Module 2, Topic 3: Assessing Multimodal Texts

What key theoretical insights about multimodality are required to effectively assess multimodal texts?

Literacy development is a social process. “Children develop and acquire spoken language as they recognise the social conventions and the cultural applications of language” (Campbell & Green, 2006, p. 148). The kinds of readers and writers children become “will be crucially influenced by the kinds of texts they are given access to and the kinds of interactions around those texts that they experience” (Unsworth, 2001,p. 183).


The Australian Curriculum (English)

In light of advances in technology and the understanding that today’s current generation of students are adept at using digital technologies (they are not just passive consumers anymore) the Australian Curriculum encourages teachers to provide students with opportunities to analyse and evaluate ways to communicate meanings through multimodal texts.  As Thomas (2008) explains it is crucial that teachers and educators provide meaningful contexts for play and explicit teaching of multimodal grammatical design.

 The Year 7 Achievement Standard states that:

“By the end of Year 7 students listen to, read and view a range of spoken, written and multimodal texts, analysing and comparing text structures and language features and vocabulary choices, to show how these shape meaning and influence readers” (Aust. Curriculum).

 Students are also expected to “create well-constructed spoken, written and multimodal texts to inform, entertain, persuade and narrate in which meaning is supported by planned structures and organisation” (Aust. Curriculum).

 “Visual Literacy is about making meaning from art, images, symbols, and the sequences and patterns of these within a text to communicate meaning. When we use the word text, we are using a distinctly multimodal definition of text – text means more than words alone, it includes picture books, films, digital texts, everyday signs and symbols, and even spaces like a museum space or a virtual world can be considered a text, as it communicates meaning” (Thomas, ESG775 blog).

Assessing a persuasive text as a multimodal text

Persuasive texts present a point of view with supporting evidence (and is often used to influence opinion or sell something). Students were explicitly taught how to write an exposition (persuasive text). For this task they were asked to draw on what they had learnt during Literacy class. The focus of assessment in class was on text organisation and content. Students were given the task to write an exposition explaining: why our school needs an indoor heated swimming pool. They were expected to:

Ÿ  Develop an argument with an introduction, body and conclusion

Ÿ  State their position (point of view)

Ÿ  Argue using supporting evidence

Ÿ  Use correct tense (present tense)

Ÿ  Use genre-specific vocabulary (emotive words and phrases and words that link the argument together)

Students were assessed through their ability to create meaning through different modes as well (visuals, animations and text).


“Assessing multimodal texts – with rigor and based on theory rather than intuition – requires an understanding of multimodal semiotics”  (Thomas, ESG775 blog).

Students need to be explicitly taught in a focussed and staged way according to the kinds of texts we want students to read and write in each grade.

 In terms of the digital aspects of the text I would be looking at assessing the following:


How the participant in the image makes contact (or not) with the viewer.

 Textual / Compositional Meanings

There are three elements to composition, or the way the image (or images) is/are spread across the page.

Ÿ  Salience – realised through: bright colours, contrasts, relative size, or the way the vectors (lines) or lighting in the image lead your eye to a particular part of the image

Ÿ  Framing – the connection between images/element

 Children: from consumers and receivers of digital texts to producers of multimedia digital texts…

The current generation of children who have access to resources for creating multimodal texts encourages learning of the high end skills and creativity in approach that will equip them to use more sophisticated platforms in the future.

“Children are creating and managing their own online communities, participating in online fan fiction communities, creating role-playing web forums, creating, writing for and editing their own zines (web magazines) and are publishing their own multimedia weblogs, including photoblogs and pod casts” (Thomas, 2008, p. 1).




Australian Curriculum

Campbell, R. & Green, D. (2006) Chapter 7: Writing: purposeful and creative expression in Literacies and Learners: current perspectives. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia, pp 142-162.



Thomas, A. (2008). Machinima: Composing 3D Multimedia Narratives. In: Unsworth, L. [Ed]. New Literacies and the English Curriculum: Multimodal Perspectives. London, Continuum.

Unsworth, L. (2001)


Module 4, Topic 2: Copyright

Copyright is a hotly contested debate in an ever-changing digital landscape, where we celebrate the political power of practices such as the remix and appropriated images and texts. What do we tell our students to best foster creativity without breaking the law?

 Lawrence Lessig suggests that the outdated copyright laws have turned our kids into criminals because the laws are preventing kids from remixing pre-existing art and copyrighted material. He describes remixing as “taking work and building on top of it” (from interview with Larry Lessig on the Colbert Report) or “taking and recreating other peoples content – using digital technologies to say things differently” (from Larry Lessig talks one for TED; one for NYU).

When we talk about digital remixing this involves mixing digital images, texts, sounds and animations.

“We remix language every time we draw on it, and we remix meanings every time we take an idea or an artefact or a word and integrate it into what we are saying and doing at the time” (Lankshear & Knobel, p. 107).

