Monday, April 18, 2011
September 1994 should be regarded as a landmark in the recent history of literacy studies. Or maybe it should be spring 1996. Either will do, because the autumn of 1994 was when the New London Group first met, and 1996 the date when their jointly authored paper ‘A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies’ was first published in the Harvard Education Review. To explain: New London is the name of the place in the US where the group met, where Courtney Cazden, Bill Cope, Norman Fairclough, Jim Gee and Mary Kalantzis, joined forces with Gunther Kress, Allan Luke, Carmen Luke, Sarah Michaels, Martin Nakata and Joseph Lo Bianco to discuss how literacy pedagogy might adapt to suit the changing context of the late twentieth century. Despite the impressive range of expertise it was an ambitious undertaking, but one that was nothing if not generative and, with the benefit of hindsight, highly influential. By the time the book Multiliteracies was published, the project had gathered momentum, had attracted new voices and was beginning to influence debate amongst literacy educators in much of the English-speaking world, and elsewhere too. At this year's AERA conference the group re-formed -well not all of them - but it was an impressive line-up. There was a fair dose of nostalgia, some great photos of New London in which they all (surprise, surprise) looked much younger and plenty of evidence that they all have more to contribute. Maybe the multiliteracies banner is a little jaded, but it's influence is still felt.