ML2 – Second Language Literacies

A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín

Envisioning a New Literacy Classroom by Christian González

In the near future, education systems will adapt new kinds of expressions in which students will develop new ways of learning, and therefore, these new ways of expressing will continue transforming our schools, into places for learning and the joy of social practices and social expressions. “The school would not only have multiple venues for “receiving” expression: areas for reading; places to view works of art and theater, dance, and film” (Kist, 2000). New literacies will emerge with the constant evolution of technologies, and the changing societies. As human nature we have the capacities to discover and invent new ways to make our lives more efficient and more practical, we are constantly evolving, developing new technologies, unveiling new mysteries and conquering unexplored territories.

New technologies have changed and are changing the paradigms of educational systems, big changes in the way knowledge is transmitted, with new literacies that can be found outside the classrooms, and new literacies that students bring into classes, from which they reflect social relations of power and cultural expressions. The purpose of this paper is to imagine a future new literacy classroom, in order to do that I will take some assumptions from an academic paper by Kist (2000) called “Beginning to create the new literacy classroom: What does new literacy look like? On this paper the author explains how he accidentally began to watch movies in a different way, not just for entertainment but for seeking new elements that allow the meaning making of those films. In addition, he describes what the definition of the new literacy looked like at that time, and how classroom would look like, integrating new ways of learning through meaningful experiences.

Furthermore, he proposes a pedagogic model to integrate new literacies in the schools. He considers that is important to adopt five principles in order to establish a set of guide principles or foundations that can help teachers to create practices and policies inside the new literacy classrooms.

From Street’s point of view, literacies are social practices that involve reading and writing inside a culture. “Literacy  practices,  then,  refer  to  the  broader  cultural  conception  of  particular ways of thinking about and doing reading and writing in cultural contexts” (Street, 2003) bearing in mind this statement from Brian Street, I can vision the new literacy classroom, I can imagine a new literacy classroom where outside practices from our own culture can be incorporated,  where multimodality takes place also in these new scenarios for learning, generating a mixture of modes that students can get easily engage with.

Multimodality is the way that messages can be sent in different ways, like for example: kinesthetic, orally, written, visual, etc. “A multimodal approach in teaching acknowledges, then, that language is only partial, and that many modes are involved in meaning-making, even though one mode may be chosen to represent meaning (language, visual, spatial, digital, and so on)” (Albers & Harste, 2007,pp.6-20 )

I can imagine a new literacy classroom, where Art expressions such tattoo design, graffiti design, anime design, dancing, singing and photography, can lead students to new ways of self- expressing , self-thinking and  developing creativity. At the same time, these social experiences can allow the free developing of personality traits, for example tattoos have a strong influence in our societies, because people can communicate and express a hidden value, a hidden story, a religious meaning or even a lifestyle.

Tattoos have the potential to be seen as communicative and used for communicative purposes. People who choose to obtain tattoos in visible locations on their body know that others might see their tattoos and form judgments about them. Roughly speaking, then, the extent to which individuals endorse the view that tattoos are a form of communication (i.e., have communicative value) (Doss, & Ebesu, 2009, pp.62-74 )

However, tattoos are not just ink and skin; the whole tattoo designing is a way of multimodality, because it embraces the transmission of a message through artistic modes that include the use of artistic drawings, letters, symbols, lines, phrases, colors, among others.  Therefore, the new literacy classroom should include the design of artistic  tattoos, as a way to convey hidden messages, students can be encourage to make sketches and drafts , promoting artistic expressions of self-communication. You might think this is a far-fetched idea. However, the use of the tattoo design in the school’s curriculum can help teachers, to use new ways of artistic communication, and places for identity development.  “Since the teen-stage is primarily about the construction of identity, schools and subject areas should offer multiple ways to include identity development, diversity issues such as class, oppression, and privilege, and the management or identity development” (Taylor, et al 2006, as cited in Blair, 2007)


In the new literacy classroom there will be new ways of self-expression.


