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Embracing Multimodal Learning in Early Childhood Education

  • 10 Pages
  • Published On: 18-12-2023

Letter to the Editor of the Nursery World for a special issue

Dear Editor.

I am u1716078 an undergraduate level 5 Student in the early childhood study at University of East London Stratford Campus. My main aim of writing you this letter is for a special issue about the importance of multimodal learning in the early years setting. This letter will explore in detail the content of multimodality, the art and the reggio emilia approach as two the practical examples to support and create the multimodal environment in the early years setting.

Multimodal Learning

In recent years, the development of teaching has made a huge impact On the education system. The introduction of technology has brought a change in our school system in one way or the other, through the way people live, work, play and communicate, due to the way technology has gone wild .in today era, many children are very much exposed to internet and mobile devices as to acquire information and increase in knowledge of the world around them [Moll et al., 1992]. But in spite of all these technology many early years practitioners have not developed deep knowledge on implementing the multimodal learning approach into practice. Majority of the early years practitioners are still struggling on how to provide an enabling environment that can accommodate the interest of every individual child. The learning environment is not practically utilised by the children .The environment might look multimodality but children are not practically engaging in the resources, children are still experiencing the old way of teaching and learning, where they sit and listen to the teacher talking and asking questions [Kress, 1997]. Communication has to move forward, the environment needs to be accommodated and challenged That is the reason multimodality comes into play, where children learning will be supported with diverse experience, where the children will construct and pilot tier activity. Multimodality can be seen as the process of learning whereby children can communicate and express in a variety of ways such as verbal and nonverbal instead of just written and or spoken language [Yelland, 2008]. According to [Pahl and Rowsell, 2005; 26], multimodality can refers to a notion of communication that combine the written, the visual, the gestural and the tactile into one entity, multimodal text which include sounds, music, written and spoken words, pictures and animations .on the other hand mode can be described as anything that communicate meaning mode is shaped and organised in a meaning making way and it is influenced by culture [Kress, 2014]. It means one mode could have a different interpretation due to the influence of culture therefore how children engaged with the available modes has a significant impact on their learning and communication for example children can draw, dance, even use gestures to communicate their thought and ideas let consider a child who has difficulties in communication ,the combination of modes like music and dance during activities will offer the child the opportunity to be included in the learning, this is the reason early years practitioners should ensure children are not restricted to assess some different resources in a multimodal environment as they start the early years education restricting them to multimodal Whatsapp expression will create barriers in their learning process [Yelland,2008]. Multimodality has a very significant impact in promoting a child -centred learning .Multimodality empowers children to assess different method of expression through a multi-dimensional approach. Multimodality offer the practitioner an opportunity to design an inclusive learning experience whereby children’s unique knowledge and strength will be explored [Moll et al.1992].However the learning environment should incorporate a wide range of open-ended resources such as book , music section, outdoor area, home corner, role play area, costume and puzzles so as to accommodate the interest of every individual child [Kress et al.,2014]. In order to give children space and time to communicate and explore as they wish to [Mellgren and Gustafsoon, 2001, p. 174]. In addition the feature of multimodal environment include text or object and the meaning can be expressed beyond time and space which is referred to as narrative environment the objects are used as everyday interaction as it is linked to the experience which shows that children are the active and leading agent in their activity in multimodal learning [Mellgren and Gustafsson, 2011]

Multimodal environment is an enabling environment that accommodate the interest of every child, an environment which is positive and supportive, where the children can have opportunity to explore their environment take decision on their own play and choose what they want to do because children are the active agent in their learning process while the adult is to support them [Allen et al., 2020]. Ultimately multimodal environments create room for practitioners to observe children's knowledge and support their strength in order to ensure that every child is included in the activity which is also supported by the art as the link to multimodal learning. .Multimodal environments further enable the children to use diverse modes in their learning and communication instead of experiencing the mono-modal environment which restricts and disadvantages them in their learning [Charles and Boyle, 2014]. Similarly, multimodal environments increase children’s cooperative learning, this to say as art is linked to multimodality children communicating in a variety of ways offer them the opportunity to communicate and interact in a collaborative manner, which will promote their knowledge and ideas [Moll et al, 1992]. On the other hand, multimodal environments promote novelty in the classroom. In other words children need to experience diverse activities in their learning if not learning will feel boring and the children will lose focus in their engagement, however multimodal learning makes learning look new and exciting and also provide various sensory stimulation [Charles and Boyles, 2014]. Ultimately multimodal environments empower the quality of learning in the early years setting in the sense that children will participate in different dimensions learning like storytelling, exploring, interacting listing [Charles and Boyles, 2014]. Multimodal environment offer the children the opportunity to develop all round multiple skills modes this is where children focuses on visual ,communication, using painting and drawing to interpret meaning

