Recognizing the "Literacy Education" in Media Literacy Education: Key Points Gleaned from a Trained Media Literacy Educator
by Kathy Garland
For three separate qualitative research projects, I had observed a veteran teacher use literacy pedagogy to support students’ media literacy (Garland & Marlowe, 2006; Garland, 2007; Garland, 2010). Marcie, now retired, used teaching practices centered on contemporary theories of literacy that she had studied for her Specialist degree in Media Literacy Education. In her university classes, Marcie had learned to integrate various multimodal texts, such as television shows, film, and advertisements to support her secondary students’ literacy practices. In addition to reader response theory (Rosenblatt, 1994), Marcie’s teaching was undergirded by Vygotsky’s (1978; 1987) theory of sociocultural learning and pedagogy that centralizes multiple forms of texts, such as media in literacy pedagogy (Buckingham, 2003; New London Group, 1996). Marcie not only studied these theories, but she also created and established a way to teach a high-school English language arts class elective centered on examining media from a sociocultural perspective.
Marcie named the Florida DOE approved elective “Literature in the Media.” Because of its elective designation, she had curricular freedom that might not be found in “traditional” language arts classes. Therefore, Marcie relied on her prominent theoretical background to plan lessons and units for the course; she understood that certain aspects were distinct for formal learning in social settings, and she believed that classrooms should mirror the ways that children naturally learn (Buckingham, 2003; Heath, 1983; NLG, 1996; Vygotsky, 1987). Subsequently, conducting several observations of Marcie’s pedagogy over the years revealed the following four components of sociocultural learning that were consistent in her use of media literacy education:
The remainder of this post describes how Marcie’s practice was driven by these theories so that students would formally learn about media.
by Raúl A. Mora, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Medellín (Colombia)
While there has been research related to reading and writing in language teacher education in Colombia, research on 21st century literacies (Morrell, 2012) is a rather new field. Presentations related to topics such as multimodality (Kress, 2010), new literacies (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011), or multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009) are still scarce. That has been my main motivation to pursue this particular line of inquiry about the new ways to understand literacy (Mora, 2011), both in English (Mora, 2009) and Spanish (Mora, 2012). Since I returned home in 2010, I have been working with my students at the undergraduate and graduate levels to develop lines of inquiry related to 21st century literacies. At present, there are a number of initiatives related to this area, which I would like to share with other colleagues and scholars.
Second Language Literacies in Medellín – Physical, Cultural, and Virtual Spaces as Language Interplay
The Literacy research line of the Student Research Group on Second Languages (Twitter: @srg_l2_upb), which I currently chair, intends to inquire how people in Medellín are appropriating and playing with second languages (Mora, 2013) in diverse spaces. To do this, we are relying on a framework we call “City as Literacy” (Mora, Castaño, Gómez, & Pulgarín, 2013), which draws from New Literacy Studies (Hamilton, 2000; Street, 2013), multimodality (Kress, 2010), polylanguaging (Jørgensen, Karrebæk, Madsen & Møller, 2011), and metrolingualism (Otsuji & Pennycook, 2010). With this framework, we are looking at, in this case, English, as a resource that emerges in different spaces in the city.
In our first research study, we have been exploring how people in physical (i.e. related to actual edifices, such as restaurants) and cultural (i.e. related to social interactions, such as the culture of tattoos) spaces (Edwards & Usher, 2008) are using English and what kind of messages emerge. Our findings (Mora, Castaño, Gómez, Pulgarín, Mejía-Vélez, & Ramírez, 2013; Mora, Gómez, Castaño, Pulgarín, Ramírez, & Mejía-Velez, 2013; Mora, Ramírez, Pulgarín, Mejía-Vélez, Castaño & Gómez, forthcoming are showing that people are playing with English as a way to promote their own identity as members of the city, as a space to break taboo norms in language use, and as a way to affirm certain personal stories and narratives. We have also discovered that use transcends the traditional use of English in names of establishments (Velez-Rendon, 2003) to offer more complex messages ranging from inspiration to irony, to name two.
We are at present on the early stages of a second study, where we will look at English literacies in the context of video games. In this study, the affiliated researchers are exploring both how other youth use English as a resource in these gaming communities and how they themselves rely on gaming to enhance their appropriation experience (Mora, Peláez, Jaramillo, Rojas-Echeverri, Castaño, & Zuluaga, forthcoming).
Multimodal Texts as Interplay of Academic and Colloquial Discourses
The notion of multimodality (Kress, 2010; Serafini, 2011; Vasudevan & Reilly, 2013) and its intent to integrate modes as communication resources (synaesthesia, Kalantzis & Cope, 2012) creates a space for the development of very interesting texts, full of more complex meanings. Both my preservice teachers and master’s students have been exploring the development of multimodal texts to describe different issues related to education.