Self-expression and multimodality converging in tattoo design.

I can imagine a class with inclusion of tattoo design, where students design their own sketches, and share what theY mean to their classmates, expressing themselves with multimodality modes, sharing and writing about their tattoos designs will encourage students to develop public self-consciousness and features of personality traits. According to Fenigstein, “public self-consciousness is a personality trait in which individuals are constantly attentive to how their appearance and actions are seen by others” (Fenigstein, 1987, as cited in Doss et al 2009) Although, public self-consciousness involves aesthetic and intrinsic perceptions from what other can think about one self, it should be considered as a positive trait, since students will acquire a sense for aesthetics and how they look like for others, generating self-esteem and confidence within students.

“An example of Japanese tattoo design”

Furthermore, I can imagine this new literacy classroom with the incorporation of tattoo design, not just only for a class of Art, but also it can be used as a model for teaching second languages, and others subjects.  Like the example above where students have to share their tattoo designs, they would share and discuss about them in the target language. Another good example of tattoo design would be the use of specialized design computer software, where students would make their sketches and drafts in a digital way, combining the use of new literacies and multimodality ways to convey what is behind their tattoo designs, this would allow that students require a set of digital and design skills as new literacies.

Graffiti can be considered as just a mere act of vandalism and a skill to spray colors and to paint symbols, words, phrases on walls. However, there is a lot going on inside its philosophy, according to Campos (2011) this “ skill often goes beyond their ability to develop analytical though and an artistic discourse of their own that rises above straightforward vandalism or that is something more than a pseudo – philosophy”. (p.7) graffiti is an urban art, a street art that can help students to develop their critical thinking; graffiti practices are very popular among teenagers and young people. Hence, Graffiti can be a multimodality strategy for encouraging students to establish a relationship between their artistic discourse and the way they feel about something, about our society and culture. Graffiti would be an analytical tool for students in order to express feelings, emotions, reactions, about cultural, politic, economic, and social topics that affect their everyday life.


Graffiti as way of protesting against society.

Bringing, this practice into classrooms, would be a challenge for nowadays’ teachers and school policies, because students would not be allowed to make graffiti inside schools and classrooms. Graffiti would be practiced in a different ways inside the new literacy classrooms, teachers would provide students with huge posters and materials like sprays, colors, and other tools required to make graffiti. They will be asked to design graffiti about specific or trending topic, and they will be asked to present their work and socialize it with the rest of the class. In this sense graffiti would be a nice way, from which students can interact, design, paint and work together as a social practice, working together a social project that takes place in the new literacy classroom. Furthermore, students’ work can be presented and exposed to the rest of the school like in an art fair, where graffiti would be read and understood, playing an important role as a social practice inside schools.


 In the New Literacy classroom students would choose a topic and present their graffiti projects at the end of the year.

Another activity that students like to do a lot, it is drawing manga and anime from their fan fictions anime characters, some students may not be good at some traditional literacy practices, but when they start drawing an anime character they enjoy a lot, from the beginning to the end. I can also envision the incorporation of anime and manga design where students are constantly working on a project of anime that they have to present at the end of the year, they would not only draw manga and anime, they would also be engaged in the construction of a story, they would construct their own stories and their own interpretations through the use of anime. This could be a way to encourage students in a school project so as to develop and to promote the learning of a second language. One particular characteristic about anime, it is that students feel attract to the Japanese culture and their language. According to Fukunaga (2006) “repetitive watching of anime provides multiple advantages for learning Japanese” he claims that there are “three linguistics aspects to these advantages: word recognition, listening and pronunciation, and the awareness of various Japanese linguistic features. (p.213) however, the use of anime would be focused more in the artistic expression itself, rather than in the multicultural awareness. Therefore, in the new literacy classroom there would be classes of anime design, as a strategy to hook students in new experiences of learning.

