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Table of Contents


I. Introduction


II. Learning in a Multimodal Environment


III. How Does Multimodal Learning Work?


IV. Impact of Multimodial Learning/Teaching


V. Conclusion


VI. Links


VII. References




Multimodal learning/teaching provides the students with many alternative modes of learning. Not every student learns the same way and not every topic can be explained effectively in the same method.


Some of the key techniques that are used in multimodal teaching environments are: traditional lecture to small group presentations, role-plays, brainstorms, Q&A sessions, case studies, game show formats and interactive presentations using alternative learning spaces (ex: Second Life ).


Multimodal learning invites hands-on, interactive sessions that develop and enhance student's skills immediately as opposd to the dry academics and theory. According to advances using FMRI scans (see: [#how|How Does Multimodal Learning Works]), students that use a well designed combination of visuals and text can learn more than students that only use text.


To enhance content knowledge as well as reinforce interdisciplinary connections, multi-modal options for teaching and assessing (“best practices”) can be adopted to stimulate higher levels of thinking and conceptualization of information. Howard Gardner, a psychologist, professes in his Frames of Mind: A Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) (Different Ways of Knowing), that all humans possess many modes of cognition or ways to know. He defines the major modes as: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical-rhythmic, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Recently, Gardner has added the naturalistic and existentialistic intelligences to the original seven.



Multimodal instruction is communicated through a synchronisation of modes. In place of textbooks, instructors in a multimodal environment may use images (animated or still) and sound to convey the same instructions found in a traditional environment to their students. Other forms of media that are used in place of textbooks can be picture books, film/video, newspapers and online readings- really anything that can take the student out of the traditional lecture-based environment.


  • Types of Modes (In Depth)
    • Film/Video
    • Picture Books
    • Collabrative E-Learning projects
    • Web-based Training
    • Knowledge management
    • Role-playing
    • Game show
    • Group projects




An example of how Multimodal techniques can improve learning is in an analysis conducted bya news report commissioned by Cisco Systems


The article explains that multimodal learning (the use of many modes and strategies) is more effective than unimodal/traditional learning because it appeals to the growing needs and capabilities of learners.


Higher and effective learning is accomplished by adding visuals to verbal instructions according to a new report by Cisco Systems. The article further explains that students who use a strong combination of visuals and text learn more than students that use only text.


The reason for why multimodal learning works can first be explored by the activity of the human brain. According to new information on how we acquire knowledge , the brain has three types of memories: working, sensory and long term memories. The three types of memories play a cruical role in the student's process of learning. The teacher has to be aware that students use all types of memory and not just one.



The working memory has two buffers which play a role in how thinking gets done. First buffer is for storage of verbal or text elements and the second buffer is for visuals or spatial elements. The first and second buffer work together to strengthen understanding, however, overfilling either buffer can cause an overload of information and results in weakened learning.


Multimodal learning takes full advantage of the working memory to store and process information into the human brain. The article further explains that "multimedia is one modality of learning that can help students learn more efficienty when applied properly, because convergence--or sensory input simultaneously combined with new information--has positive effects on memory retrieval" (Metiri Group, 2008).


**List of multimodal principals prvoided by Cisco Systems (Metiri Group, 2008)****:**

1. Multimedia Principle: Retention is improved through words and pictures rather than through

words alone.

2. Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures

are presented near each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

3. Temporal Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and

pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

4. Coherence Principle: Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are

excluded rather than included.

5. Modality Principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation

and on-screen text.

6. Redundancy Principle: Students learn better when information is not represented in more

than one modality – redundancy interferes with learning.

7a. Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for low-knowledge learners than

for high-knowledge learners.

7b. Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for high-spatial learners rather

than for low-spatial learners.

8. Direct Manipulation Principle: As the complexity of the materials increase, the impact of

direct manipulation of the learning materials (animation, pacing) on transfer also increases








Quadrants I&II:

According to basic assessments provided by Cisco Systems, Inc. the average students scores increased by 21% on basic skills when engaged in non-interactive, multi-modal learning when compared to traditional learning modes.


Quadrants III&IV:

When the student engages in higher-order thinking using various multimedia, their learning skills increase by 32% over traditional learning modes.

(Metiri Group, 2008).

Source: (http://www.cisco.com/web/strategy/docs/education/Multimodal-Learning-Through-Media.pdf)


Impact on ESL Students

Findings seem to show that a multimodal approach, in conjunction with cooperative group work, has a significant impact on the academic success of ELL students. In using a multimodal approach to integrate language and content teaching, students with limited English proficiency can be supported to take part in interpretations of literary works in English. Furthermore, they will realize their interpretations in written academic discourse.






Thinking and writing digitally (youtube video)

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Multimodal learning/teaching is described as the use of many modes and strategies. The modes and strategies can help students learn more effectively if the multimedia is used in an appropriate learning mode. The way multimodal learning works can be best observed by the activity of the human brain. The brain's three types of memories: working, sensory and long term play a role in the process of student learning.


Alternative learning can be applied to many situations in the classroom. The traditional lecture-based and stale academic strategies employed by most school bodies have been proven less effective when compared to learning in multiple modes and media according to the impact of learning description by Cisco Systems, Inc.





Kentucky Department of Education Core Content for Assessment @




Whole Schooling Consortium @ www.coe.wayne.edu/wholeschooling/


“Inclusive Literacy Learning: Developing a Whole Language Partnership” @ www.coe.wayne.edu/wholeschooling/WS/WSPress/ArtInclLitLrning.html/


AERA conference presentation, Chicago, April 23, 2003 @ www.ets.org/research/dload/aera03-shore.pdf/


“ A Framework for using Multiple Intelligences in an ITS” by Declan Kelly 1 , Brendan

Tangney 2 1 National College of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland dkelly@ncirl.ie 2 ...




“Teacher Education and Multiple Intelligences (TEMI)”

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

Draft for AERA Presentation Only Please do not cite without permission from the

author Teacher Education and Multiple Intelligences (TEMI): A Case Study of ...











Adams, John C. (2006). Rhetoric's teaching and multi-modal learning. Retrieved May 5, 2008, from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-155568000.html


Early, Margaret, and Sondra Marshall. "Adolescent ESL Students’ Interpretation

     and Appreciation of Literary Texts: A Case Study of Multimodality."

     Project MUSE Scholarly Journals Online 64 (Mar. 2008): 377-397.

Fogarty, R. (1991 How to Integrate the Curriculum. Palatine: Skylight Publishing


Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of mind: A theory of multiple intelligences. New York; Basic Books


Gardner, H. (1999) The disciplined mind. New York: Penguin Books.


Kentucky Department of Education (1999) Core Content for Assessment


Reed, R. et al. (2004). Integrating the Arts into the Classroom;

The Multi-disciplinary Approach of a Faculty Learning Community.

Presented at the 2004 Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities by

Miami University Faculty, Honolulu.


Reid, A. et al. (2004). None of Us is as Smart as All of Us:

A Panel Exploring the Integration of Interdisciplinary Team Teaching into Academics,

the Classroom, and the College. Presented at the 2004 Hawaii International Conference

on Arts and Humanities by Eastern Washington University

and Spokane Community College Faculty, Honolulu.





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