Course Description

New Media Literacies and Culture


This course will explore new media technologies and literacies prevalent in contemporary culture and of increasing importance in educational contexts. An array of new media technologies and emergent literacies will be explored theoretically, critically, and through hands-on applications in order to consider their pedagogical, curricular, and sociocultural implications.


What does it mean to ‘be literate’ today? Over the past decades, we have witnessed revolutionary sociotechnical transformations in media environments and in everyday social, communicative, and creative practices. This course will explore the cultural implications and educational possibilities of new media, unpacking and critically exploring an array of new terms: multiliteracies, multimodal literacies, digital literacies, design literacies, and critical literacy.

New media have, in diverse ways, outpaced formal schooling systems: the challenge for educators to ‘keep up with’ and theorize these new tools and environments has become a central goal of teacher education in Ontario (and worldwide). As many educational researchers have emphasized, our current generation of learners find themselves in a substantially different technical and cultural situation than students of just a decade or two ago. A constellation of different buzz words have been applied to these learners, including ‘screen generation’, ‘digital natives’, ‘millennials’, ‘net gen’, and so on. These terms commonly signal that today’s children have grown up learning very differently than those of past generations – and that schools must address the changing literacies required to participate in 21st Century cultural and political practices – including novel forms of digitally-mediated sociality, work, civic/political action, and play.

To this end, New Media Literacies and Culture explores the evolving shapes, sites and uses of literacy – as expressed in contemporary media practices. The stakes our discussions go beyond technical innovation and educational practice to address important questions about participation, equality, and democracy — and the creative capacity of anyone — in an increasingly networked society.


Course Aims: Literacy/Culture/Power
If ‘being literate’ has always meant having a mastery over the processes by means of which culturally significant information is encoded, created, and shared (de Castell & Luke, 1984), then new media and digital culture require us to rethink the very meaning, shapes, and sites of literacy-learning today – from mobile devices to game-based learning to multisensory forms of communicative action supportive of increasingly diverse (culturally and linguistically) student populations.

We will reflect upon how emerging media – and novel pedagogies adequate to these media forms – might support (and redefine) 21st Century Learning, providing innovative opportunities for meaningful learning that invite and sustain learners’ attention, supporting deep and meaningful engagement – and the enactment of authentic critical/creative capacities.


Course Aims: ‘Serious Play’

  • Explore theories of literacy & multiliteracies (in formal & informal settings) focusing on what and how people learn in new media environments and ‘networked’ sociocultural spaces.
  • Critically examine the affordances and practical opportunities of new media, multimodal tools, and mobile devices for multiple literacy practices, considering issues such as access, authority and authorship, ‘serious play’ creative production, and identity and participation – in critical and creative cultural sites transformed by digital media.
  • Critically consider pedagogical opportunities leveraged by contemporary multimodal affordances (in relation to traditional views of ‘literacy skills’ embedded in standardized curricula and traditional testing formats).
  • Engage & Enact new media literacies through situated research, design, and creative production – using diverse digital tools and multimedia/multimodal applications.

Students will become acquainted with a range of new media technologies and their re/shaping of literacies and educative practices, with an emphasis on addressing issues of diversity and equity – particularly in schools. Here, our course connects ‘new literacy studies’ and theories of ‘multiliteracies’ with media culture at large, examining the co-development of technology and digital-era cultural practices (from tweeting and game-based learning to learning from, and expressing knowledge through, diverse media channels and design tools).

These media tools offer alternative spaces and (informal) places for K-12 education in and outside of classrooms, reframing the stakes, values, and meanings of literacy-learning today. A working knowledge of media platforms (e.g. laptops, mobile devices, tablets) and their applications (video production/editing, social media communication, digital research practices, multimodal design practices, critical interpretation) will be supported as you make and design and ‘seriously play’ with these tools.