Teaching & Multimodality

Teaching & Multimodality

This blogpost is part of a series of different elements in regards to the concept of multimodality. This contains multiple blog posts discussing different aspects of this concept as well as a podcast tying all of this together in verbal form. To access the other elements of the series, click on the buttons bellow:

Multimodality is defined as the use of multiple modes in one products (Jewitt, 2008). In other words, Multimodality occurs when different literacies are used in order to make meaning of something (Kress, 2011). In order to learn more about this concept and its history, you are invited you to visit the blogposts of the other members of this project. The advent of digital culture increased and diversified the use of different modes in our daily ways to communicate. Indeed, with digital platforms, multimodal literacies became accessible to everyone. Additionally, new technologies provided to people facilities to read and write in combination with other complex aspects such as music, sounds, graphics, images or videos (Walsh, 2010, p.211). As Cope and Kalantzis (2000) maintain, literacy learning and teaching should change as the world is changing. However, Leeuwen (2015) explains that schools belong to a more formal and less multimodal era (p.583). Indeed, most of education testing requirements in primary and secondary schools are still based on printed texts. Nowadays, multimodal literacies are essential for communication. Therefore, it is important to consider them in school in order to prepare student to use them (Walsh, 2010, p.211).

            In this blogpost, the importance of multimodality in education is approached. Through different examples, it looks at why and how multimodality can be teach and learned in schools.

            As mentioned previously, multimodal literacies became essential for contemporary communication and need to incorporated within schools’ curriculums. However, it is also important to not reduce the importance of books and printed based texts while adding multimodality to learning programs (Walsh, 2010, p.211). Walsh (2010) conducts a study on nine classroom in Sidney and focuses on how teachers could engaged with multimodal literacies (p.212). This research shows that it is possible to combine in class both print based and digital literacies with blogs, images, PowerPoints, smartboards. In addition, teachers recognizes that there is a need to prepare pupils with the accurate communication tools they can use outside schools and that will be significant for their future. (Walsh, 2010, p.226). With the diagram displayed bellow, Walsh (2010) shows that with digital technologies it is possible to propose to student a complete learning experience where talking, listening, reading and writing are interdependent. In addition, the diagram, which as been design according to the conducted study, points out that multimodal literacies are resources that can be associated or interchanged with each other in a classroom (pp.222-3).

Walsh, M. (2010)

This interchangeable aspect of multimodal literacies in the classroom is important. Indeed, Walsh (2010) explains that we are in a transitional period because both digital as pint-based literacies are still essential. Indeed, when we integrating new technologies in education, it has to be sure that basic aspects of reading, writing, grammar and spelling are still correctly taught and learned (p.226).

            In another work, Roswell and Walsh (2011) presented a pilot study that was organize in a primary school in Oakville, Ontario about the use of iPads as multimodal tools in classrooms.

The results of this study were really satisfying according to the teachers. Moreover, the authors explain that teachers recognized the need to teach multimodal literacies to student in order to prepare them for their future life (p.54). Indeed, they emphasis the importance of multimodality in our lives by stating that : “digital communications technology has so permeated the way we communicate, informally and formally, that it has become more than a tool in many ways.” (Roswell & Walsh, 2011, p.60). The teachers of the study also realized that multimodal tools were already accessible to their students outside school. Therefore, it is also appropriate to use these new tools such as blogs, Twitter, Wiki or smartphones apps in order to teach in class. Additionally, this study reveals that using these techniques enhanced the collaboration between students. The authors claim that “There was more problem-solving occurring as students investigated a topic and then negotiated the way they would create and construct a product to demonstrate their learning.” (Roswell & Walsh, 2011, p.60).

            In order to understand better how multimodality works in schools by using a different mode than written text, I invite you to watch this video of an Australian teacher using multimodal tools in her class.

            Using multimodality in class has some benefits. Indeed, multimodal learning creates an exciting and inclusive environment for students. It allows student to follow what they are learning with the mode they prefer. If they are not comfortable with a mode, they can choose another learning style. Multimodality ensures students to have a better understanding of knowledge and multiple modes even helps them to remember information. In addition, multimodal learning enable the use of new and fun technologies and medias in the classroom (May, 2019).

Bales (2019) proposes several tips to engage with multimodality in school. He explains that it is firstly important to make sure that student have the same accessibility to digital medias. Then he proposes to provide to students various ways to interact with texts such as infographics, audio books or podcast (By the way, we recorded one podcast in the framework of this project about multimodality, click here to listen to it). The author adds that it is important to associate words with images and to make appeal to the visual with videos or PowerPoints. Finally, he explains that one example that could be use in class with older than 13 years old student could be to communicate with them through social media platforms. As explained by Lazear (2011), the more different ways you learn something the more you will really learn it, remember it and understander it.

In conclusion, the literature concerning multimodality in education is almost unanimous. Multimodality can be very beneficial in schools if it is applied correctly. Indeed, it enhances collaborative work between student. It is also very inclusive because it allows pupils to choose between multimodal literacies and follow the one that correspond the most to them. This often results in a better general understanding and helps to remember learned knowledge as it teach through different ways. Moreover, it prepares students to the contemporary multimodal ways of  communication omnipresent in our society. However, neglecting the importance of book and printed text based learning in school would be a huge mistakes. It is primordial that an adequate teaching of reading and writing basics is guaranteed.


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