The Reggio Emilia approach and the multimodal learning approach offered children the opportunity to choose the way they will like to communicate and explore the world using multiple modes This approach was developed after the second world war by Loris Malaguzzi in the city of Northern Italy in order to support the children under the age of six years to learn in the community and with other people [Nutbrown and Abbott, 2009, p.1]. And it has a strong link to multimodal learning, one of the significance of reggio emilia approach is that reggio emilia acknowledge that children are competent, and capable learners central to their work, teachers being the facilitators and their learning partners beside the children. the multimodal learning and the reggio emilia approaches both provide opportunity for children to communicate in a multimodal way such as drawing, drama play, gesture ,music and talking, because children are in the centre of their learning .Similarly the reggio emilia approach emphasises that children express themselves through their hundred languages which also enable children to utilise their creativity, the hundred languages the children are using signify that creativity offer children the opportunity to engage with their environment, discover new ideas [Boyds and Bath, 2017, p.197].Ultimately the hundred languages of the reggio emilia approach provide the children the autonomy and chance to communicate and express themselves in a variety of ways .This approach protect the right of children as to be recognised and valued, to be the pilot of their own learning providing them the skills and ability to communicate and socialize with others. As this will allow them to communicate and understand their environment and where they belong [ Edward, 1998, p.3]. The reggio emilia approach can be seen as one of the ideal model of the early years learning which allow children to be creative by using different modes to communicate and express themselves Nutbrown and Abbott [2009]. The reggio emilia promote and value the interest of every individual child responsibility their discovery, exploration, participation of the family and community this is to say, in reggio emilia the use of text, images, audio are used during interaction among the children and the practitioners. However, dancing and movement in reggio emilia is a very important part of day to day routine. One of the distinguishing characteristic of the reggio emilia is that it sees children as competent and capable learners putting children at the centre of their learning [Nutbrown and Abbott,2009,p.2] .on the other hand the approach view teachers as the supporters and guidance alongside the children,, in other words practitioners have a very active role and responsibility in order to ensure that, the image of every individual child is respected and valued . Similarly the reggio emilia approach believes in offering children the opportunity to explore and find the real meaning of life themselves in other words practitioners should listen to their communication and language instead of providing the answer for them as adult listen to children will give them the opportunity to think about what the answer should be [Scott, 2001, p.22]. Furthermore in reggio emilia approach children are not to be judged for not able to understand or achieved in their learning process. However, reggio emilia emphasis on the importance of children to be respected and the practitioners trusting the children. Ultimately the reggio emilia approach focused on learning should not be based on one particular set of program but rather it should be based on children’s own interest and capability as this will offer them the opportunity to construct their own learning and be the active role, collaborating with their peers and the practitioners. [Nutbrown and Abbott, 2009] therefore the report of the reggio emilia approach is very significant, as it connects with multimodal learning approach because they put children in the centre of their learning and enable them to join the multimodal learning approach, which encourages the children to express their voices through the use of different modes of the own choice for instance the children can use resources in the classroom to communicate such as painting, musical instrument, puzzles and mark making [Moss,2016].

In reggio emilia approach, classroom is spacious with plenty of light coming through the windows giving the children the opportunity to play both outside and inside of the classroom and the resources and material available for them will enable them to explore their interest and learning. This practice also has a link with the content of multimodality, because it promotes children’s multiple learning styles in order to explore and develop their learning skills. In other words, the children will then have opportunity to collaborate and put their different learning ideas into practice in an environment design for them to learn and explore [Wood, 2010,.p.12] . In addition to the reggio emilia approaches, children learn in different ways according to their choosing styles of learning [Vasudevan, 2014] [Hwang , 2014]. Stated that different learning styles in the classroom will help practitioners to support every individual child by using teaching method that will suit every child .Furthermore in reggio emilia the emphasis is that learning should not base on one set of curriculum but rather it should be focused on children interest as this will create an opportunity for them to lead their learning and have an active role to collaborate with their peers and teachers [Nutbrown and Abbott, 2009].

