Skills of the Multiliterate Student

Posted by tricialauter on July 20, 2011


Learning has changed.

The way we acquire, sift through, analyze, and synthesize knowledge within a global, digital world has forced us to use a different skill set. Becoming “literate” in the 21st century is much more than learning how to navigate written text. To truly thrive witin this new learning paradigm, one must become multiliterate.  Therefore, “literacy pedagogy now must account for the burgeoning variety of text forms” (New London Group, 1996, p. 2). Multiliteracies then is the  recognition of the “multiplicity of communications channels and media, and the increasing saliency of cultural and linguistic diversity,” focusing on “the realities of increasing local diversity and global connectedness,” (New London Group, 1996, p.3).

Multiliteracies Map created by the Government of South Australia

Students must be taught a skill set that reflects this new context of learning. Not only will they need to learn letter-sound relationships but also how to freely move in between formal and informal text, analyze text and symbols, understand relation between images, layout, and text, and create meaning making from these interactions (New London Group, 1996).

Multiliteracy Skills: 

-ability to apply knowledge to new situations

-use of technologies to solve problems and communicate (Partnership for 21st Skills)

-able to examine problems and collaborate to think of creative solutions (Partnership for 21st Skills)

-able to gather information from multiple sources (and critique sources validity)

-work productively with linguistic and cultural diversity (Kalantzis et. al, 2003),

-synthesize knowledge and become teachers and communicators; express knowledge in multimodal ways (Kalantzis et. al, 2003)

-understand the various meaning making interactions of text, images, and context (New London Group, 1996)

-negotiate regional, ethnic, or class-based dialects (New London Group, 1996)

As technology plays an increasingly larger role within the new economy, skills must be developed to quickly and effectively navigate various  knowledge networks with “up-skilling” happening continuously (Kalantzis, 2003). Technology has transformed the very notion of reading and writing. Blogging, tagging, tweeting, updates, and hyperlinks have allowed consumers to become producers; linking and connecting one producer to another, one knowledge network to another. “The open nature of Web 2.0 platforms, connected by hyperlinking, lets learners pursue connections across multiple lines of thought…literacy requirements for such searches are very complex, shift rapidly, and require new skills that encompass a more worldly, public literacy,” (Alexendar, 2008, p. 156-158). As Kalantzis et. al (2003) summarizes:

Learning will increasingly be about creating a kind of person, with kinds of dispositions and orientations to the world, and not just persons who are in command of a body of knowledge. These persons will be able to navigate change and diversity, learn as they go, solve problems, collaborate, and be flexible and creative. Promoting these qualities, however, requires significant change to both assessment and curriculum regimes (p. 23).”

 Assessment must then be centered around these new literacies and new literacy skills, and the technology that magnifies them.


Alexendar, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies. Theory into Practice, 47, p. 150-160. 

Government of South Australia. (2010).The multiliteracies map. Retrieved from

Kalantzis, M., Cope, B., & Harvey, A. (2003). Assessing multiliteracies and the new basics. Assessment in Education, 10, 1, p.15-26. 

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66, 1. 

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2007). 21st Century skills assessment: A Partnership for 21st century skills e-paper. Retrieved from


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