There are other social practices that can be incorporated in the new literacy classroom. Activities that students are very familiar with, or that form part of their lives outside their school contexts. The “immersion in meaningful practices within a community of learners who are capable of playing multiple and different roles based on their backgrounds and experiences” (New London Group, 1996 as cited in Kist, 2000) would provide the creation of a school curriculum, where learners can have the opportunity to select and choose what practices would lead the learning processes. According to Kist(2000) in the new literacy classroom , there would be a balance of individual and collaborative activities, he points out that:

One way that individualization would come about in a new literacy classroom would be through allowing for student choice of medium. Such a classroom would allow children to have some individual choices, to let them think through problems and projects, modeling after the teacher, in any media they choose (pp.710-718)

Students in the new literacy classroom, would have the opportunity to select among a wider variety of activities and personal interests like the ones mentioned above, among others like skating, photography, gaming, dancing, singing, acting, urban and street Art, and all kind of artistic representations that learners feel identify with, all of them converging into a multidisciplinary, cultural, and social learning process.

Taking, one of this activities as another example, I would like to highlight the importance that videogames will have in the processes of learning in the new literacy classroom. New technologies have changed and are changing the paradigms of educational systems, changing the way knowledge is transmitted, with new literacies that can be found outside the classrooms, and new literacies that students bring into classes, reflecting social relations of power and cultural expressions. Videogames play an important role in the sociocultural environment, they provide high levels of enjoyment, in which transcultural barriers can be surpassed and overcome. According to Vandellós (2010) videogames are (cultural gadgets with their own functions of socialization, the high levels of enjoyment that proportionate to the players, make unpredictable the analysis of their general potentials as educational tools) (pag.183)

Nowadays, videogames continue evolving and continue bringing new immersing and interactive experiences. However, videogames can also be considerate violent, due to their content, for example: first person shooters can bring fictional stories, stories from which players can play many roles as heroes or even as villains, inside these virtual worlds kids can develop aggressive behaviors tending to imitate what they see and what they like so much.

The growth of electronic games has not been without controversy, however. The subset of games that feature violence, gore, and antisocial behavior has raised concern among parents, educators, child advocates, medical professionals, and policy makers. The implication of games in high profile school shootings has led to congressional hearings, government investigations, and legislative proposals. The intense concern about video and computer games is based on the belief that the ultra-violent games are inappropriate for all children and harmful to some. (Walsh, 2007,pp.1-10)

These assumptions might lead towards a more deep discussion concerning about, how can we change these stereotypes of videogames? And taking advantage from their powerful attraction to both young and adult people, How can we implement them and bringing them into our educational systems as tools for learning. According to Squire (2008) videogames have a good potential in the learning processes:

Games offer opportunities for organizing learning around challenges; however there is potential with games to give more instantaneous and responsive feedback, to use digital technologies to customize activities to players’ goals and interests, to augment learners’ thinking with digital tools, and to use such tools to allow learners to think and act creatively (within digital worlds) (pp.17-26)

From Bowman’s perspectives, and some of his outcomes can be point out and suggest that “educators could use video games as a model for improving learning environments, by providing clear goals, challenging students, allowing for collaboration, using criterion based assessments, giving students more control over the learning process” (Bowman, 1982, as cited in Squire, 2008)

In the new literacy classroom, there will be a space where students will interact with written comprehension texts inside videogames and they will be in constant interaction with stories and chunks of written text that will engage them into the process of reading comprehension. Hence, videogames not only will provide written text, but they also will provide new ways of literacies and multimodality, immersing participants into news modes of reading comprehension. In addition, the new literacy classroom, English reading comprehension would take a completely different perspective, because the next generation consoles will bring new forms of playability, and interaction. They will bring new ways to play, and look videogames from an educational perspective. One of these new features that next generation consoles will have, it is the possibility to pause, to go forward, to rewind, to record the videogames while playing them, doing multitasks at the same time. Teachers would have the opportunity to pause videogames when there is a video of a story being displayed, teachers would have the opportunity to rewind and pause, check vocabulary and review what is inside those stories and narratives that videogames provide.