 I think that using an author’s work and adding value to it is acceptable and should not be considered a breach of copyright – if you think about works by Shakespeare such as Romeo & Juliet these have been adapted as film and more recently as a graphic novel or manga titled Romeo x Juliet.

 What would the law-makers have to say about anime??? (I discuss manga and anime here as this was the topic of my first assignment). Lankshear & Knobel describe anime as “animated manga” (p. 119) because a lot of anime is influenced by artistic styles and storylines found in manga (often characters and storylines that are made into manga are also transformed into anime). Popular manga and anime have generated a lot of fan (otaku) activity: ‘fanfic’ or fan fiction narratives (including poetry and screenplays); amateur manga – in the form of fan art (stand alone/ individual images and entire comics created by fans); and fan sub or digisub anime (where English-language subtitles are inserted into original anime). It is also interesting to note here that amateur manga and fan fiction are taken so seriously that some websites will not post new works until they have been critically read by other manga/anime lovers to ensure that they conform to the strict conventions of the text type.

 Manga-anime fan fiction uses characters, storylines and other resources and mixes them into new adventures or new universes altogether” (Lankshear & Knobel, p. 120).

AMVs (anime music videos)

You can check out these examples of AMVs:

 Lupin III AMV:

 Initial D AMV:

 Cowboy Bebop AMV:

 Romeo x Juliet AMV:

The vision of Creative Commons is about “realising the full potential of the internet — universal access to research, education, full participation in culture, and driving a new era of development, growth, and productivity”.

I agree with the idea (put forward by Lessig) of encouraging artists and creators to choose to have their work made available for non-commercial use.

Kids today are not just passive consumers of technology they are creators and producers of digital texts. There needs to be some rationalisation when it comes to the use of the internet and digital technologies; we need to work to maximize digital creativity, sharing, and innovation not destroy it, because as Lessig states “we can’t stop [our kids] from using [digital technologies] we can only drive it underground, we can not make our kids passive again we can only make them pirates”.

References: (Larry Lessig on the Colbert Report) (Larry Lessig talks (one for TED; one for NYU)

 Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2006). New literacies: everyday practices and           classroom learning. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.

Module 4, Topic 1: Ethics

What kinds of ethical considerations should be a factor for students using new media?

Levinson gives us the metaphor of technology as a knife (it can be used for good or for bad), it is the human being or group of human beings using the technology who determine whether it will be used for good or bad. Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are two examples of how new technologies can be used in negative ways. The use of email to deliver spam and scam information, examples (used by Levinson, 2009) of which include: easy ways to increase your sexual assets, as well as offers to entrusting money and bank account details to scammers who aim to steal identity information or large amounts of money from unsuspecting people.

I agree with the student in the Protecting Your Digital Footprint (see references) video that kids shouldn’t be putting anything online that they wouldn‘t be happy for their parents to see. “Everything that’s out there makes you vulnerable” (digital footprint video 2:23).Talking again about the negative uses of technology – we have the case of the male students from an elite mainland school who recently posted photos of female teachers on the internet and allowed their peers to rate them, a form of sexual harassment?

 What about bullying?

“Bullying in a schoolyard or any physical place is usually more dangerous than cyberbullying, since physical intimidation is involved and can escalate into a ‘beat down’” (Levinson, 2009, p. 170). Take the example of the story that featured in the news a couple of months ago about a bully who gets ‘owned’ by the victim. Although there was more to the story than met the eye the video that went ‘viral’ on the internet (and across TV stations) reignited the debate in the media about bullying in schools.

Bully gets owned:

The focus was on the bullying, but what didn’t seem to be an issue was the filming of the incident. Is the person who recorded the incident condoning the actions of the bully?

 Everything you put out there on the internet has its own digital footprint (it’s out there forever). Keeping this in mind, as educators we need to equip students with the skills to act in an ethic manner by explicitly teaching them and talking to them about what is and is not appropriate when it comes to the uses of new and digital media. It’s like social skilling (which my school has a huge emphasis on) you need to explicitly teach (and model) the behaviours you want your students to use, you can’t just expect them to have those skills especially if they have no role models to teach them what is and is not appropriate.


Levinson, P. (2009). New new media. Boston: Pearson. (Chapter 11: “The dark side of new new media”). Levinson Chapter11

 Protecting your digital footprint:

Module 3, Topic 2: Community

In what ways can online communities foster knowledge, learning, understanding and citizenship?

On the 11th March, 2011 an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 hit off the coast of Japan. As a result of the earthquake the country was also hit by a tsunami which devastated towns and farms around Sendai city in northern Japan which were engulfed by a seven-metre tsunami, while a four-metre wave swamped parts of Kamaishi on the Pacific coast. Then there was the impending threat of nuclear disaster.

