Multimodal Literacy: A New and Expanded Definition: February 2017


Multimodal Literacy-A “New” and Expanded Definition
Thomas Cornell, Ed.D.

Webster University

As literacy educators, we are expanding our definition of what it means to be literate in this digital age.  One term that has expanded the definition of being literate is multimodal literacy and is “relatively” new.  Some have defined multimodal literacy as the dynamic convergence of two or more communication modes within the same text and where all modes are attended to as part of meaning-making (The New London Group, 1996).  Picture books, comics, and graphic novels also fall into this category as they juxtapose pictures with text. Interpersonal communication, visual literacy, digital literacy, and writing literacy are also terms that we hear. Rather than expound on multimodal literacy in depth however, I thought you might find the following resources helpful as you plan your instruction.  I wish you the best in your search for developing exciting and rewarding lessons that integrate various modalities so that you and your students can produce motivating and thought-provoking experiences for learning.

Visual Resources is an extensive, easy to use CC image repository which provides “ready to paste” attribution information for use with the photograph.

Pixabay Image ( provides free public domain images.  Check the usage terms of CC license before downloading.

Wikipedia Commons ( is a free media repository.  Check the type of CC license and its usage before downloading.

Wikipedia: Public Domain Images

( lists many sources for images which lists several public domain images on the web.  Users are responsible for checking the copyright status of images before using them.

Audio Resources

Audio Library YouTube: ( offers a growing library of music for use in video making.   This is a very simple download process and music can be searched by genre, mood, instrument and duration.

ccMixer ( is a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under CC licenses.  You are free to download and sample from music on this site and share the results.  Some songs might have certain restrictions, depending on their specific license. Each submission is clearly marked with the license that applies to it.

Five Great Sources For Free-To-Use Audio: Clips & Sound Effects ( five different options for finding sound effects.

Comics and Graphic Novels Resources


Comics and graphic novel formats can be used to tell new stories, to retell old stories, and to inform and instruct as in information reports, book reports, text analysis, character studies, diaries, and even instructional manuals.

In conclusion, our continuing advances in technology require us to use multimodal methods of communication within our society and around the world. At Webster University, we now offer an online MA in Multimodal Literacy for a Global Impact.  If you are interested, please contact me for further information.

*(CC stands for Creative Commons) A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created.


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