With these features teachers would allow learners to have access to new ways of reading comprehension. Imagine the new literacy classrooms with Xbox one consoles as part of audiovisual and technological resources. The next generation videogame consoles will do more than just play a videogame, for example the Xbox One produced by Microsoft will support a system inspired by Windows 8, and it will count with many features and applications such as: Music player, Movies, Internet Browser, Live TV, Skype, and Windows Office applications like Word, and Power Point among others. Besides, the console will count with a voice recognizing system, and an improved Kinect system that can help lot thinking about activities focus on TPR methodologies, that even physical educators can take advantage of this Kinect system and games. The possibilities are infinite, and possibilities are there with the arise of these new generation consoles that can be seen as new pedagogical and educational tools in the new literacy classroom. Just imagine having a videoconference with your students using Skype and then playing a video at the same time related with the same topic of the videoconference.

Next generation videogame consoles will bring Multi-tasking into the classrooms.

In the new literacy classroom, teachers will have to deal with these new kinds technologies that can make the use of educational tools into a more practical experience, teachers and students would have to manage these new digital environments and digital literacies that would require new skills and abilities in order to achieve learning objectives in the new literacy classroom. According to Lankshear & Knobel (2008) digital literacies “primarily concerned with technical skills, and those who see it as focused on cognitive and socio emotional aspects of working in a digital environment” (p.2)

In the new literacy classrooms, the use of smartphones will be allowed to consult topics and trending socio-economic, political, and cultural topics. New literacies involve the use of new skills and ways to learn to read in digital environments.  “Students nowadays increasingly involved in electronic environments, they need new skills and strategies that they have not been familiar with; the ability to communicate through graphics, hypertexts, and other information resources necessitates the development of new literacy skills”. (Karchmer, 2001 as cited in Abdallah, 2008)

Most of these electronic gadgets like smartphones and tablets have very similar usage patterns such as: touching screens, menus of applications and set of functional bottoms among others. These new electronic devices count with access to internet, and therefore, access to the world of information, this access of the world of the information also requires, new ways to read and new ways to write. “The Internet, as one of the best and dominant information resources, has changed the traditionally-held concept of literacy requiring new forms of reading, writing and viewing skills and competencies that were never required with traditional books” (Leu et al 2005, as cited in Abdabllah).


Smartphones can be useful in order to engage students in reading activities.

The use of internet will be fundamental in order to undertake the processes of reading with the students. Reading online texts from, News applications such as: CNN News, Fox News, among others. These topics would help students to reflect on current and trending topics from around the world and their own context, in the new literacy classroom, smartphones and other electronic gadgets would be used to develop critical thinking and work on critical reading activities. According to Walz, internet is a proper place to practice critical reading skills:

Internet is available to all, is attractive enough  to encourage frequent  visits, yet has  absolutely no accountability, since anyone can publish any information, right or wrong, on any topic, and not have to defend it” (pp. 1193-1194). He focused on three aspects of critical reading pertaining  to  the internet: context,  vocabulary, and content.  Context provides  basic background information; vocabulary will provide additional information that is essential to critical reading; and finally the reader must delve  into  content  in  order  to find  the flaws  in  logic commonly found  on  the  web,  i.e.  manipulation, unsupported arguments, and bias. (Walz, 2002 as cited in Zabihi, 2011,pp.80-87)

In the new literacy classroom, there will be personalize learning. This personalize learning will be based mostly in the students’ personal interests and likes. When students start high school, they will be introduced to new practices they feel identify with, and with the practices they like to do the most. In the new literacy school would be focused mostly in Art expressions and technological practices and literacies. Like I mentioned before social practices like: singing, dancing, acting, Art design (tattoo, graffiti, anime design, music and painting) and technological literacies, such as: ICT management, webpage design, etc.

