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Martin Heidegger famously asserted (1947) that language is the household of being
(p. 217). Similarly (1927), that it is simultaneously our most fundamental mode of
inhabiting every consideration of the question of the meaning of our being-in-the-
world (p. 55) even as this essential Seinsfrage has historically been forgotten (p. 21).
Pre-eminent among the emerging modes of this philosophical forgetfulness is
Technology (1977) which, if we would but dare to subject it to a process of deep
questioning, would yield up its essential logos as itself merely another revelatory
mode of poiesis (pp. 3, 12-14) a mode of language for constructing meaningful ways
of being in the world.
The understanding of language Heideggers phenomenology bears more than
a passing resemblance to aspects of what might be called Deep English. The present
paper attempts something of an outline of what constitutes Deep English as a
practice. It assumes that Deep English is more a way of seeing rather than a fixed
definition of what is seen. It might even be regarded as a subject-specific,
professionally focussed parallel of a larger cultural and historical discourse. Indeed
Bulfin & McGraws description (2011, p.1) proposes contemporary English practice
as a mediating pathway between what Marshall Berman (1982) describes as the
competing polarities of modernity the excessive optimism of the modernolators
and the pessimism of the visionaries of cultural despair (p.169).
In the second place this paper will also attempt an analysis of the proposed
unit Living English Through Multimedia Texts. This analysis will be critical in nature
and will seek to establish the extent to which it exemplifies aspects of an adequate
model of contemporary English in Secondary Schools, one that embraces and
appropriates technology in a manner that is equal to the emerging challenges for
English in the 21
century teaching and learning environment.

Deep English might be proposed as that emerging shape of practice which,
according to Kress (2000, 2002), has arisen out of a critical need for a self-reflexive
discourse able to positively interrogate the ground of its own continuing possibility
in an age of instability and multiplicity (p.253f). As Beavis (2010) suggests, it is also a
function of the convergence of revolutionary technological changes with an array of
competing political and curriculum pressures (p. 21). Citing Kress earlier statement
(2002) of much of what has since become his seminal body of work on English,
multimedia literacy and semiotics (2003, 2005, 2006), Beavis casts the problem of the
deep purposes of English curriculum in terms of a fundamental question:
How can new digital texts, technologies, and forms of multimodal literacy be
embraced as authentic resources for enacting the kinds of critical and appreciative
reading, the living connection between the realms of personal, affective experience
and cultural meaning, that have always constituted English practice? (p. 22).
For Cumming, Kimber & Wyatt-Smith (2011) these concerns are made all the
more urgent by the fact that the political counterpart of this technologised landscape
is increasingly being expressed in terms of a desire for standardised testing and
curriculum outcomes. These, however, are largely unequal to the demands of
learning in an age of multimodal literacy and perhaps threaten to foreclose on
possibilities of a more richly conceived practice in English before they can be fully
developed (p. 49). This is fully in accord with Kress concern (2002) that English as a
subject might well become either an anachronism or a mere adjunct to assist cross
curricular literacy unless a renewed vision of its traditional concerns can be
reconceived in multimodal terms (2009, p. 17).
Whilst Deep English might sound like a rather arcane discourse it is, in fact,
a pre-eminently practical preoccupation. It is, as always, still concerned with
language, meaning and textuality. But it is also interested to describe the actual ways
in which English teachers as practitioners are variously concerned with essaying, from
multiple textual perspectives, features of language and meaning, and the very
capacity of English teaching itself to meet the challenges of technology. Deep English
practice, then, seeks simultaneously to enhance the unique meaning-making
possibilities inherent within multimodal literacy and technology whilst resisting
being merely enthralled by what Jaron Lanier (2011) has described as technologys
own propensity toward to standardising and predetermining text-making
procedures (p. 48).
Living English Through Multimodal Texts is one of a number of proposed
learning packages designed to assist pre-service teachers become more conversant
with aspects of ICT and multimedia pedagogy. From the perspective of Deep English
practice outlined above, both the title and the choice of text for this unit (Shaun Tans
The Lost Thing) might initially appear in a positive light. In realty, however, there are
a good number of shortcomings in this proposed unit of work.
In order to provide what, in the space of this paper can only hope to be a
reasonably representative critique of this unit the following comments are arranged
under those three headings of Mishra & Koehlers (2006) TPACK framework that are
proposed as the organising pedagogical core of the unit.

