From Literacy to Multiliteracies: Diverse Learners and Pedagogical Practice

Erica McWilliam
Publication date: 
30 July 2009

In this paper, we provide specific examples of the educational promises and problems that arise as multiliteracies pedagogical initiatives encounter conventional institutional beliefs and practices in mainstream schooling. This paper documents and characterizes the ways in which two specific digital learning initiatives were played out in two distinctive traditional schooling contexts, as experienced by two different student groups: one comprising an elite mainstream and the other an excluded minority.

By learning from the instructive complications that arose out of attempts by innovative and well-meaning educators to provide students with more relevant learning experiences than currently exist in mainstream schooling, this paper contributes fresh perspectives and more nuanced understandings of how diverse learners and their teachers negotiate the opportunities and challenges of the New London Group's vision of a multiliteracies approach to literacy and learning. We conclude by arguing that, where multiliteracies are understood as “garnish” to the “pedagogical roast” of traditional code-based and print-based academic literacies, they will continue to work on the sidelines of mainstream schooling and be seen only as either useful extensions or helpful interventions for high-performing and at-risk students respectively.

An accepted version of this published article can be downloaded from