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Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms

Review of Research in Education Volume 32, Number 1, ISSN 0091-732X


The characteristics of contemporary societies are increasingly theorized as global, fluid, and networked. These conditions underpin the emerging knowledge economy as it is shaped by the societal and technological forces of late capitalism. These shifts and developments have significantly affected the communicational landscape of the 21st century. A key aspect of this is the reconfiguration of the representational and communicational resources of image, action, sound, and so on in new multimodal ensembles. The terrain of communication is changing in profound ways and extends to schools and ubiquitous elements of everyday life, even if these changes are occurring to different degrees and at uneven rates. It is against this backdrop that this critical review explores school multimodality and literacy and asks what these changes mean for being literate in this new landscape of the 21st century. The two key arguments in this article are that it is not possible to think about literacy solely as a linguistic accomplishment and that the time for the habitual conjunction of language, print literacy, and learning is over. This review, organized in three parts, does not provide an exhaustive overview of multimodal literacies in and beyond classrooms. Instead, it sets out to highlight key definitions in an expanded approach to new literacies, then to link these to emergent studies of schooling and classroom practice. The first part outlines the new conditions for literacy and the ways in which this is conceptualized in the current research literature. In particular, it introduces three perspectives: New Literacies Studies, multiliteracies, and multimodality. Contemporary conceptualizations of literacy in the school classroom are explored in the second part of the chapter. This discussion is organized around themes that are central to multimodality and multiliteracies. These include multimodal perspectives on pedagogy, design, decisions about connecting with the literacy worldsof students, and the ways in which representations shape curriculum knowledge and learning. Each of these themes is discussed in turn, drawing on a range of examples of multimodal research. The third and final part of the article discusses future directions for multiple literacies, curriculum policy, and schooling.


Jewitt, C. (2008). Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms. Review of Research in Education, 32(1), 241-267. Retrieved March 1, 2021 from .

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