Course Description

Multimodal Literacies examines the changing face of literacy in our networked worlds, exploring contemporary literacy shapes, sites and practices. The course invites diverse theoretical and pedagogical perspectives on multimodal literacies, and contemplates ‘new basics’ in 21st century literacy education.


Multimodality & (New) Media Ecologies

Over the past quarter century, we have witnessed revolutionary sociotechnical transformations in media environments and everyday communicative practices. This course examines the opportunities of ‘multimodality’ and new media tools, asking what and how we know is reshaped, re-mediated and altered by emerging affordances of cultural production.

These sociotechnical shifts/innovations have, in diverse ways, outpaced formal schooling systems: the challenge to education to theorize these new environments has become a regular part of curriculum development and teacher education. Though cultural and linguistic pluralism are respected (and new media in principle welcomed) in the Ontario curriculum, the complex structures of educational institutions continue to channel student populations into a framework of expectations predicated on modernist, 20th Century ideals (a framework grounded in print-literacy and propositional knowledge), as well as standardized forms of assessments demanding compliance to these traditional literacy modes.

At the same time, contemporary school children are born into a society where digital devices and multimodal media  are increasingly central to the question of what it means to be ‘literate’ today. Indeed, more and more of our time is spent working, learning, and playing with media (online and off), and it’s increasingly important that we understand the epistemologies and practices that are re-shaped and re-understood through the use of emerging (multimodal) tools and media forms.

To this end, Multimodal Literacies explores the evolving shapes, sites and uses of literacy. We examine legacy and evolving literacies, tracing literacy, multimodality, textuality, and technology across time, theoretical lenses, and pedagogical responses, pulling into our discussion perspectives rooted in sociolinguistics, semiotics, the arts/aesthetics, and media studies.

The stakes of our discussions go beyond innovation and educational practice to address critical questions about participation, equality, and democracy — and the creative capacity of anyone — in an increasingly networked society.

Course Aims

  • Explore theories and practices of multimodality (as pertaining to [multi]literacy in formal & informal settings).
  • Investigate contemporary issues surrounding technology, textuality, and (re)mediation.
  • Critically examine the affordances and opportunities of new media, multimodal tools, and mobile networks for literacy practices, considering issues such as access, authority & authorship, distributed cognition, play & gaming, identity, and participation in emerging critical/creative cultural practices .
  • Consider pedagogical possibilities for contemporary multimodal literacies.

Instructional Philosophy: This is a collaborative course. You are also encouraged to shape and share your contribution to our course in the direction of your particular teaching, learning and research interests. We will explore multimodality and multimodal literacies through critical engagements with texts/cultural artefacts AND through ‘hands-on’ creative production and design (i.e., learning through production pedagogies). Your regular and responsible participation in real and virtual class discussions/critiques is essential to this course.

Required Texts: All materials are available through this website, or in open source publishing online, including journal articles, e-books, social media sites, and streaming video.