The Reggio Emilia can be reported as one of the ideal models of early years learning [Moss, 2016]. However Reggio Emilia approach is based on the philosophy of the theorists of Vygotsky, Brunner and Dewey. The feature of the Reggio emilia is to enable the children to use their own way of communication which include cognitive, the gestural, and expressive in an environment set for them [Yelland, 2008]. In addition, the approach emphasizes the foundation of the children’s learning as this will pave way for them to make a decision on their learning goals in order to experience some sorts of long or short -term educational oriented project curriculum. In reggio emilia approach, it argued that, there is no set curriculum for the children rather it provides the children the opportunity to express themselves through the use of art activities because art is tools through forms such as role play, drawing, music and movement [Nutbrown and Abbott, 2009, p.52]. Therefore there is a very strong connection between the reggio emilia and the multimodal learning, because both approaches acknowledge the important of promoting and widening interpretation of learning. On other hand, both approaches focused on the fact that the children use their sense and the different modes to express themselves for example in reggio emilia children use different modes to communicate and express and understand the world around them which is also the basic element of multimodal learning.

Art approach and multimodal learning, art is another approach in promotion to multimodal learning in the early years setting. Art cannot be defined either in a conventional format or theories this is because they have their own communication system. With the art children are free to choose what they want to say and how they want to say it . Art offers the children the opportunity for creativity and enables them to develop social skills in their learning journey [Mathew, 2008] Furthermore art is an expression of thought , feeling, attitude, ideas in other words children can use multiple material like music, paper, leaves, chalks, movement or role play to express themselves. On the hands art enable children to communicate ideas effectively this is because with art there is no wrong or write, no limitation or rules [Vasudevan, 2014]. However it will help them to be Versatile in their learning because children are capable and they have the potentials in them to learn, therefore they needed to be supported in their learning. However the art provide opportunity for children to engage in different forms such as drama, drawing, puppet, painting, as tools to communicate without limiting themselves a specific activities. This is why it is very essential for all the early years’ practitioners to begin the approach of multimodality into practice so as to break children away from fear of learning in order to support and build their confidence and self-esteem in their learning [Ogier, 2017]. In art approach the idea is to develop children’s learning that focuses on their interest .Similarly there are three forms of art which include the visual art, the literary and the performance art .these are all the different forms of modes that children can be used to communicate thought and ideas, which is linked to multimodality as the art is connected with the idea of communicating with multimodality and through the different form of art, in order to express their feeling and thoughts freely which they would have been disadvantage if they were limited to work. Ultimately with the different forms of art children will be empowered to collaborate with others and build their social skills, offering them opportunity to communicate new ideas and new experiences [Case and Dlley, 2014]. Art creates room for research in other word children will have the opportunity to explore their environment move freely, gather information and communicate about themselves in a better way that they will not be judged or humiliated, no fear of not doing it right [Leavy, 2015].

Looking at the art approach in theoretical aspect and philosophers Dewey [1934, p.254] argued that art breaks away the barriers of social interaction and commitment in children’s life. He also stated that the important of art in children’s life is not only to educate them rather it is for them to communicate as Theodotou [2015] reveals that, art promotes self -expression and limits the social barriers and offer opportunity for them to interact and communicate with one another through different method from their usual modes of interaction. Art has a very strong link to multimodal learning approach because it is a multimodal activity that focuses on the interest of children

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In addition art enables children to build their knowledge, promote their coordination , increase their fine motor skills and also offer them opportunity to interact with others, it also helps them to develop emotional and social skills [Eisne, 1998]. On the other hand, art is generally children's part of forms of free play that pave way for them to participate in their learning process which will be a disadvantage to them not to fulfil their potentials. Art also allows children to develop their communications skills which offer them opportunity to play and communicate creatively with others [Theodotou, 2015]. However, art is interconnected to multimodality as both approach emphasis on learning which is multi-layered and is focused on children’s own interest. Meanwhile, these approaches should be implemented in the early years setting, because it is a natural way of engaging children in activities in order to offer them opportunity to feel confident and independent explore freely alongside others this is to say if art is to be implemented in their learning, children will communicate well they will go wild Similarly as art approach is linked to multimodality in learning Aim appealing that the early years practitioners ensure that these approaches are implemented into their teaching system as to allow children to assess a multimodal environment which will encourage their learning and creativity

In conclusion, it has been explored the content of multimodality and multimodal learning, the importance and the multimodal environment in the early years setting. This paper has also discussed the two approaches of learning the art and the reggio emilia in connection with multimodality. On the other hand, this paper has explored how these approaches offer children an opportunity to communicate in different modes, explore, collaborate and be the constructor of their own activities in reggio emilia children using their hundred languages to communicate . This paper acknowledges that both the approaches have a very strong link with multimodal learning because the both emphasise on children interest and children being in the centre of their learning.


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