This paper aims to identify multimodal designs for learning in diverse and developing contexts, where access to resources remains vastly unequal. Using case studies from South African education, the paper explores ways of surfacing the range of students’ resources which are often not noticed or valued in formal educational settings. The studies showcased here demonstrate how ethnographic and textually-based approaches can be combined. Opening up the semiotic space of the classroom through multimodal designs for learning is important for finding innovative ways of addressing access, diversity, and past inequalities. This is of relevance not only to South Africa, but a range of global contexts.
The paper argues that multimodal designs for learning can involve interrogating the relation between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’; harnessing students’ creative practices as resources for pedagogy; developing metalanguages for critical reflection; creating less regulated pedagogical spaces in order to enable useful teaching and learning practices.