As a result of the horrific devastation sites such as the ABC set up pages that allowed people to read stories about eyewitness accounts, Japan’s background with tsunamis and earthquakes, ‘infographics’ (a term which I was not actually familiar with), as well as a photo gallery, links to emergency information and links to social media (photos, videos, tweets and eyewitness accounts of the events). What I’d like to discuss further here is the positive impact that providing this sort of information about a disaster has on community. In researching to respond to the key question I read through the information pertaining to the fall of Mubarak, Sam Graham-Felsen’s article in The Nation (Feb 11, 2011) discussed how… “a movement isn’t born until a core group of extraordinarily brave activists take that extra step, translating their outrage into public action. The reality is that social movements arise from a combination of conditions and courage”. Whilst it is not outrage that translates into public action in the case of Japan it is our empathy for and almost a sense of obligation that inspires people into public action.

The internet was one medium that enabled us in Australia to connect to people from all around the world to give information and support.

Japan earthquake and tsunami – inspiring global citizenship…

Images of the Japan earthquake & tsunami 2011

Sites began to appear that provided current information about this natural disaster as well as ways to help:


Japanese earthquake and tsunami information:

Article from The Nation:
How Cyber-Pragmatism Brought Down Mubarak

Module 3, Topic 1: Identity

How is identity constructed online?

In the digital world identity is constructed through the multi-layered “texts created” (Thomas, p. 358). Through these texts users can ‘mediate’ the self. These texts include a combination of:

Ÿ  Spoken words

Ÿ  Graphical images (adopted as avatars to represent the user)

Ÿ  Codes

And… other linguistic variations on language used to create a full digital presence.

 Role-playing games

The users “virtual identity is the character one has taken up (and, in some cases, modified by allocating one’s allotment of ‘qualities’ to the ‘off the shelf’ character” (Lankshear & Knobel, p. 121). Projecting a virtual identity through an online character provides a medium for reflection, imagination, accountability and experimentation.

 Talking about experimentation… Let’s talk about Grand Theft Auto – the game where you have to be a successful criminal… Now, this is a game where you take on a character who is a criminal, to advance through the game you have to go on missions. You adopt the ‘off the shelf’ character, which you have to feed (this even involves choices on the part of the game player – if you feed the character bad food then he gains weight). You can send the character to the tattoo parlour, or off to the gym to tone up his body, he can gamble (at casino or TAB) to increase his fortune, and he can get himself a girlfriend (in each city in the game if he wants to). GTA follows a storyline and missions have to be completed to advance the story. It’s even so realistic that the user’s character has to work to maintain the relationship with the girlfriend, for example by taking her on dates; if you take her to a club then the character has to dance well for the date to be successful. My husband’s motivation for playing the game is to experiment with what he is able to make the character do. He enjoys playing GTA to build the individual into a successful character (with money, houses, women and respect), being successful allows you to ‘unlock’ more things (e.g. more of the city is unlocked to you when you achieve certain things – for example through completing missions). Some people do play these games for trophies.

Reflecting on Second Life

We were asked to enter the virtual world of Second Life as part of this course, so choosing an avatar was necessary. To begin with I just picked an ‘off the shelf’ character but after a while I did become curious and wanted to explore how to change my characters appearance (physical features and clothing) to reflect myself (after all my avatar is a reflection of myself!) So I changed her clothes from the gothic look she ‘sported’ and I lengthened her eyelashes, added some (just a little) volume to her lips, gave her some curvy hips and made her about an inch shorter! I chose to make her a closer representation to my real world self because I don’t feel I have anything to hide (secretly I wish I was that inch taller though!).

There are a variety of motivations behind the ways people construct their avatars (e.g. as a mode of identity expression, to hide, to live out the fantasy of their ideal physical characteristics) and for what purposes.

Throughout this unit I am constantly thinking of how I can link what I’m learning (through reading about theories and experimenting with different digital and new literacies) back to my classroom teaching (what would the practical application of this new resource, activity, theoretical understandings etc. look like in the classroom???) Second Life offers opportunities to experience real world places (such as the Sistine Chapel) that are not accessible to students in the real world, through virtual reality. However, Second Life also offers opportunities to broach topics such as tolerance and respect through exploring the construction of identity in Second Life – why one student chooses to create an avatar that mirrors their real world self whilst another chooses to represent themselves as an animal for example.


James Paul Gee, “Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and Life: The Projective Stance,” in Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear (eds.), A New Literacies Sampler (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), pp.95-114.

Thomas, A. (2004). Digital Literacies of the Cybergirl For: E-Learning, Vol 1, No. 3. pp: 358-382.

Another multimodal text…

Here’s a persuasive text my class has been working on…

Module 2, Topic 2 – Creating Multimodal Texts

Hi check out these ‘toons’ created about Natural Disasters (the current topic we are working on in my class)!


Previous Older Entries