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Looking at the New London Group's Multiliteracies

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Ivan Lerner

on 16 September 2014

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Transcript of Looking at the New London Group's Multiliteracies

I found myself loving the incredibly dense—but rewarding—utopian manifesto of “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies.”
This is an article I will hold on to and reread when I get the chance: it’s

with ideas and information that I found invigorating (even as I fumble at trying to process and synopsize it).

I agree with the New London Group: Humans have one hundred faces that they present to different people, and the ways to communicate to those different people is vast. Not only language, but how the words leave the mouth—dialects, styles, slang, even body language.
For example: Many cultures speak with their hands as it were—and proximity and stance are more ways communication is delivered.
Did you know that in Japan, if you pass your business card to someone with only one hand, it’s an insult? And if you hand your boss anything, like a cell phone for example, you must use both hands.

Add to this mix computers and the social networks of the internet and you have the linguist mathematical formula of

So if you want to maintain a level of cultural and linguistic diversity in an era with so many modes of communication, multiliteracy is essential.
(Even you yourself don’t think you can be multiliteral, it’s necessary to keep an open mind about it, that others may be multiliteral. In other words, holding your hand over your eyes doesn’t make the sun go away…)

And Keeping in mind that it is all “multimodal”—
Available Designs/Designing/The Redesigned
is how they refer to a very fluid set of modes—I am constantly adapting and changing what I am communicating—absorbing all inputs and synthesizing them, including what you are saying (including body language and where we are doing our communicating: online, in a house, by the river, and so on)—essentially what I start out saying (and how I intended to say it) will be changed by your reaction(s) to it.
Regarding multiliteracies,
I was reminded of a wonderful story told by audio engineer Steve Albini (who has recorded bands like Nirvana, P.J. Harvey, The Breeders, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and many others), where all his friends, inspired by a Sicilian acquaintance, began speaking “Fake Italian,” which “takes the pain away from criticism.”

Looking at the New London Group's Multiliteracies:
Blog Entry #2

The authors themselves refer to their text as utopian and after my experiences dealing with the pedagogical brutalisms of the Department of Education, I would concur; it is utopian: it isn’t happening here, that’s for sure. New London writes, “Our job is not to produce docile, compliant workers,” but that was essentially what I was being trained to do….

(While THIS LINK is not specifically about the program I was involved with, many of the same evil tactics were in use.)

Unfortunately, I was seeing children of a variety of cultures being bullied into a monolithic monoculture of “American Success”—got to make ’em ready for the tests! That there might not be any jobs after they graduate isn’t a concern…

It’s a free-flowing nonlinear mega-meta-system: mega because it’s huge, meta because it can look at itself (or step outside itself and examine its actions).
Educational Systems that are presented in the essay include—
Situated Practice:
immersion with other learners; if you want to be cynical, you could call this “monkey see, monkey do,” where left to their own devices students can get off track
Overt Instruction:
Teacher says, you do? Or scaffolded learning, guided and offering insights and the opportunity to step back and get meta-…
Critical Framing:
Take another step back and see what’s been learned
Transformed Practice:
Returning to “Situated Practice,” but with the other tools that have been offered

This is in a sense is what having a multiliteracy is all about—communicating across ranges and fields, while adapting to the speaker and to the audience.
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