Understanding Multiliteracies: beginnings

Too much text by seventhsamurai on flickrI’ve got my hands on a copy of Teaching and Learning Multiliteracies: Changing times, changing literacies by Michele Anstey and Geoff Bull. Thankfully it’s a slim volume because I’ve decided to get my head  firmly around multiliteracies before I start on the next two subjects of my M.Ed TL course. There’s just never enough time to absorb everything. Yet working in the little alternative primary school where I am, I recognize there is a gap between the way many of the children gather and use information in their ‘home’ world and how they are working with it in class. I’m betting this is not unusual for most schools, but I want to tackle this by first raising my own awareness.

I’m reassured by the preface of the book that it’s going to first introduce me to the language of the new literacies so I can hang terms on concepts. I’m glad because ‘jargon’ or professional language is not one of my strengths. I may have a very good handle on something but often can’t remember the term for it. Second, I like that it has reflective exercises.  I can write my reflections here for re-reading. Third there are practical examples so you can take theory to practice. And that’s the whole point isn’t it?

Chapter One offers a little history; how literacy in post-war schooling was basically about print — reading, and writing.  Anstey and Bull (2006, p.2) point out that pictures then were mostly decorative. This was certainly the system I was educated in. I don’t remember many illustrations having labelled parts, cross-sections or adding to the context in any real sense. And examining older texts (still weeding these out of the collection) I can imagine as a child being overwhelmed by the dense columns of words, getting to what you hope is an oasis only to find that the illustration has nothing to offer you beyond colour and a break in the page. It certainly seems designed to separate the men from the boys. Either you can read and succeed or you can’t read and you’re a failure. It’s a message, I certainly don’t want to send to my students with their varying levels of ability.  The urgency to weed these old books out has just increased.


Anstey, M., & Bull, G. (2006). Teaching and learning multiliteracies: Changing times, changing 
     literacies. Kensington Gardens, S.A.: International Reading Association and The Australian
     Literacy Educators' Association.
Photo: Too much text by seventhsamurai on flickr

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