Mainstream cultural standards (of white, wealthy cultures) ascribe a high status to the written and spoken word. Schools, which often reinforce this culture and which require success in linguistic abilities to move successfully through to higher education, may be resistant to decentering print.
Multimodality is an amazing tool for working with all students, particularly those whose cultures are marginalized and/or who have experienced trauma. Want to know why schools may be resistant to multimodality and how you can use it anyway? Keep watching!
Schools have been characterized as reproducing social hierarchies (Giroux, 2017). That means that schools perpetuate the ideologies and values of those in power. In the case of multimodality and the centering of print, this looks like the gatekeeping nature of print and language for success in higher educational endeavors. So, since print is a gatekeeper, schools will likely be resistant to multimodality and the decentering of language as the primary mode of communication.
Because print is privileged in schools, honestly, a move to multimodality may look like using multimodality in service of print...for now. What I mean by this is that standardization and success in education is typically determined using the linguistic mode. To meet the needs of trauma-affected and marginalized youth who often excel in multimodal communication outside of school, you may have to stoke students’ creativity, identity, and cultural and linguistic representation with the affordances provided by multimodality to bridge students to linguistic modes.
Use Multimodality as a Bridge
Until higher education no longer requires students to perform linguistic achievement, teachers must continue to ensure students learn how to successfully use print and language to communicate. That doesn’t mean multimodality has no place. For now, play with multimodality and use it to increase access to the curriculum for students who are disadvantaged by a system that doesn’t line up with their home and personal cultural practices. You can even be explicit about those facts, teaching students why print is privileged. Use multimodality to engage all students, increase their communicative skills, and improve their sense of self-worth that may have been hindered by labeling and tracking.
Print is privileged as a gatekeeper in education. Until that is no longer the case, our goal should continue to be helping all students achieve mastery in the linguistic mode. Multimodality can help with that by engaging marginalized and trauma-affected youth by tapping into their multimodal out-of-school literacy expertise. Build their language skills through other modes.
My name is Erin E. Silcox. I'm working on my Ph.D. in Literacy Education, focusing on the intersection of trauma and literacy. I want to deepen our base of knowledge about trauma-informed practices in schools and help teachers apply findings right now.