i) ICT and Multimodal Technology
A review of this unit conducted by Sutton & Williams (2011) on behalf of the
University of Southern Queensland concluded that, although this was one of the
more effective units overall, it also tended to trivialise the nature and potential of the
technology and that this was reflected in poor lesson planning and an assessment
that was inadequately constructed in relation to the nature of the text and the task
undertaken (p. 1). In fact a good deal of the emphasis on how to teach the technology
appears to dominate the unit documentation and is poorly integrated with
considerations of just how this might be delivered as an effective multimodal unit for
teaching English.
It is also probably safe to assume that what might be regarded as an over-
emphasis on the technology itself might be problematic in the upper year levels,
failing to engage those digital natives who, according to Hughes (2007) are likely to
have an already well developed expertise, or at least an intuitive familiarity with al
manner of multimodal texts, text-making practices and experiences of digital
It would seem apparent, then, that this unit has not actually been developed
by English teachers since it is largely concerned with teaching students how to use
the technology to create what amounts to little more than an emulation of but one
aspect of Shaun Tans otherwise complex and engagingly multivalent text.
This is not evidence of good practice in English and certainly would not
qualify as an instance of deep English practice adequate to the 21
century world of
appreciating how all sorts of possibilities for meaning are mediated in and through
digital and other texts. This is primarily because, for English teachers, being
conversant with technology is inseparable from a consideration of how that
technology shapes meaning and the extent of its cultural significance.
As Kress (2010) asserts, even if 21
century English practice is multimodal in
nature, the techniques of multimodality itself cannot hope to supply this dimension
of meaningful engagement and deep understanding. We need the critical reflection
of language to assist us to make meaning of multimodal texts (p. 3) such that
multimodality can, itself, be viewed as a technologically mediated site for conducting
those long-standing, deep preoccupations of core English practice.
This proposed unit might therefore benefit from a more thorough-going and
robust conception of what Futurelab (2011) a seemingly parallel project from the
UK articulates under a broader, more culturally inclusive definition of the scope of
digital literacy (p. 3).

ii) Pedagogy
In their review of this unit Sutton & Williams (2011) are highly critical of
what they regard as inadequately framed lesson plans and assessment rubrics (p. 2)
whilst they generally believe that the task of assisting students to create a
multimedia text of their own is a pedagogically sound exemplar of the use of ICT
and multimedia technology (p. 1).
It could be argued, however, that Sutton & Williams own combined KLA
areas of Science, Mathematics and Computing make it difficult for them to assess the
proposed activity through an adequately nuanced framework appropriate to English
especially in secondary settings. Indeed, what is striking about this unit is the lack
of any significant signature pedagogy which might have extended what has been
proposed in the direction of something like a deep English practice. This is despite
the fact that a later iteration (2010) of Misra & Koehlers proposed TPACK
framework specifically cites Shulmans notion of pedagogical content knowledge
(and therefore signature pedagogy) as the inspiration for this framework (p. 123).
The proposed unit appears simply to assume that students can be taught to
use aspects of multimodal technology to proceed almost directly to the performance
and recording of a spoken version of the text under examination. But the immediate
presumptions of this are inadequate in terms of a deep English pedagogy. A more
adequate approach would seek to scaffold a process of writing, perhaps even
through a number of drafts and using collaborative learning strategies, as a means of
arriving at a version of the text finally to be performed and recorded.
In this manner students can be introduced to the plain fact that all texts,
(including multimedia texts) are successful acts of communication which mediate
complex meaning precisely because they are the product of deep reflection, the
integration of skills across language modes and recursive processes of composition.
Without being adequately framed the proposed activity could actually assist
the false impression that technology obviates the need for a pedagogy which
carefully scaffolds the learning of these skills and textual experiences. As Shepherd
and Mullane (2010) insist this is especially necessary when teaching digital natives.
Because they are so immersed in the propensities of technology to reify assumptions
of immediacy, appropriate pedagogy is required to assist them to move toward a
maturing appreciation of the deep processes of language and meaning at work even
in multimodal composition (p. 66).
Additionally, an adequately scaffolded deep English approach to this task
recursively also creates an opportunity for the development of necessary complex,
higher order cognitive experiences and meta-analyses with respect to language
features and texts (Weaver et. al., 2006). If, as Coker and Lewis (2008) also suggest,
the very process of writing involves a willingness to entertain a species of creative
uncertainty, this is itself one of the necessary skills for life in what Kress (2008) calls
the 21
century world of instability and multiplicity.

iii) Subject Knowledge
A greater pedagogical emphasis upon scaffolding processes for writing,
drafting and composing a response to a multimodal text like The Lost Thing merely
mirrors the extensive and complex multimodal creativity of its composition. Shaun
Tan himself (2001) describes the complex relationship between the processes of
writing, drafting and composing and assembling images and the final production of
a text that is simultaneously simple and complex, and which engages readers and
responders at multiple levels. Given that these processes become even more critical
and complex in the process of transposing his picture book into a multimodal text, an
effective English approach to this text would need to be informed by a much greater
depth of specialist curriculum content knowledge than is evident in the proposed
Whilst some attempt is made in the accompanying lesson plan to give
attention to more complex features of language in terms of the National Curriculum
standards, this is generally not translated into the design of lesson content and
pedagogy. This is particularly problematic as a secondary English lesson. As a
perfect exemplar of the very multimodality which Kress describes as emblematic of
the new textual terrain for English it is disconcerting that the proposed unit does not
appear to engage with Tans text in terms of this multiplicity, its rich possibilities for
meaning, and for the design of richly conceived lessons exploring broader aspects
multimodal literacy.
From a Deep English perspective any number of possibilities suggest
themselves. As a picture book, The Lost Thing provides a powerful resource for
exploring issues such as identity and cultural difference and power (Taliaferro, 2009).
Lampert (2010) also indicates the extent to which picture books are able to make
sophisticated aesthetic and reading experiences available to reluctant readers (p.
106f). For Tan (2001) the very theme of the appearance of The Lost Thing and its
ability to disrupt settled perceptions is directly related to the notion of visual literacy
and the unique power of multimodal texts to represent and explore this dimension.
But all these require specialist curriculum content knowledge not the least of
which concerns the specific literacy practice of decoding visual texts according to
what Howie (2010) following Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) describes as the
emerging grammar of visual design required to read and fully appreciate the
semiotic meaning inherent in all manner of multimodal texts.

