Why Multimedia Literacy? Pt. 1

This post is the first in two part series of posts on some ideas I have been exploring over the past year in a half through in my Graduate Program. These ideas originate from a project I completed, Multimedia Literacy in the Elementary Language Arts Classroom: A RESOURCE FOR EDUCATORS. So often I hear people talking about educational technology without thinking about the why. This series of posts focus on why I believe we should be moving to teaching not just literacy, but multimedia literacy in schools.

Beyond Traditional Paper & Pencil Literacy

Traditional forms of literacy have long held a privileged status in elementary classrooms.  According to The New London Group (1996), Literacy pedagogy has traditionally meant teaching and learning to read and write in page-bound, official, standard forms of the national language. Literacy pedagogy, in other words, has been a monocultural, and rule-governed forms of language (p.61).  In the context of our current globalized society, educators need to engage their Unnamed imagestudents in the culturally and linguistically diverse multimedia literacies that they encounter.  Barriers continue to be created when educators continue to favour more traditional forms of literacy.  Such as barriers of access to differing perspectives when other forms of literacy are not being shared with students or barriers of accessibility for students that are better able to express themselves with non traditional forms of literacy.  For example, some students are better able to communicate their thoughts using speech to text software or audio recording.  According to Jenkins (2013), while traditional reading and writing skills are still important, print-literacy ways of reading, writing, and interacting with text are not sufficient to satisfy the needs of an increasingly participatory culture.

Aligns with Universal Design for Learning Principles

Unnamed image


As education moves to more inclusive curriculum and environments, educators have been exploring frameworks such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  According to CAST (2015), UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.  Principle I, of the UDL framework, suggests teachers present information and content in different ways to reach all learners (CAST, 2015).  Our classrooms are made up of all kinds of learners. Whether they are strong learners auditorily, visuUnnamed imageally, tactilely, sensorily, etc., by knowing our students and how they learn, we can choose various representations of work that suit the learners.  If you have students that are auditory learners, you can choose to read books aloud, share an audiobook, or play a soundtrack.  For visual learners, you could use films, YouTube parodies, fanfic artwork, costumes, toys or video games.  Principle II of CAST’s UDL Framework, suggests teachers also provide multiple means of action and expression to their learners (CAST, 2015).  Different learners have different strengths and challenges.  In order to allow all students to show what they know to their fullest

capabilities, students need to be able to choose how they represent their learning.  Encourage your students to interact with the text and show what they know in a way that play to their strengths or challenge them to work outside of their comfort zone.  Often times students are asked to respond to stories they read or films they watch by writing about it.  Offering only a written response as a choice limits how many learners you are engaging and how many will be successful.

Multimedia Literacy in Action

For the past few years, I have been working with Mr. Wiess and his grade 3 classes to help them create a green screen movie to capture their learning from their social studies research on Tunisia, Ukraine and India. Each year they research the traditions and celebrations and compare them with their own traditions and celebrations here in Canada. As a class they write and create scenes, that they then film and put together into one presentation.

2014 Project

This year, Mr. Wiess wanted to try something different from green screening so I suggested offering up more choice this time. Instead of requiring them all to do film a green screen we also gave them the option of using using Tellagami, Book Creator, or Toontastic to show what they know. Students were grouped and given a choice of what country they chose to research and report on. After groups conducted their research they were introduced to the apps and the formats they could choose to represent their learning.

Tellagami allowed students to customise an avatar of a character and voice record a message or type in a message. Backgrounds could be ones the students took, drew, found online or got from the gallery within the app.

Book Creator lets students represent their learning through the writing or telling of a story. Mr. Weiss showed them the new comic book layout in the app and the groups that chose Book Creator made a comic book.  Students could use pictures they took, drew or found online. They could write with their fingers, type in text or voice record.

Toontastic is amazing as it has a huge bank of backgrounds, characters and props students can use. They can also import their own photos as backgrounds and they can even take a photo of their own face to impose on a character from the gallery. There is no option to add text to Toontastic so students tell the story through voice recordings.

Green Screen by Do Ink was used by students that wished to act out their scene and film it. Backgrounds imported could again be ones that students drew, took or downloaded online.

2015 Project

What I liked about these apps is that they all gave students lots of options in terms of how they added text and images to the stories. These multimedia formats gave them opportunities to create beyond traditional paper and pencil formats of text. Their text was found in their research notes, storyboards, scripts, acting, voice recordings, animations, illustrations and their culminating video.

Consider- Whose voices are  not


CAST, Inc. (2015, January 22). UDL guidelines [Digital image]. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/take_a_tour_udl

Jenkins, H. (2013). Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved
from Amazon.ca

The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

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