Classrooms would be centers for social practices, instead of traditional education classrooms, where students sit and gather information. Students will learn to master an Art gradually at the beginning of high school, in activities that will exploit their abilities, whether it is Music, learning to play an instrument, or learning vocal technique, Arts would be fundamental in the schools’ curriculums. However, all the subjects that students see today will not disappear. Math, science, history, physics, among others will still continue in the school curriculum. The change would be the incorporation of an Art for every student. That means that, at the end of high school, students would be mastering an Art of their choosing. During the school year students of all grades would be working on their Art projects, no matter what they choose to do, they should present their art project at the end of the year, no matter it is individual or collaborative work.

Art Education Builds 21st Century Skills

These Art projects will reflect on students’ experiences and the knowledge that they have about their topic. The new literacy classroom will be fostering quality Art education, this art education will generate forms of “reading the world”, as Paulo Freire & Macedo (1987) once mentioned. These new ways of reading the world and reading words will foster new meaningful experiences and organize the new literacy classroom, where the students are the center of their education and learning processes.

Quality art education does not merely picture what is already seen and under-stood. Quality art generates new knowledge.  Students should not be instructed to illustrate, symbolize, or  represent  (i.e. RE-present) things (such as ideas, beliefs, emotions) that are already fully formed, fully under-stood. Instead, quality art projects ought to enable students to reframe experiences, thus supporting students in individually and collaboratively finding out something new about a subject. Such new insights cannot be summarized in simple language, but instead become vivid constellations of experience that remain in the consciousness of the artist and the viewers. Good art—and good art projects—transform the way in which we understand and process life experiences. (GUDE, 2013, pp. 6-15)

Music also will take place in this new literacy classroom, music as an art expression, students since the beginning of high school can choose to learn an instrument they like, or they even can choose to learn to sing, they can choose to learn vocal technique, and at the end of the semester and at the of the year students will present a project related with the musical instrument they selected, they can learn a song, they can make a multimodal presentation, playing the instrument or presenting something related with the instrument, the history of that instrument, for example: what is the importance behind about playing that instrument for their lives, and other topics related with music itself. Karaoke will be used to encourage students to learn English and to learn to sign too. Karaoke can be used as an educational tool; it is a useful tool for students to learn new vocabulary, practice pronunciation, improve and develop listening skills.


Karaoke can help students to improve pronunciation,learn new vocabulary, and develop listening skills.


The conclusion of all this is that, the new literacy classroom should provide students with meaningful experiences that come from outside the schools, those social practices will enrich the development of the learning processes. Besides, the new literacy classroom should be focused on art education; art should prime in the future of the education systems, because it can help students to generate skills and abilities for an specific art of their choosing, it can help students to develop love for aesthetics and love for the art. In addition, art education can develop students’ agency, establishing a relationship between the artistic discourse and their personality, developing a critical sense for their surrounding world and their creativity in an artistic way.


Abdallah, M. M. S. (2008). New Literacies or New Challenges?”: The Development of the Concept of Literacy in the Context of Information and Communication.

Albers, P., & Harste, J. C. (2007). The Arts, New Literacies, and Multimodality. English Education, 40(1), 6-20.

Blair, L. (2007). Tattoos & Teenagers. Art Education, 60(5), 39-44.

Doss, K., & Ebesu Hubbard, A. S. (2009). The Communicative Value of Tattoos: The Role of Public Self-Consciousness on Tattoo Visibility. Communication Research Reports, 26(1), 62-74. doi:10.1080/08824090802637072

Frames, H. (Published June the 28th of 2012). Art Education Builds 21st Century Skills. Retrieve from

Freire, P. & Macedo, D. (1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world. London, UK: Routledge.

Fukunaga, N. (2006). “Those anime students”: Foreign language literacy development through Japanese popular culture. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(3), 206-222.

Gametrailers. (Published May the 5th of 2013). Xbox One Multitasking Demonstration. Retrieve from

GUDE, O. (2013). New School Art Styles: The Project of Art Education. Art Education, 66(1), 6-15.

