Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Not Always as It First Seems: Thoughts on Reading a 3D Multimodal Text

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Not Always as It First Seems: Thoughts on Reading a 3D Multimodal Text

Article excerpt

For some years, it has been argued that 'literacy pedagogy now must account for the burgeoning variety of forms that are becoming increasingly significant in the overall communications environment' (The New London Group, 1996, p. 60). Indeed, students are active consumers and producers of a very wide range of text, including books, newspapers, magazines, movies, radio, television, DVDs, SMS, Youtube, web pages, Facebook, blogs, twitter, MSN, podcasts, iPods, and online games. In the face of this present day reality, traditional forms of literacy are necessary but not sufficient. Students need to be multiliterate.

The multiliterate individual, in addition to being able to use traditional texts (print and paper, as well as face-to-face oral encounters) will be also able to use digital and electronic texts that have multiple modes. S/he will not only be able to work with different modes but will 'use appropriate literate practices in ... different contexts' (Anstey & Bull, 2006, p. 21). Anstey and Bull also observe that, over the centuries, 'considerable time and effort has been spent teaching about reading the words--but rarely about reading the pictures' (p. 108).

This article considers the reading of a multimodal, but predominantly visual, text--a student-created 3D animation. The discussion illustrates how the meaning communicated through visual texts, even those which are apparently simple or straightforward, is potentially complex and even ambiguous. It is argued, therefore, that the teaching of 'reading' must also embrace visual literacy and the critical analysis of the meanings being communicated. In the text considered in this article, whilst a straightforward 'words only' moral is presented by the author, a range of meaning-making resources in the 3D environment reveal potential generalisations and possibly unintended meanings.

The text being considered

My safety rule is a 3D animation found on the showcase section of the Kahootz web site, which is available at http://www.kahootz.com. Kahootz is 3D multimedia software designed 'to empower children aged from seven to 15 to create fantastic 3D environments that incorporate animation, linking [and] sound. It provides students in the primary and secondary years with an open-ended set of 3D construction tools' (Maggs, 2008, p. 28). The author of this article has no connection with this item of student work other than finding it on public display on the Kahootz web site. (1)

My safety rule takes the form of a 'choose your own adventure' story of a didactic type and with a moral outcome typical of the genre (Choose your own adventure, 2009). On this showcase, the teacher has documented some background information about the task, which for brevity won't be repeated here. It should be noted that the work included considerable planning and a storyboard of 16 scenes, from which the finished piece was developed. This is available on the web site.

The piece is very short and it can be viewed in well under a minute. However, in terms of time commitment and the grasp of the technology, My safety rule represents a substantial and quality piece of work for a student in the upper primary years. The piece was developed in an earlier version of Kahootz when sound was not as easily integrated is it now is. Consequently, the author has used speech bubbles to communicate dialogue where recorded voice would now be the more obvious mode of choice.

A viewing of the piece shows what the safety rule is, and it is ostensibly a simple one which, in the words of the author in the final scene, is to 'never accept a stranger's gift'. Despite its brevity and simplistic message, the piece provides a platform to discuss a range of affordances of the 3D environment.

Kress and van Leeuwen's (1996) analytic framework is used to discuss the affordances employed and the meaning conveyed. This framework considers the visual affordances which communicate interpersonal meaning, representational meaning and compositional meaning. …

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