In the final analysis it might be conceded that the proposed unit does seek to
genuinely embrace the technology of multimodal texts. It fails, however, to elucidate
an adequate practice appropriate to the needs of 21
century English teaching which
must also attempt the deeper and more complex task of assisting students to
appreciate, enjoy and become increasingly proficient in the skill of reading and
utilising the underlying grammar of multimodality from which such texts are
Deep English as a practice which is inevitably multimodal in nature, but
steeped in both the practice wisdom and preoccupations of the past, seeks to engage
more critically and creatively with the state of the actual questions posed by
technology. This emerging practice views technology and the world of digital texts
as neither the devil nor a deliverance from the necessity of deep consideration of
how meaning in the actual world is still mediated in and through text and language.
In this sense Deep English practice holds out hope of assisting an authentic and
therefore genuinely radical revision of its own subject and dicipline.


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key aspects of the Rationale as expressed in the NSW Years 7-10 Syllabus Document
(NSW Board of Studies, 2003) which asserts that
Students learn English through explicit teaching of language and through
their immersion in a diverse range of purposeful and increasingly
demanding language experiences. . . Through responding to and
composing texts, students learn about the power, value and art of the
English language for communication, knowledge and pleasure. They
engage with and explore texts that include the literature of past and
contemporary societies. By composing and responding with imagination,
feeling, logic and conviction, students develop understanding of
themselves, and of human experience and culture (p.7).

In the unit under review said that this was one of the better uses of technology but
that it was still very basic. This is al the moreso when we think that this might be
intended for a secondary class. Not only how to use the technology but to examione
the ways in which the very use of the technology, the nature of multimodality tself is
a significant shaper of meaning and experience of the text both in itself and in the
classroom setting in which it is examines (see Kress 2008 Meaning and Learning in a
World of Instability and Multiplicity)
In this paper Kress demonstrates that multimodal texts not only mediate
meaning different ly and modify our expeirenceof the text but that the examination
of the text differs markedly in the very multimodality of the pedagogical situation.
A larger critical concern also relates to a kind of paradox. Kress indicates that
century models of fixity. We are not in that situation any longer and yet, the
merely technological approach is one in which the technology serves to create the
experience. There is still a de facto fixity which the technology is preparing students
for unless it is modulated by a deeper understanding of the essential textuality of
technology and multimodality and the foregrounding of u=individual experience.
See also Jaron ? re the extent to which those versed purely in the technology
appear to be tone deaf to the deeper individual well-springs of technology and
Once again it is Deep English and its essentially radical conection to the
renewed power of its tradition which is able to truly assist in the preparation of
students crticaly aware of the genuine possbilities in a world od instability and
nultiplicity. As Kress (2010) asserts elsewhere multimodality itself is unable to
supply this dimension. We need the critical reflection of language to assist us to
make meaning of multimodal texts (p. 3)
If Deep English points in the direction of being able to authentically re-assert
this subjects traditional concern with universal human concerns in a genuinely new
setting, it is equally possible to view the apparently radical new applications of
technology as an instrument of outmoded forms of social imagination when not
applied critically and creatively.
In this respect Kress (2008) is critical of older models of English teaching
which merely enact 19
century forms of social reproduction more appropriate to a
time of predictable social stability. But there is also a well established tradition of
critique which asserts that the unthinking use and application of technology can
itself become a technique (Ellul, 1954) or mode of power (Mumford, 1967) for the
ever more efficient accomplishment of rather antique social purposes.
Given Ken Robinsons assertion that, despite our clichd statements to the
contrary, we are unable to precisely educate students for a future the shape of which
is not yet available to us, Deep English approaches to digital media and literacy seek
to meet this inherent multiplicity with means for reading and discerning the
emerging future. Only this knowledge can be elaborated in self-determined, creative
fashion beyond the presently accepted bounds of our newly technologised field of

In fact, Kress asserts that such a challenge is more than adequately addressed
by English as conceived as a Deep English practice which recognises that
multimodality has, in some form or another, always been part of English practice.
See English in Australia articles
Kress articulated solution is genuinely radical (2009, p.11;)
But again this is not new p. 17)


it is able to cast its own critical simultaneously in two direction: backwards
and past all its and forward past the state of the art rhetoric of technology toward a
suitably sober optimism regarding the possibilities inherent within an emerging
multimodal English practice