Multiliteracies Conference Notes

Multiliteracies –Teaching The Consumption and Production of Multimodal Texts

Dr. Geoff Bull and Dr. Michelle Anstey

Session One

Teaching The Consumption and Production of Multimodal Texts.

What is a multimodal text? Goes beyond just straight print text, can be interactive, linear and non-linear. All texts have values and the reader is an active constructor of meaning from the text. (This is an interesting point as students move more into construction of texts for wider audiences beyond their classroom. Are they aware enough of the different ways the words and images they choose will be interpreted?)

Written paper texts are generally consumed in a linear fashion, but digital text can be very non-linear. Even television can be non-linear and interactive (i.e. reality television) where you can use SMS and web voting to influence and change the direction of the text. Processing a text means drawing on the experience of other texts. Texts incorporate a variety of semiotic systems – decision making can be influenced by preferences. Both digital and non-digital formats of a text are produced these days. Design and aesthetics of a text target specific cultural groups.

When presenting a text to students, decide what you want the students to know and be able to do? We were shown two multi-modal texts and had to consider the contexts – which they were published. Two images shown from the Iraq war – one from early in the war and a later one. Our group discussed the difference between the two and came up with many different possible interpretations. A photographic technique is the use of the Y-vector to attract attention to a specific part of the photograph. (“Punch Into Iraq” – The Australian March 2003 and The Australian July 2007.)

Texts are becoming more screenlike. Showed an example “The Penguin Book: Birds In Suits.” Layout offers a number of starting points and boxed in texts mean shorter, simpler sentences. The traditional ways of decoding a text do not always apply to more screen like texts. Previewing, skimming and scanning are skills that involve eye movement on a text. Look at a similar topic using various texts and work though with your students how to make meaning and navigate the information.

Jakob Nielsen - You have 30 seconds to grab your reader’s attention. Looked at the changes of the National Geographic front page from 2003 to 2008. Changed so that signal to noise ratio had improved.

Obvious statement – start with a purpose then choose the technology or tool to suit.

Session Two

Consuming and Producing Still Images

What is your literacy identity? Use of prior experience with text, knowledge, cultural knowledge and experiences, social knowledge and experiences, and technological knowledge and experiences. Break away from “doing school” and re1ate to the “life world.” Showed “Anzac Day - Simpson And His Donkey” cartoon for the Australian April 26, 2001. Showed KIA ad showing a van with a sign “New To Country, will Work For Less.” What reaction do you have and what trigger that reaction? Having the skills to understand a mobile phone contract or to undertake a rental agreement – who has the power and to clarify - this is using critical literacy. Advertising texts is a good place to start but you can move onto other forms of texts - scientific texts cited as an example where one scientist was presented in their work environment in their lab coat etc. while the other was interviewed in the street with opposing points of view. Who appeared to be more authorative ?

Why study still images? We get so much information today via visual images that we run the risk of taking them (and what they mean) for granted. What role do images play in a text? A few examples - a pulp mill leaflet from Tasmania with an open ended question, a Donna Hay recipe book showing toffee apples and a magazine article showing a hand drawn map of the Huon Valley.

Color is used in images – harmonious colours and contrasting colours used to evoke feelings or to draw attention. Plan a colour script for a piece of writing – examples cited were Pixar movies and children’s picture books (The Lorax came to my mind as a good example. Another planned example of color combination I came up with were the Miami Dolphins NFL team whose team colors are Coral and aqua - the colours and the names match the image.)

Showed through a number examples of children's picture books where images and how they are presented are really important to the story being told. One example was "Black and White" by David Macaulay. The front cover consists of four separate images that present images in different ways using different colours and styles presenting a significant challenge for the reader to decode. We were also shown the book ''Fox" by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks where the text was designed to match in with the illustrations.

Session Three

Moving Images

Hidden agenda aim of the session was to ensure that we never view a moving image in the same way again! How do we get meaning from “moving visual”? Are we always conscious about how we gain meaning? Use codes and conventions to do so. Gave an example of how a group of friends may see a movie together, but discussion will show that they viewed it in many different ways. Use grabs of video from what the students themselves watch advertisements, soap operas etc. in 5-30 second segments. Does not contravene copyright of material – as it is covered under “fair use”.

Talked about male and female ads and the various choices made by advertisers to differentiate with choices of colour, music and pace. Looked at camera angles in covering men’s and women’s sport and how it changed over time. Can be an interesting study when viewing the Olympics. “Literacy by stealth” assists boys who are literacy-reluctant. Trend, emerges from research that a lot of student learning comes from moving image, up to 25%. This has implications for texts presented in the classroom. If teachers do not include “moving image” as part of their teaching, they will become increasingly irrelevant (as well as not doing their job.) Use the extras sections of DVD to look at storyboards (excellent reason to use tools like Comic Life). It is important to explicitly teach the metalanguage. Big and little, zoom in and out then become characterisation and context.

There was considerable time spent in the deconstruction of the short film “Star” directed by Guy Ritchie, and the making of “Walking With Dinosaurs.” Geoff paused and talked us through the different codes and conventions of the what we were seeing, hearing in terms of soundtrack and also dialogue.

Moving Images blur the lines between fiction and non–fiction. Walking With Dinosaurs is an example of fictionalising facts - a story is created to demonstrate what scientists have learned and determined from their research. Presents issues about authenticity – how do we determine it and identify it? Talked about the role that virtual worlds, (Second Life) have in disturbing the paradigm about what is real life.

Overall, a very good day that confirmed many of the practices that occur in my room in terms of using digital content to teach specific concepts and cater for the multi-literate learners in my classroom. It also highlighted the usefulness of an Interactive Whiteboard in the classroom and provided many useful explanations of how texts are constructed to use in discussion and analysis with my students. I still would like to have had wireless to look stuff up as we went along - it is very much a preferred learning style of mine and in line with the whole multi-literate point of view. Text is still important but the ability to decode and make sense of the other text forms is a crucial part of being literate today. I wonder if digital literacy can be construed as something else or just the digitisation of the three forms of written text, still images and moving images? There has to be more to that as this [multiliteracies as covered today] mainly deals with the consumption angle while the creation would bring other things to consider. Something more to tease out at a later time - or perhaps my readers would like to kickstart with their points of view.

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3 thoughts on “Multiliteracies Conference Notes

  1. susan

    Having just watched one of my students do a presentation on what he learned about Photoshop, with little mention of any design work, I am wondering how much we really talk about design in our classes. I, for one, used to think design was intuitive–either you “got it” or you didn’t. But now, knowing the tools without an understanding of why and how we use them seems a waste of time. And helping students understand what they are seeing is critical. Thanks for sharing this.

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