In today’s evolving, technological world, new literacies are constantly emerging. Kope and Kalantzis (2009) define multiliteracies as having multimodal representations in new and expanding contexts. No longer can we view literacy as just print-text in Standard English. Our conception of literacy must expand to include multiple literacies in multiple contexts and in multiple forms, such as digital, visual, multicultural representations of meaning. A pedagogy of Multiliteracies is active and transformative. It seeks to create a more productive, relevant, innovative, and creative pedagogy for students (Kope & Kalantzis, 2009).
Throughout my day, I use multiliteracies before even getting to work or school. Each social media platform has its own requirements for literacy, using pictures, text, links, hashtags, and specific discourse. My daily routine revolves around several apps–Messaging, a To-Do app, my Gmail account and apps, GCal, FitBit, MyFitnessPal, Duolingo, and usually some combination of Facebook and Instagram. Each one is full of images and text, and has its own culture and discourse surrounding the community that uses it. Yet these are “literacies” that I use every day, and enjoy using, with minimal effort.
Anyone who has a grandparent who somehow got their hands on an iPad knows how difficult it can be to teach a new user how to be “literate” in such modes. I know that every time I go to see my grandmother, she has new questions about how to “write on someone’s wall” or “comment on a picture”… or, “What’s that number sign for?”
Kids today, on the other hand, are more well-versed in these sites than most adults, and some spend just as much time on social media as they do at school. Clearly, social media is an engaging platform for today’s children.
How is Social Media Affecting Literacy?
According to Dousay’s article, “Reinforcing Multiliteracies Through Design Activities,” technology and media have changed the landscape of literacy, and require learners to be able to interact with and process more information from multimodal outlets (2015). Visual literacy becomes a more relevant form of literacy today, which defines a literate person as one who can interpret visual representations as well as mentally visualizing and conceptualizing them. As a result, students today need to develop multiple literacies and multimodal literacy.
Through social media and the apps and games on various devices and the internet, school-age children have a vast exposure to literacy without even realizing it. Although it’s not the standard print-text version that’s usually taught in schools, today’s students are well-equipped to explore the digital world and all of the language and knowledge within it.
Although I am part of the information age generation, I find myself often frustrated by the fact that “kids these days” get iPads before preschool, have cell phones in elementary school, and can find out anything by just asking Google. I still remember looking up how to spell words in the family dictionary, and now children can just type it into a text message and let the autocorrect do the rest.
But perhaps this surge of device-using, social-media-fluent, technological generation isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe the issue has to do with the generation gap, and with adults catching up to the technological, media-filled world that today’s children have been born into.
An editorial by Greg Stevens explores the idea further. Stevens suggests that teachers should use social media as a way to teach information efficiency, because converting complicated information into a brief, entertaining production takes a lot of talent. He discusses the advantages that are coming about in this “new generation of creativity”. He goes on…
“There is absolutely no scientific evidence that there is a link between limited-content social media platforms and damage to our underlying cognitive abilities.”
We should start viewing social media and technology in terms of its advantages and opportunities for school-aged children.
This video can also give more insights into the effects of social media.
Clearly, technology and social media are evolving the way people act and think. It’s also changing the landscape of literacy. Many students are coming into classrooms pre-equipped with a fluency in social media and technological devices. Teachers and future educators need to keep this in mind when developing meaningful, engaging curricula for the ever-evolving student.
Literacy in Today’s Classrooms: Multimodal Storytelling
Teaching this media-literate generation must involve a transformative approach. In order to make learning more engaging for children who are constantly engaged by an ever-changing news feed of images, text and videos, teachers must incorporate multimodality as much as possible in the classrooms. One effective way to do so is by using interactive stories. These are websites that use video, moving text, images, sounds, and interactive pieces to tell a story or to teach a lesson.
After reading up on interactive stories, I became convinced that they should definitely have a place in today’s classrooms. One of the examples, an interactive video on World War II, stood out to me. When a student reads a textbook chapter on the horrors of how many people died in WWII, it doesn’t resonate as well as when you actually see the numbers. I’ve always been particularly interested in the history of World War II because I had two grandfathers that fought in it, but I always found it so difficult to wrap my head around all of the facts and figures I read about or watched in documentaries. This website portrayed the numbers of people who died in the war through an interactive graph that shows instead of tells. The multimodality of this interactive story made its message much more meaningful to me than any one book or image could.
There are countless more interactive websites and stories out there that I think would make classroom content much more meaningful and relevant. Interactive and digital storytelling can be a breakthrough method of teaching students in all subjects in school.
I can’t imagine how school will be when virtual reality becomes more mainstream…