Closing the “digital divide” – a framework for multiliteracy training

Kurek, Malgorzata and Hauck, Mirjam (2014). Closing the “digital divide” – a framework for multiliteracy training. In: Pettes Guikema, Janel and Williams, Lawrence eds. Digital Literacies in Foreign and Second Language Education: Research, perspectives, and best practice. CALICO Monograph Series (12). San Marcos, TX: CALICO.



The need to prepare learners for meaningful participation in technology-based activities and thus the need for digital competence (DC) has surfaced in the scholarly literature related to the learning and teaching of languages (Hubbard, 2004, 2013; Thorne & Reinhardt, 2008; McBride, 2009; Hauck, 2010). DC has also been acknowledged as one of the 8 key competences for Lifelong Learning by the European Union (Official Journal L 394 of 30.12.2006). As a so called transversal key competence it enables learners to acquire other key competences (e.g. languages, mathematics, learning to learn, and creativity) and is required by all citizens to ensure their active participation in society and the economy.

In this chapter the authors argue that collaborative online learning provides an ideal setting for student preparation to this effect. They put forward the idea that training in this key competence should be designed in a way that allows participants to comfortably move along the continuum from informed reception of technology-mediated input, via thoughtful participation in opinion-generating activities through to creative contribution. Particular consideration is given to the fact that both the input and the output at the beginning and the end of the described continuum are usually of a multimodal nature, i.e. draw on a variety of semiotic resources (Kress & van Leeuven, 2001) or modes such as “words, spoken or written; image, still and moving; musical […] 3D models […]” (Kress, 2003). Learners who can comfortably alternate in their roles as “semiotic responders” and “semiotic initiators” (Coffin & Donohue, forthcoming) will reflect the success of training programmes which take account of multimodality as a core element of digital communicative literacy skills, also referred to in the literature as new media literacy or multiliteracy.
They look at the concept of multiliteracy from a language instruction perspective. First, the concept of multiliteracy is being investigated as it provides the backdrop for the suggested pedagogical approach to meet the need for learner preparation and training. Next, based on the theoretical framework of multimodal meaning making (Kress, 2000), a model for designing instruction grounded in multiliteracy is being proposed. Its main purpose is to help language educators guide learners through the aforementioned stages of multiliteracy skills development. Finally the authors are presenting a concrete example illustrating how the model can be applied in a variety of multimodal language learning contexts.

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