Multiliteracies in the EFL class


Cope and Kalanstzis (2000), describe multiliteracies as a word which was chosen by the New London Group who recognised that literacy pedagogy was changing rapidly in our global world.
The term 'multiliteracies' was coined to describe what constitutes literacy in today's world. Literacy has in the past been 'centred on language' but with the introduction and use of new technologies and visual texts into school literacies and home literacies, we now encounter, use and interpret multiple kinds of literacies which are embedded in multimodal texts.
Multiliteracies addresses 'textual multiplicity'. This includes the 'multiplicity of communication channels and mass media, as well as cultural and linguistic diversity.' Cope and Kalanstzis 2000
In their discussions of fundamental issues concerning our future, the New London Group saw teachers and students as being 'active participants in social change, who can also be active designers of social futures.' They maintain the aspect of 'social futures' within literacy teaching impacts on our lives as citizens, both in our public lives as well as our private lives and in the community.
Being active participants in 'social change' means that we develop questions around values, identity and power as a part of the construction and deconstruction of multiliteracies in texts. When we focus on multiliteracies, we keep in mind the importance of cultural contexts in what we are seeing, viewing, hearing and interpreting. We ask questions and listen to different points of view around the kinds of 'social futures' we envisage for ourselves in our community and in our world.
The knowledge around understanding different societies and cultures in our world is we believe, an integral part of the goals of literacy education today. For us literacy education is about students in our classrooms becoming a part of the 'global world' through mass media, the internet and the multiplicity of communication channels and through interaction with others. Students in our school today (in Australia) belong to a society where students are coming into our classrooms from many different parts of the world. This is during a time when we are experiencing huge shifts in population movement from one country to another.
The New London Group developed a theory which includes six elements of design in the
meaning-making process. These elements of design recognise many different kinds of literacy which stand alone, and also combine into multimodal texts. These texts are expressed through the visual medium, through different media and in different social contexts.
The six design elements are:
  • Linguistic Meaning - language in cultural contexts
  • Visual Meaning - seeing and viewing
  • Audio Meaning - hearing and sound
  • Gestural Meaning - movement
  • Spacial Meaning - space and place
within multimodal patterns of meaning that relate to the above five meanings.

Key words for the elements of design in multiliteracies

Notes reference to New London Group

  • Linguistic meaning
Synopsis, script breakdown, script, credits, logos, symbols, subtitles translated or giving information & identity, storyboard, genre, oral & written,
  • Visual meaning
Angles, distance (ls, ms, cu, ecu), colours (eg light&dark), foreground & background, left & right, rule of thirds, framing (ratio), storyboards, subtitles, image portrayed-message, transitions (fades to jump cuts), lighting, length of shot, metaphors (comparisons across cultures), demanding & offering, focal point, images, symbols & symbolism,
  • Audio meaning
Create & control mood and sound, support & oppose vision, dialogue & monologue, music (music analysis eg styles, messages, instruments used), sound effects, voiceover, microphones, silence, loud or soft, background,
  • Gestural meaning
Stereotypical expressions and opposites (cultural), similarities, differences, appearance, characteristics, relationships, attitude, values, roles, position, power, hand, facial, movement, voice, mood, feelings, pace, body language,
  • Spatial meaning
Angles, distances (ls, ms, cu, ecu), foreground & background, left & right, rule of thirds, framing (ratio), active/passive, doer/done to, space, place, set, shape
  • Multimodal meaning (combination of above 5 meanings)
Storyboards, speed & pace, image portrayed-message, visuals, editing

More by the London Group:
Linguistic Meaning
Visual Meaning
Audio Meaning
Gestural Meaning
Spatial Meaning
Quotes about Visual Literacy
Definitions of Visual Literacy
IT Interview
About the New London Group

  1. Teaching multiliteracies across the curriculum