Multimodality in Action: New Literacies as More than Activity in Middle and High School Classrooms

Multimodality in Action: New Literacies as More than Activity in Middle and High School Classrooms

Lynn E. Shanahan (SUNY Buffalo, USA), Mary B. McVee (SUNY Buffalo, USA) and Nancy M. Bailey (Canisius College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6042-7.ch064
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Abstract

In this chapter, the authors present two classroom portraits of a 5th and 9th grade classrooms as activity systems where teachers and learners are engaged in multimodal composing. In their analysis, they are most interested in how principles of design, affordances of modes, and multimodality become internalized as psychological tools that shape learning in the context of activity. The authors ask two research questions: What are the mediational artifacts (both ideal and material) in these activity settings? What does this reveal about multimodality as a socially situated process? Conclusions drawn from the two different cases lead the authors to suggest that multimodality must be carefully understood as part of an activity system.
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Semiotic Potentials: Mediational Tools And Mediated Action In Construction Of Multimodal Texts

Increasingly, attention has focused on the composition of digital texts (e.g., Hull & Nelson, 2005; McVee, Bailey, & Shanahan, 2008; Miller & Borowicz, 2006; Shanahan, 2012). However, despite the burgeoning amount of attention to composition of digital texts in both research and practice, attention to multimodal compositions is a relatively new area when compared to writing studies as a whole. As such, this area is still in need of exploration through various theoretical lenses (Kress, 2003; Jewitt, 2009; Miller & McVee, 2012). In our work, we have always seen multimodal literacies as fused to New Literacies, in part, because our own understandings of both these evolving bodies of work were framed by sociocultural perspectives of Vygotsky (1978), and more importantly, by neo-Vygotskian scholars (e.g., Cole, 1996; Wertsch, 1991), and more recently by activity theorists such as Engestrom (1987). We see many parallels between social semiotics, or the study of sign systems that puts emphasis on meaning and communication (Kress, 2010), and socio-cultural perspectives that focus on mediation, action, and meaning. Scholars exploring sociocultural theory and multimodality have an interest in particular modes, technical skills, or tools, but only as a means to an end.

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