IOE EPrints

Contemporary learning landscapes and multimodality

Flewitt, Rosie (2011) Contemporary learning landscapes and multimodality. In: Open University E852 Online Course Reader. Open University Press.

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In this chapter, I consider how a multimodal perspective on sociocultural theories can offer fresh insights into the representation and communication of knowledge in contemporary learning contexts. In today’s society, technological developments have transformed the ways that knowledge and information are being shared through diverse media, such as online social and work-related networks, and in diverse social settings that extend well beyond the traditional classroom. Whilst the advent of digital technologies has radically changed the ways that we communicate, in education and linguistic research it has also led to a reappraisal of more familiar modes of making meaning, including face-to-face interaction and printed texts. So how can multimodal approaches contribute to our understanding of teaching and learning in a technological age? Multimodality offers a new framework for analyzing and responding to a changed communicative landscape, but communication through multiple modes is not new: it has been central to the mediation of knowledge, skills, identities and social practices throughout the history of human culture. From early cave paintings and engravings on tools, visual sources of information have been used as resources for conveying information (Lewis-Williams, 2002). Yet in the world of education, the uniquely human characteristic of language has been prioritised as key to the mediation of knowledge. The advent of interactive electronic media, particularly the world-wide web, has challenged this assumption. In contrast to analogue technologies, such as film and TV, where viewers were essentially consumers rather than producers of technology-mediated texts, digital technologies have fundamentally changed the kinds of texts that can be produced in diverse representational modes to construct and exchange knowledge. These changes include a shift from the page to the screen, from printed to digital texts, and from the dominance of writing to the salience of screen design and the juxtaposition of images, words, sound effects, graphs, charts, music, animation etc. Furthermore, compact and affordable digital video recorders have made new tools available to researchers interested in education and communication, thereby creating new possibilities for analysing video rather than audio-recorded data of face-to-face interaction. Most spheres of life in developed and developing countries are now influenced in some way by digital technologies, and individuals need to develop a critical awareness of how knowledge is negotiated through multiple media and diverse modes. Although a multimodal perspective on learning goes against the historically established hierarchies that continue to give highest status to language as a tool for learning, as Kress (2010) points out, in contemporary communicative landscapes it can no longer be assumed that language does all the significant semiotic (sign-making) work.

Item Type: Book Section
Controlled Keywords: multimodal communication, Multimodal social semiotics, sociocultural theory, digital technology, teaching and learning in a technological age, Learning, Arts and Humanities(all)
Depositing User: Atira Pure
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2014 14:02
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 09:57
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