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Multiliteracies in

Where have we
been and
where are we
Deborah Begoray, PhD
University of Victoria, Canada
Special thanks
to Diana Pinto
Here we are at University of
Victoria during Convocation!
Victoria’s Inner
Empress Hotel and Marina
• Literacies in education
• Literacy becomes literacies 1980s
• Learning/ways of knowing expands 1990s
• Pedagogy of Multiliteracies (NLG, 1996)
• Expansion and Critique of NLG work 2000s/2010s
• Future of multiliteracies: Multiple ways of knowing
Literacies and Education
“It is not viable to separate the literacy process from general
education processes. It is not viable to separate literacy
from the productive process of society. The ideal is a
concomitant approach in which literacy evolves in various
(Freire & Macedo, 1987, p. 34)
Important to acknowledge “the role of literacy in societal
transformation [and] the power of literacy to make a
difference” (Powell, Cantrell & Adams, 2001, p. 775).
How do we learn? 1980’s
• Gardner--multiple intelligences e.g. musical intelligence
• Gregorc--learning styles e.g. concrete sequential
• Dunn and Dunn -- learning modalities e.g. kinesthetic

Testing and identifying individuals

Language Arts in Canada: 1990s
• Reading • Viewing
• Writing • Representing
• Listening
• Speaking

Web of skills; each Students with individual

strengthening the others. strengths.
Integrated literacy lessons.
Begoray, D. (2000). Seventy-plus ideas for viewing and representing
(and they’re not just for language arts!). English Quarterly, 32(1&2), 30-40.

• Viewing: acquiring information, appreciating, and

criticizing ideas visually conveyed and Representing:
communicating ideas visually through a variety of media,
join the traditional ways (reading, writing, listening,
speaking) in which students must learn.
• As language and literacy teachers, we are at the heart of
the curriculum in most schools. Most jurisdictions allot more
class time to language arts than any other area. However,
many of us also teach in other subject areas. Elementary
teachers are generalists first. Middle schools and junior high
schools are moving to focus on integrated curriculums.
High school teachers are teaming to pursue thematic units.
Viewing activities in research school
Analyzing elements of fiction in a film
Predicting future events in a film
Analyzing picture book illustrations
Using photographs to generate vocabulary for emotions
Analyzing slide show for emotional impact
Analyzing videos of student seminars
• Performing skits to demonstrate change in point of view
• Re-telling stories by drawing a series of illustrations
• Assembling collages on themes of novels
• Performing tableaus of literary events
• Creating documentary and narrative videos to report inquiry projects
• Painting characters and events from favourite books
• Sketching to respond to teacher’s oral reading
• Drawing personal living spaces imagined for literary characters
• Creating storyboards to plan video
• Visualizing while listening to songs
Rationale: Supporting reading and
• Effective readers create images and this is a skill which can
be developed (Wilhelm, 1995; Michel, 1999) by working on
the pictures in the mind or by creating more concrete
• “Adept readers do that naturally, and they don’t even
realize that those pictures happen in their heads when
they read, but weaker readers tend not to have anything
happening -- they feel the meaning is all embedded in the
text” (Grade eight teacher).
• Promotion of active engagement by students
‘Learning styles’ becomes learning
potentials 1990s
• Ways of learning “not so much as talents that some may
have and others may not have [but] as potentials by
which all humans might mean” (Leland & Harste, 1994, p.
• Movement away from identifying individual’s strength
Text becomes post modern 1990s
• text is all constructions which form “sets of meaning and
signifying practices” (Nielsen, 1998, p.1)
• Print text
• Image text
• Multimodal texts
• Clothing, architecture, music, mathematics
• Especially as mediated by technology: New literacies
Or does it?
What about
music, dance,
Empress Hotel?
Belem Tower?
Donald Trump’s hair?
Art as a
Music as language
Begoray, D. (2002). Not just reading anymore:
Literacy, community and the pre-service
teacher. English Quarterly, 34 (3&4), 39-45.
• Definition of literacy by the National Council of Teachers of
English as “composing, comprehending, interpreting,
analyzing, and appreciating the language and texts of
multiple symbol systems of both print and non-print media”
(Cox, 1994, p. 13)
• Content area literacy pre-service teachers
• Role of literacy in mathematics, music, science
• Adopting and resisting multiliteracies
The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of
multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational
Review, 66 (1), 60-93.

Multiplicity of communications channels

Increasing cultural and linguistic diversity
Broader view of literacy than just linguistic
Impact of technology and globalization

How does the individual succeed in future realities?

‘Twin’ Goals of Multiliteracies NLG
• “creating access to the evolving language of work, power,
and community, and fostering the critical engagement
necessary for [students] to design their social futures and
achieve success through fulfilling employment”

• How to implement in the schools???

