between the
text structure of written & visual narratives.
Movie scripts and written narrative share
development of a setting, characters, plot, etc
Teachers can model & collaboratively
construct movie scripts & written narratives
that address textual codes & conventions of
this genre.
When creating multimodal texts, students focus
on visual ,spatial, gestural or audio modes eg
storyboards, music, sound effects, narration.
They also need to attend to technical skills eg
movie making software to capture frames &
digitally edit the movie.
Multimodal literacy within the
podcasting process
Podcasting has become a popular development
within web 2 technology and enables a range of
modes to be used in the production of a
multimedia experience.
Students may be engaged in a range of literacy
tasks of researching, planning and writing texts for
broadcasting while learning about the technology
of using audio and video files to produce their
podcasts. In pairs, the students can plan, develop,
draft, produce and refine an 8-minute podcast
suitable for sharing with a broad audience. The
final podcasts can be uploaded onto I-tunes as well
as onto the school’s website.
 A classroom writing task needs no longer to be
seen as confined to writing a particular genre or
text-type to be edited and produced on paper.
The podcasting process itself introduces a new
genre that incorporates other genres.
 Podcasting is an example of multimodal literacy
that involves students working together:
talking, listening, planning, reading,
researching, designing, writing and producing
using both print and digital modes.
Multimodal literacy using Wikis
 A wiki consists of a set of webpages where
collaborations contribute and modify information
about specific subjects. Authors edit and add
information simultaneously. They can post images,
add links to other sites relevant to their topic. Wikis
can be established on PBworks (
 Example: Students collaborate on a novel. On their
web pages, they can organize their information
about vocabulary, summaries, characterization as
they read the novel. They can also explore other
tools eg add chat boxes.
 “Students put in more effort . Since Wikis can be
viewed on the internet, they tend to be more
thoughtful & deliberate. “
 “I found students had created something new
and extended their learning themselves.”
Digital Book Talks or Trailers
 Similar to the traditional book talk, they give
the reader enough information to lure him/her
into reading the novel. They can be shared on
the school website.
 As for film making, students work with visuals,
music, sound effects, storyboards to scaffold
their “talks.” One teacher used a scene planner
to help students organize their talk.
 Digital book talks promote the use of reading
strategies such as questioning, rereading,
So what!
Adolescents are continually discovering
certain multimodal literacy practices through
informal networks. Schools have a role to
introduce new literacies. Creating space for
students to make connections with popular &
multimodal texts in the ELA classroom is
necessary, but insufficient, to prepare
students for social & civic engagement.
Students need guidance by experts to move
them beyond the known to the new. They are
not experts of many important multimodal
and digital practices (DeBell & Chapman,
Rethinking our practice
 The teacher’s role is to “facilitate students’ experiences with digital
literacy tools in school. What we are less certain about, and less
knowledgeable about, is the particular focus that facilitative support
should take” (Moran, Ferdig, Pearson, Wardrop & Blomeyer, 2008, p.
Teachers can use “distributed expertise” to make multimodal
literacy practices collaborative (Brown et al., 1993). Collaboration
between experts & novices contributes to the construction of
multimodal texts that are more complex than those constructed
Working in digital media means that students’ projects evolve and
create new texts. Teachers cannot expect students to replicate text.
Teachers can incorporate students’ predilections while extending
the range of multimodal literacy practices that are already familiar
to them (Hull & Schlutz, 2001).
“Recognition of informal adolescent literacies needs to be tempered
with knowledge of the multimodal textual encounters that youth
still need to traverse” (Mills, 2010, p. 39).
Helping “digital immigrants” use web 2.00
 Find one tool that you think has use in your classroom and use it. Start
small. Start with a tool that complements what you are currently doing
as a teacher, or with your students. Start with something you are
comfortable with.
 Read What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Literacy and Learning
(Gee, 2007).
 Here are some great blog sites and others. Get connected
A work in progress…closing thoughts
Adolescent literacy, despite its current increase
in attention in research literature, is still a work
in progress. As teachers of adolescents, so are
we. Combining what our observations tell us,
along with offering students freedom to
incorporate their own knowledge, will help us
best in planning the most effective practices
and instruction for our students.”
(A middle school teacher, 2010)
Teachers: A work in progress
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