Last week I explored what it means to be literate and determined that there are endless ways in which a person can demonstrate being literate. Students can demonstrate literacy through dance, music, art, sports, technology, and so on. Historically, literacy was thought of in a limiting way as the ability to read and write. However, my conception of literacy has changed drastically since I have become a teacher education student. I have adopted a more inclusive understanding of literacy, in that it is much more than being able to read and write.
This week, the notion of multiliteracies is discussed as new literacies and learning to make meaning, opposed to the old reading and writing approach to literacy. On pg. 10 of ‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning, Cope and Kalantzis describe the logic of multiliteracies as “one which recognizes that meaning making is an active, transformative process, and a pedagogy based on that recognition is more likely to open up viable life courses for a world of change and diversity”. In my experience as a student, literacy instruction was always very passive. The teacher would teach the skills, have us practice as a class, and then demonstrate our new knowledge by completing activities. That approach is fine for a student that is able to learn like that, however this is not enough for many students. According to Cope and Kalantzis, “literacy teaching is not about skills and competence; it is aimed a creating a kind of person, an active designer of meaning, with a sensibility open to differences, change and innovation”. This quote really resonated with me because students must be active participants in their learning in order to truly make meaning and engage with the content. When I was an elementary school student, my teachers took a more “skill and drill” approach and it left little opportunity for creativity, diversity, and innovation. Though I always did very well in school, I often felt disconnected from the lessons. I think I could’ve made deeper connections if the material was presented in a more open and engaging way. The multiliteracies approach seeks to do just this and extend learning beyond just skills and competence and really get students actively involved in the content in a meaningful way by using written language, oral language, visual representation, audio representation, tactile representation, gestural representation, and spatial representation.
The videos below highlight the key concepts of multiliteracies. Both videos use multimodal elements to explain the information, which helped me further understand this approach. Although I gained a basic understanding from reading the articles, seeing the information presented in a more visually appealing and multimodal way helped me make meaning of this concept.
Video: Literacy and Multiliteracy
Video: Multiliteracy Presentation
We have come such a long way from writing on the board and handing out worksheets in black Times New Roman font. Today, teachers are incorporating relevant social media into their classrooms to support a multiliteracies approach and spark student interest. In the article Reinforcing Multiliteracies Through Design Activities, on pg. 29 Dousay explains “social media, sharing videos, images, photographs, and user-generated memes are common practice” in classrooms today. Teachers are using what interests their students outside the classroom to educate their students inside the classroom. Similarly, boring PowerPoint presentations have become a thing of the past and we live in a time where if we have internet access, we have the tools to create truly amazing digital presentations. We have access to awesome alternatives to PowerPoint, such as Prezi, where we can create more interactive presentations. The really cool thing is that it’s not just teachers who can make these digital presentations but students can too! Students today, as young as elementary-aged, consistently impress me with the work they are able to create. They are capable of making professional looking presentations by using various tools that available to them free online. Aside from online resources, these tools are now available on phones so kids literally have the necessary multimedia tools in the palms of their hands…
Below is a link to a list of websites students can use to create interactive digital presentations:
When reading about multiliteracies, the aspect of visual representation stood out to me the most. As a teacher education student, we spend a great deal of time discussing learning styles and the importance of knowing how your students learn best. Personally, I am a visual learner and love when information is presented in an appealing way with images, colors, etc. When something is visually appealing, it just sticks better and it becomes more memorable to me. When visiting the Interactive Stories site, I came across this piece of information:
This is such an important thing to keep in mind as educators because we cannot simply assign reading to students and expect our students to learn and make connections. Instead, we must go beyond and really extend their learning by taking a multiliteracies approach. Cope and Kalantzis state that “traditionally, literacy teaching has confined itself to the forms of written language” but now those confines are being transcended and we have access to a plethora of resources and tools to teach students in engaging, interactive, meaningful, and fun way. We just have to use what is available to us…