Multiliteracies in action. A didactic toolkit for the teaching & learning of 21st century communication skills
AbstractOver the last 50 years, literacy has come to mean much more than the ability to read, speak and write a normative variant of the standard language. In the 21st century, in which the audience is protean and the sign assumes many guises, to get one’s message across, one should be able to adapt one’s register to the intended receiver, and, moreover, make thoughtful use of the range of modalities and media that are made available through today’s technologies. Ever since the pioneering publication Multiliteracies. Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures by the New London Group (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), it is widely acknowledged that education should follow suit. This new concept of literacy poses serious challenges to the educator, who is now expected to teach, all at once, the strategic implementation of written and spoken language, lay-out, sound and still and moving images in a range of well-chosen media. Unsurprisingly, many educators shy away from task-based teaching in 21st century communication and rather stick to a traditional “elements-first-and-only” approach, so as to remain in the comfort zone of their trusted disciplines. Using a TPACK perspective, one could say that, in this area of teaching, educators are faced with the need for integrated technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). This paper presents a two-year project (2011-2013) for educational development, funded by the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), in which a multidisciplinary team develops a didactic instrument to help teachers and learners with conceptualizing and developing strategic, multimodal communication designs for real-world situations. The project’s working title is “Bee-com a 21st century communicator”, the pun referring to the methodical approach that bees take to communication. The toolkit consists of an offline component – a modular “road map” that helps students conceptualize and structure the communication process – and an online component, which is a user-friendly and multi-layered website that supports the execution of all the phases in the process. First, the results of the pre-study are presented. A literature review and in-depth interviews with a wide range of professionals in the field of communication design resulted in a competence matrix revealing the constituent knowledge, skills and attitudes for efficient communication in the 21st century. Second, the findings of three pilots in higher education are discussed. The project team supported the development of authentic communication designs in health sciences, informatics and teacher education and charted, in the process, the various challenges that the toolkit needed to address. Finally, the toolkit itself is revealed: a time lapse video of a testing session demonstrates how the “roadmap” for communication design can be implemented in classroom contexts and an expository walkthrough showcases the online resource portal providing support in the fields of user experience design, visual communication, ICT and strategic language use. Cited sources: Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (2000). Multiliteracies. Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. London: Routledge. Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.
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