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Five Shifts of Practice: Multimodal Literacies in Instruction

by Jennifer Williams
 | Jul 22, 2015

shutterstock_142998043_x600Students communicate and acquire information in new and complex ways. With extraordinary advances in technology and a growing emphasis on creation and innovation, the educational needs of 21st-century learners are constantly evolving. As a result, traditional definitions of reading, writing, and communication are being redefined to include new multimodal literacies. Pedagogical practices are being reinvented as well as reimagined to best support students’ rapidly changing needs. Teacher education programs play a critical role in preparing preservice teachers with the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to integrate these new literacies and digital technologies into instruction.

In order to support students’ ongoing literacy needs, teacher educator programs must create contexts and learning spaces that enable preservice teachers to examine their beliefs regarding use of technology in teaching. Though programs often strive to connect technology and curricular content in practice, they are often challenged to develop instructional pedagogies employing new literacies that can adapt as quickly as technology changes. Programs face numerous barriers to effective preparation in the area of multimodal literacy.

Many preservice teachers enter education programs with deeply held belief systems regarding uses of technology in literacy instruction following their many years as students of conventional teaching practices. Often viewing literacy as a print-bound process, preservice teachers exhibit reluctance in using technology for educational purposes and formal teaching practices. Understanding the predictive powers of self-efficacy and positive attitudes toward technology, programs commonly create stand-alone technology integration courses that model use of multimodal formats and authentic, hands-on learning experiences. Though these courses are designed to show construction of knowledge in the area of technology integration, they are often presented in isolation, unable to demonstrate the importance of incorporation of practice across the curriculum and throughout content areas.

Programs can work to bridge the gap between knowledge and instruction in the area of multimodal literacy and integration of digital technologies. By infusing innovative practices that prioritize exploration of an increasingly textual world across all areas of coursework, teacher education programs can prepare preservice teachers to inspire inquiry and transform learning in their future classrooms.

The following ideas are offered as shifts of practice that teacher education programs can consider in preparing pre-service teachers to integrate multimodal literacies into instruction.

Provide distributed practice

Programs that extend learning past stand-alone technology courses can demonstrate the transformative power of new literacies in learning. By offering meaningful practice with digital technologies throughout all courses of study, teacher education programs provide authentic modeling of multimodal literacy integration across the curriculum. Preservice teachers can be empowered to explore and design their own paths to understanding across contexts and connected experiences. Offered as standards of practice, these infused methodologies have the potential to extend and enhance the learning of preservice teachers and also can serve as frameworks for instruction in their classrooms of the future.

Design collaborative learning spaces

Learning space design can act as a catalyst to support sustainable change in teaching and learning. By reexamining the landscape of the classroom and methods of instruction, teachers education programs can promote engagement and afford opportunities of networked collaboration. New pedagogies focused on student-centered practices and active participation evolve the role of the teacher from distant lecturer to facilitator of learning. Shifting roles of teachers and students can allow everyone to be a part of the exchange of ideas and sharing of knowledge. Together in a technology-supported learning space, everyone can explore as curators and composers of multimodal literacies.

Focus on the verbs

Teacher education programs seeking to prepare preservice teachers for classrooms of the future can positively affect practice by shifting focus from the ever-changing “nouns” of education to the actionable “verbs” of discovery. Empowering students to engage and create and connect and explore can guide real-time instructional decision making in selection of materials and methodologies. Interest-driven projects that prioritize student voice, creativity, and choice of delivery can allow preservice teachers to connect theory to practice in powerful and personalized ways.

Encourage inquiry and investigate the world

By asking students to seek solutions to problems of global significance, teacher education programs can encourage preservice teachers to engage in deep learning through a process of inquiry and investigation. Meaningful topics with profound disciplinary and interdisciplinary bases can provide opportunities for students to think critically. Preservice teachers can use multimodal literacies to examine problems, gather information, and communicate decisions. Through this process of inquiry, preservice teachers can employ digital technologies and move along a continuum of technology integration. The creation of digital artifacts can offer transparency of perspectives and sharing of solutions, and the learning can inspire change that is relevant and significant.

Support self-efficacy through reflection

Dedication of time and thought for discussion can place focus on metacognitive thinking and reflection. Teacher education programs can promote self-efficacy of preservice teachers by encouraging innovation, inspiring curiosity, and providing safe opportunities for taking risks through exploration of ideas. Preservice teachers can be invited to explore together deeply held belief systems and discover ways to weave multimodal literacies into practice to enhance learning and expression of perspectives. Together, teacher education programs and preservice teachers can redefine instructional practices to inspire collective change on their quests to make a difference in classrooms of today and of the future.

jennifer willliams headshotJennifer Williams is the cofounder and lead program developer for Calliope Global. Calliope Global works with schools, universities, and organizations from around the world.

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