Kist, W. (2000). Beginning to create the new literacy classroom: What does the new literacy look like?. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 43(8), 710.

Pang Tattooartist. (Published  March the 21 of 2013). Drawing Japanese Tattoo Design By Pang Tattoo Artist. (Video File). Retrieve from

Squire, K. D. (2008). Video Games and Education: Designing Learning Systems for an Interactive Age. Educational Technology, 48(2), 17-26.

Street, B.  (2003). What’s new in New Literacy Studies? Critical approaches to Literacy in Theory and practice.

Vandellós, A. (2010). Videojuegos como dispositivos culturales: las competencias espaciales en educación. (Spanish). Comunicar, 18(34), 183-189.

Zabihi, R., & Pordel, M. (2011). An Investigation of Critical Reading in Reading Textbooks: A Qualitative Analysis. International Education Studies, 4(3), 80-87. doi:10.5539/ies.v4n3p80

Walsh, D. (2007).Video Game Violence and Public Policy. Retrieve from


5 comments on “Envisioning a New Literacy Classroom by Christian González

  1. Angela
    October 15, 2013

    Dear Christian,

    Your paper is very impressive. You connect your ideas about the new literacy classroom and the authors’ ideas in a very fluent way. I really like your proposal. I think your students will be very motivated to express their ideas through art.

    You integrated different texts to show us how your proposal could work.


    Angela Patricia Ocampo C.

    • ML2
      October 16, 2013

      Thank you Angela, I’m looking forward to read yours.

    October 17, 2013

    With all due respect, I think that art is something that erupts from inside and cannot be imposed or better said, nobody can be led to be an artist. Painters paint when they feel like painting, poets write poetry when they feel the inspiration. Composers write songs when they are moved to do so. In the case of tattoos, I would say that it makes part of art and should not make part of a general curriculum. In fact, there are people who view this practice as abnormal or done by people who need to fill up some gaps they have in their lives. As a result, I think that making tattoos part of new literacies for a general public would not appeal to everybody. In the same way, graffiti, as a way to convey a message, is also an artistic expression that does not appeal to the general public. The activities that we use in a classroom should not go against the learners’ beliefs, traditions, culture. I would not imagine myself learning a foreign language in a classroom where the main core is tattoos. I would not even dare to use spray to make a graffiti. I even dare to wonder if that would be called new literacy.

    Rubén Cano

  3. ML2
    October 17, 2013

    Hi Ruben, when I wrote this paper I thought about the artistic process of a tattoo, it is not about tattooing, or about getting tattooed and using real ink. It is all about the artistic process that embraces this artistic expression. I don’t see students getting tattoos at schools, No way! It goes beyond that Ruben, the design of a tattoo as an artistic expression, it is about giving the students the opportunity to paint, to draw, to design, to generate art, manual art(drawings, paintings). I think we need to change these paradigms and think that there is something good behind this practice that can hook students to learn to draw and develop artistic abilities. Maybe, you probably misunderstood my position and my ideas. It is not about taking the ink into the schools, it is about developing artistic abilities. As for the art issue, I think that artists born with talents and that is true. But sometimes, those artists do not discover their gifts, they have to prove different paths until one day they discover it. And schools should at least try to help people to discover their talents.


  4. Hi Chris! I think your proposal is very interesting because when we are in a school we have to “keep discipline”, it means that if a student is drawing while we are explaining a concept, we must tell him/her to stop doing it because it goes against the good manners we have to learn from a social perspective.Unfortunately, we do not see that as an opportunity to explain the concept and maybe go deeper with it.In my opinion if a student gets the concept through something he or she likes that class is going to be first of able more appealing and secondly,he/she will have more expectation at the moment the teacher starts with another topic, and of course, that particular student is going to find more sense to the educational system where he is immersed and where he is playing an active role. Congratulations Chris!

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This entry was posted on October 13, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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