Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Faculty follies - multiliteracies: a crutch or a crock?

According to one Vance Stevens at this address...

The term 'multiliteracies' was coined by the New London Group (1996) to address "the multiplicity of communications channels and increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in the world today" for students and users of technology through "creating access to the evolving language of work, power, and community, and fostering the critical engagement necessary for them to design their social futures and achieve success through fulfilling employment." From an educational standpoint, the concept of multiliteracies refers to how people must adapt to the changing nature of communication in a digital age and to what must be inculcated in students in order for them to succeed in lives where productivity depends on keeping up with technology.

I have been fascinated by the concept of "multiliteracies" for some time. The most convinced advocates of multiliteracies tend to be somewhat illiterate. I therefore wonder whether their fascination with multiliteracies is a crutch - a means of avoiding the demands of actual literacy, or of disguising personal deficits in literacy. Advocates of multiliteracies claim that multiliteracies need to be "taught". School time needs to be spent teaching students how to view television programs, how to log onto the internet and use a search engine, how to download music and images, how to set up email accounts, weblogs and chat rooms. Of course, time spent teaching these multiliteracies in class inevitably take time away from other pursuits - mostly peripheral and dispensible activities such as reading and writing.

I often wonder how I ever managed to engage with digital technology. For you see, back in the olden days I was only taught literacy at school. Hmmmm! Fortunately, I have found that when (for example) I developed an inchoate interest in new (to me) software such as Photoshop, that the software designers and marketers of the product decided to put words on the packaging and to use words in the instructions. Further, I found that many experts in the use of Photoshop had decided to write books about the use of the software. These books too contained words (and pictures... printed on a page). Not having been schooled in multiliteracies of course, it took me ages to learn how to use photoshop - perhaps 30 to 40 minutes before I was able to play with images off the web, and another hour or two before I was able to download, file, enhance and manipulate images from my digital camera.

If only I had been able to spend several tedious weeks being instructed by a teacher in how to use the basics of photoshop - in school - as part of a multiliteracy program. I could have saved 30 or 40 minutes of relaxed reading and creative and enjoyable image manipulation in the privacy of my own home. What a crock of shite.