Multiliteracies Pedagogy
• “[p]edagogy is a teaching and learning relationship that
creates the potential for building learning conditions
leading to full and equitable social participation” (The New
London Group, 1996, p.61).
• “We know that today’s adolescent is growing up in a world
that contains multiple forms of literacy (Bean, Bean, &
Bean, 1999; Berghoff, 1998; New London Group, 1996) not
traditionally studied in the classroom but overwhelmingly
present in the home and community.
Integrated skills for multiliteracies
• situated practice: learning within community, guidance
from educator
• overt instruction: direct intervention and scaffolding;
developing metalanguage
• critical framing: stepping back to evaluate learning
• transformed practice: apply learning and change practice
“Literacy is in its nature
multimodal” (Cope & Kalantzis,
2000, p. 234).
Semiotic representations: e.g.
drama to learn involves many
Updates to NLGs ‘designs’:
• Kress (2003)
• Linguistic design/mode divided into oral and written
• Tactile added
• Representation to the self added: emotions, mind’s eye
• Jewitt (2009) suggests that “different modes have
differential potential effects for learning” (p. 15):
Critiques of NLG’s Pedagogy of M/L
• Not enough guidance on implementation
• Does not allow for pleasure and play, surprise
• Focused on design grammar; does not allow for emergent
• Leander & Boldt, 2013
• Skerrett, 2016
• First world/Western values
Difficulties implementing NLG M/L
• Mills, 2006
• Nature of classroom’s sometimes coercive power can limit
access of students to multiliteracies
e.g. students seen as behaviour problems removed from
claymation project and returned to reading/writing work
Banister & Begoray, 2009
Teachers can lack understanding of adolescents ability to
make decisions and as a result restrict student agency in
classroom work
Standardized testing favours traditional literacies
My research implementing
multiliteracies (NLG and
Comics/Graphic Novels
• Reading comics involves a complex, multimodal literacy;
and by using comics in our classrooms, we can help
students develop as critical and engaged readers of
multimodal texts (Jacobs, 2007, p.19)
• Creating comics/graphic novels lets students become
Designers/Producers of multimodal texts.
• Implementation of multiliteracies
• Integration of critical media health literacy
Story, dialogue and paneling by
Illustrations by professional
Available in English, French and
Multiliteracies in CA project
• Situated practice: group of adolescents
• Overt instruction: critical media health literacy, media
hooks, graphic novel terms (e.g. panels)
• Critical framing: what story can we tell? How do we imbed
messages in media? Is it working?
• Transformed practice: taking plans to mall, designing
panels in groups using visual, gestural, linguistic, spatial
(planning also using audio) design
• Beyond: challenge to commercial media; representation
to self
No Sale,
Story with dialogue and
paneling by Indigenous
Illustration by professional artist
Implementation of M/L
• Situated practice: social and cultural; local band legends
of Coyote, trickster and shapeshifter; teaching through
story-telling; importance of adolescents giving to
community; importance of heritage languages to preserve
culture; presentation to wider community
• Overt instruction: Language teachers, Elder, graphic novel
terms, CMHL
• Critical framing: re-examining for Indigenous symbols
• Transformed practice: photo mock ups
Handing over
more design:
the media
Adolescents are able to adopt
a “degree of agency within a
larger collective of social
practices” (Alvermann, 2008,
p. 9)
(opposite illustration from One
Handing over
more design:
the media
Importance for Indigenous
students is the use of cultural
resources such as symbols and
oral narratives (Bartlett, 2007;
Hare, 2005)
Student as visual designer
Implementation of M/L Design practice
• NLG: linguistic (story in groups or by individual)
• visual (now all student illustrated), “like casting for
characters”; includes gestural, spatial
• Multimodal product
• Beyond NLG: representing the self (own experiences);
emerging designs (combination of visual styles)
Importance of supporting caring in community: language, power
imbalances (ethnic groups, adults/adolescents, police, media) and
becoming activists
The future: local meets global
Preparing students to be rooted in their local environment while
simultaneously being aware of their interconnectivity within the
world (Lavoie, Sarkar, Mark & Jenniss, 2012).
Greater emphasis on Design and Critical Engagement as critical
literacies to challenge power
As work changes and more change in careers, greater need for
ability to work independently and also collaboratively and flexibly
Many multiliteracies will be adopted as needed/when needed.
Hard to predict changes in technology and how they might
influence use of multiliteracies
Back to future
• Critical literacy theory connects the educational process
to the politics of literacy and examines schools as agents
of culture rather than transmitters of knowledge (Freire)
• Literacy’s importance in power struggles can be
expanded to include multiliteracies
• Cognitive/critical/creative multiliteracies’ skills need
addition of caring in community; support for one another
Expanding Communities
• Students have multiple community memberships
• Gee d/Discourse: multiple secondary discourses
• Caring interpersonal relationships in community
• Taking m/l development away from school as only/primary
context; support for personal inquiry (BC curriculum
Expanding Communities
• Mills et al., 2016 multiliteracies in marginalized communities
• Multiliteracies especially important
• ALL (additional language learning)
• Other cultures especially non Western ones that value e.g.
oral and visual design
• Indigenous learners value storytelling as knowledge sharing
and symbol use
What does this mean for future of
• Need to facilitate sharing of technology expertise without
allowing it to take over class time. Tools to accomplish
learning goals through multiliteracies mediated by
• Educators need to become expert facilitators in inquiry
project processes such as information gathering and
evaluating; scaffolding designing multimodal products for
multiple audiences; assessing multiliterate abilities
• Challenge and critique multiliteracies especially when
design is used to deceive (as expertise is questioned and
facts are no longer unassailable)
Questions to consider
• How can we help educators to adopt more multiliteracies
approaches in the classroom? Why do some educators
resist some literacies as valid?
• How can students be persuaded to become multiliterate
critics of information?
• Why is ‘caring in communities’ a necessary extension of
NLG’s concept of multiliteracies?
• What are Portugese schools doing to foster local and
global citizens from all cultural groups? To encourage
multiliteracies in general?