With my graduate students, in the context of my graduate-level seminar on “literacies in second language contexts”, one of their assignments is the creation of multimodal essays to describe how they begin to see literacy practices and multimodal messages in a different light in their own teaching and their schools. With my undergraduate students, in one of my courses we introduced the development of multimodal texts first to discuss how they begin to create their identity as teachers. This semester, some of my students will create multimodal texts to present their first version of a philosophy of teaching statement whereas others have been playing with multimodal texts to create their performances of slam poetry they composed.
These are just two examples of some of our efforts to introduce 21st century literacies in our teacher education programs. Our early successes give us hope that we are in the right direction. I am optimistic that we will be able to engage in larger conversations about this topic and be active participants in the worldwide debates and directions for the field of 21st century literacies. This short text, then, is a solid first step in that direction.
Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (2009). “Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4(3), 164-195. doi:10.1080/15544800903076044
Hamilton, M. (2000). Expanding the New Literacy Studies: Using photographs to explore literacy as social practice. En D. Barton, M. Hamilton & R. Ivanič (Eds.), Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context (pp. 15-32). Londres: Routledge.
Jørgensen, J. N., Karrebæk, M.S., Madsen, L. M. & Møller, J. S. (2011). Polylanguaging in superdiversity. Diversities, 13(2), 23-38.
Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B. (2012). Literacies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London, UK: Routledge.
Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2011). New literacies: Everyday practices and social learning (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Open University Press.
Mora, R. A. (2009). It’s not how literate we are, but how we are literate. ASOCOPI Newsletter, August, 2-4.
Mora R. A. (2011, September). Understanding what literacy is and where it comes from: lessons and Implications from a study of teachers and teacher educators. Keynote Presentation at the 14th National ELT Conference, Bogotá D.C., Colombia
Mora, R. A. (2012b). Literacidad y el aprendizaje de lenguas: nuevas formas de entender los mundos y las palabras de nuestros estudiantes (Literacy and language learning: new ways to understand our students’ words and worlds). Revista Internacional Magisterio, 58, 52-56.
Mora, R. A. (2013). The notion of second languages: Responding to today’s linguistic ecologies. The Journal for ESL Teachers and Learners, Vol. II, 53-61.
Mora R. A., Castaño, M., Gómez, N., & Pulgarín C. (2013, May). The City as Literacy: A Study of English Practices in Medellín's Urban Spaces. Paper presented at the Ninth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mora, R. A., Castaño, M., Gómez, N., Pulgarín C., Mejía-Vélez, M. C., & Ramírez, N. (2013, August). Repensando las lenguas y lenguajes en la ciudad: Un análisis de prácticas en segundas lenguas en espacios urbanos en Medellín (Rethinking language and languages in the city: An analysis of second language practices in urban spaces in Medellín). Paper presented at the XXX Social Science Symposium – International Seminar, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Medellín, Colombia.
Mora, R. A., Gómez, N., Castaño, M., Pulgarín, C., Ramírez, N., & Mejía-Velez, M. C. (2013, November). Urban Englishes in the (still?) Expanding Circle: An analysis of English literacy practices in urban spaces in Medellín. Paper presented at the 19th Conference of the International Association for World Englishes, Arizona State University, USA.
Mora, R. A., Peláez, S., Jaramillo, M., Rojas-Echeverri, B. E., Castaño, S. & Zuluaga, A. (forthcoming). English literacies and video game communities: A digital ethnography. Forthcoming paper presentation at the Tenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.
Mora, R. A., Ramírez, N., Pulgarín, C., Mejía-Velez, M. C., Castaño, M., & Gómez, N. (forthcoming). An ethnography of English literacies in the city: Discoveries and pedagogical implications. Forthcoming paper presentation at the Tenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.
Morrell, E. (2012). 21st-century literacies, critical media pedagogies, and language arts. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 300-302. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01125
Otsuji, E. & Pennycook, A. (2010). Metrolingualism: fixity, fluidity and language in flux. International Journal of Multilingualism, 7(3), 240-254. doi:10.1080/14790710903414331
Serafini, F. (2011). Expanding perspectives for comprehending visual images in multimodal texts. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(5), 342-350. doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.5.4
Street, B. (2013). New Literacy Studies. In M. Grenfell, D. Bloome, C. Hardy, K. Pahl, J. Rowsell, & B. Street (Eds.), Language, Ethnography, and Education: Bridging New Literacy Studies and Bourdieu. New York, NY: Routledge.
Vasudevan, L. & Reilly, M. A. (2013). In the middle of something: Reflections on multimodal inquiry as artful bricolage. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(6), 455-459. doi:10.1002/JAAL.165
For examples of our current projects related to multimodal texts, visit:
http://contentareaenglishupb.wordpress.com/ (Examples coming in May)