Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

A Curriculum for the Future: English and Design

July 16th, 2014 · No Comments

Over the course of this education program, I have done a lot of thinking about what it means to be an English teacher in the current day and age. In his article “A Curriculum for the Future, Gunther Kress puts into eloquent words all that has been swimming around in my head. I truly believe that what he outlines as a new direction for curriculum in general and for English classes specifically is one toward which we should all be moving.

He starts off by prefacing his argument with the suggestion that “the presently existing curriculum still assumes that it is educating young people into older dispositions, whereas the coming era demands an education for instability…. When tomorrow is unlikely to be like today and when the day after tomorrow is definitely going to be unlike yesterday, curricular aims and guiding metaphors have to be reset” (133-4).

He then delves into a lengthy explanation of what the new curriculum should entail. Words that are frequently used are creativity, multiliteracies, innovation, adaptability, ease with difference, comfortableness with change, instability, agency, transformation, communication. These words remind me of a statement I made in this class a few days ago, about how in teaching English we are moving toward giving students the skills to talk about, write about, think about, and interact with content rather than simply teaching them the content itself. Rather than learning being top-down and content focused, I think that learning needs to become student-centered and innovative. Kress takes my point of view even further by arguing that the driving force of this new curriculum should be design. Students should  be learning to take what they know and transform it, design it to reflect their interests and to make it serve as a means for their interaction with and decoding of their personal environments and the globe as a whole.

Kress states that “What remains constant [in the new curriculum] is the fundamental aim of all serious education: to provide those skills, knowledges, aptitudes, and dispositions which would allow the young who are experiencing that curriculum to lead productive lives in the societies of their adult periods” (134). What has changed is the needs and requirements of society. Active citizens now need to be able to decode vast amounts of information from a wide variety of sources and recorded using a variety of literacies in an ever-changing environment and comment on it, interact with it, and produce something new, thoughtful, and useful.What arises from this need is an “Education for instability” (138), in which students are given the tools they need to adapt to this transforming world and to be the agents of their own designs and processes. Kress states, “Design makes the learner agentive in relation to her/his interests in a specific environment and in relation to the resources available for the production of that design. He or she is transformative, creative and innovative. Design asks for production of the new rather than replication of the old. Thus putting ‘design’ at the centre of the curriculum and of its purposes is to redefine the goal of education as the making of individual dispositions oriented towards innovation, creativity, transformation and change” (141). This idea of agency made me think about the principles introduced in today’s class on Gee’s article “Good Video Games and Good Learning.”  I think that a lot of the learning principles he outlines apply to the fundamental concepts of Kress’ new curriculum. Identity, interaction, production, risk taking, customization, agency, and situated meanings all apply to the notion of a curriculum of design within instability; ideas of transformation, agency, design, change, understanding, openness, communication, adaptability, innovation, multiliteracy, and creativity.

I think that a multiliteracies approach in the classroom that focuses on design through inquiry, agency, and creativity is one in which students will be shaped into individuals that are competent and skillful at navigating our developing and “unstable” current and future worlds.

– Rebecca Thomas

Gee, James Paul. “Good Video Games and Good Learning.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum 85.2 (Summer 2005): 33-37. Web. 13 July 2014.

Kress, Gunther. “A Curriculum for the Future.” Cambridge Journal of Education 30.1 (2000): 133-145. Web. 16 July 2014.



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