New London Group

 A Pedagogy of Multi-Literacies: Concepts of Design

The term “Multiliteracies” immediately shifts us from the dominant written print text to acknowledge the many varied ways that literacy is practiced in the new millennium. The “New London Group” (a team of ten academics including James Gee and Allan Luke) came together in 1996 concerned about how literacy pedagogy might address the rapid change in literacy due to globalisation, technology and increasing cultural and social diversity. The result was a ”Pedagogy of Multiliteracies’ (Cope & Kalantzis 1996). They introduce a framework consisting of three elements of design to describe the activities of an individual as they identify, read and create new text using varying semiotic codes. The following three notions of design allow us to create patterns of meaning from the multi-literacies around us.

Available designs

Available designs include the grammars of language, various semiotic systems, and film, photography and gesture, which we draw from as creators of design.


Here we use the existing designs to create the new.

The Redesigned

The finished product of our work.

Semiotic codes

The identification of semiotic codes forms part of a new literacies metalanguage. The term ‘semiotics’ in its simplest form stands for the ‘study of sign’ or the social manufacture of meaning by systems of signs and how things are given meaning. You could also regard semiotic system as grammars for different modes of communication. In semiotics a ‘sign’, is something that represents something.

The New London Group (Cope & Kalantzis, 1996) suggest six design elements in the meaning making process, Linguistic meaning, Visual meaning, Audio meaning, Gestural meaning and Spatial meaning and the Multimodal patterns of meaning that are combinations of the above semiotic codes. Texts may employ one or more semiotic (sign, symbol, code) systems.

Here are some examples of text modes:

  • paper
  • electronic
  • live
  • multimedia.

Here are examples of semiotic codes:

  • Auditory Music, sound effects, silence
  • Gestural Facial expressions, body posture
  • Linguistic Grammar, punctuation, alphabets
  • Spatial Organisation of objects in a setting
  • Visual Still images, moving images, page or screen, layout, colour


This may help

 Harvard Educational Review 1996

This article by the New London Group explains the multi-literacies concept and its implications for teaching and learning.
Marc Prensky is an internationally acclaimed speaker, writer, consultant, and designer in the critical areas of education and learning. Marc coined the term digital immigrants and digital natives.