Literacies@Sheffield presents

Valuing the Visual in Literacy Research

International Conference

Literacy Conference

4th- 5th July 2017

The Edge at the Endcliffe Village
Sheffield, S10 3ED

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How do we understand the relationship between literacy and the visual? This conference seeks to explore the many intersections between written and spoken language and the visual. Making sense of the visual in relation to literacy important in an age of social media and rapid change in representational practices. This has key implications for literacy education. By valuing the visual we are acknowledging the lived experience of children young people and adults in homes, communities and schools. This conference will explore the intersections between the visual, everyday life, representational practices and literacy.

Conference Information

International Literacies Conference


The Edge, 34 Endcliffe Crescent, Sheffield S10 3ED


Non-student full conference = £200

Non-student one day = £120

Student full conference = £150

Student one day = £85

Full Programme

Download the Valuing the Visual in Literacy Research full programme.

Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Dr Mona Sakr: Young children’s photographs: Beyond visual

Exploring and valuing children’s art-making provokes us to move away from a common sense perspective on the world, where we look for and at what we recognise, and towards a sense-making process in which we ‘join with and follow the forces and flows of a material’ (Ingold, 2011, p. 216). In this presentation, I will explore how we can engage with children’s art-making when we stop ourselves from attempting to ‘read’ children’s artwork as a process of representation and allow ourselves to engage with the multimodal, haptic and affective dimensions of their visual expression.

Ingold, T. (2011) Being alive: Essays on movement, knowledge and description. New York: Routledge.

Dr Mona Sakr is Lecturer in Education and Early Childhood with a special interest in children's art-making, play and pedagogy. She joined Middlesex in 2014 from the Institute of Education, where she was a Research Officer on a project looking at embodiment in digital learning environments. She earned her PhD in Education and Psychology from Oxford Brookes University, with a thesis which focused on children's digital art-making practices and the integration of digital art-making into the early years classroom. 

Dr John Potter: De-‘othering’ everyday visual practices: Dynamic literacies, third spaces and curation

Literacy research is concerned with exploring and representing the many ways in which humans make and share meanings in their everyday practices. These are essentially dynamic processes, ever changing in response to what Lievrouw and Livingstone refer to as the changed artefacts, practices and social arrangements of the new media age. For those of us who work in education, our research is concerned with what these changes afford learners in communities throughout life. Because the visual is one prime location of these dynamic literacies, we should perhaps ask questions about what and how it is represented inside and outside formal education. We may well find that the visual is still somehow ‘othered’ in research agendas as well as curriculum documents, located outside of print literacy as a residual category with many labels, among them: digital literacy, multimodal literacy, media literacy. This is not how everyday literacy practices work, of course, with text and image sharing the same pages and screens, underscored by sounds, touch and movement at home, in school and through all the spaces in between in which we move. It is all ‘literacy’. This talk will explore the pedagogical, political and personal implications of ‘de-othering’ the visual, placing it at the heart of a research agenda which is concerned with three main concepts: Dynamic Literacies as a way of framing all ‘literacy’; Third Spaces as a way of conceiving its locations and possibilities for shared meanings; and Curation as a way to think about identity, community and the digital, throughout the lifecourse.

John Potter is Reader in Media in Education at the UCL Knowledge Lab, part of the Department of Culture, Communication and Media at the UCL IOE, where he is Co-Programme Leader for the MA Digital Media, Culture and Education. John is a founder member of the DARE Collaborative (Digital Arts Research in Education). He has presented his research at many international conferences and seminars, and has published books and journal papers in the fields of media in education, and technology in education. Before joining UCL-IOE in 2007, John worked in primary teacher education at Goldsmiths College and at the University of East London. Before that he worked as a primary school teacher and local authority advisor.

Dr Fiona Maine: ‘Crows are foes!’: Exploring children’s responses to a visual storyworld

In this session, Fiona will share research that explores how 11 year old children playing a digital mobile game together engage with and immerse in its diegetic world. She demonstrates how such multi-modal narratives can offer rich opportunities for the development of children’s responses to text, promoting creative thinking and collaboration as they talk together to make sense of and extend the world of the ‘story’ that they encounter in the game. Situating her research within frameworks for literacy that look at reader responses, she proposes a framework that captures different orientations that children might take as they approach narrative mobile games, highlighting the times when their stances are aesthetic and fluidly responsive, and times when they are more strategic, critical and analytical. By focusing on a literacy activity that sits outside the formal curriculum, Fiona emphasises the value of bringing children’s out of school experiences into the literacy classroom, and the importance of acknowledging but not assuming that children have important knowledge and understanding of multi-modal texts that can be drawn on to support their literacy development in the classroom.

Fiona Maine is a lecturer in literacy education at the University of Cambridge. Her research investigates the dialogic interactions of children as they make meaning together from a variety of text modes, and she explores the language of their critical and creative thinking as they collaborate together. She supports teachers to develop their literacy practices, encouraging a broad notion of literacy that incorporates visual, moving image and digital modes of text, and highlights the possibilities afforded by working with non-verbal and ambiguous texts.

Professor Klaus Thestrup: Making the World – When visual methods are part of an experimenting pedagogy

This talk will outline a certain combination of research and pedagogy where visual methods play an important part. It will be based on recent and ongoing research around digital media where children pre-school teachers and researchers in different Danish kindergartens (children 3-6 years old) were communicating with each other online. This way of conducting research is called Next Practice Labs, where everybody involved has the opportunity to form the next practice through experimenting and playing. The ultimate perspective is that in a creative encounter between people of all ages and all cultures around the globe, the possibility exists that children and pre-school teachers can also be part of deciding how digital media might be used and what for.

Klaus Thestrup is an associate professor at Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Aarhus University, Denmark. He has over the years done practical research in and written about blended learning, children´s culture, pedagogy, play, digital media and drama.

Professor Kristiina Kumpulainen: Learning by Making – The educational potential of school-based makerspaces for young learners’ digital competencies

There is an urgent need for every citizen to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to participate in a complex and increasingly digitalised society. Digital competencies are listed among the Finnish government's key projects emphasising citizens’ confident, productive, creative and critical usage of digital technologies. Whilst there has been a range of European work that has focused on promoting digital competencies of all citizens, to date, limited research attention has been paid to the development of digital competencies among younger learners. Even less attention, has been paid into educational activities that position children as active, creative and critical investigators of and with digital technologies. In my talk, I will introduce an ongoing research project that investigates young learners’ (aged 6 to 12 years old) digital literacy practices and digital competence development in so called makerspaces in two Finnish primary schools. Makerspaces facilitate hands-on creative activities that enable participants to engage in personally meaningful projects using various digital tools, such as electronics, laser cutters and 3D printers. Drawing on sociocultural theorising and contemporary literacy theories, the project takes account of temporality and several inter-related levels of analysis, namely personal, relational and institutional levels in its inquiry into children’s development of digital competencies in school-based makerspaces. Based on the preliminary findings of the project, I will illuminate the learning opportunities children’s making activities appear to create for their digital competencies across operational, cultural and critical dimensions. I will also point out possibilities and challenges in the implementation of makerspaces in school settings.

Kristiina Kumpulainen is working as Professor of Education at Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. She is the founding member of the Playful Learning Center ( where she leads several research projects focusing on digital creative learning and education. She also holds an adjunct professorship at the University of Turku. She has spearheaded a number of externally funded research projects examining learning and education from the sociocultural and dialogic perspectives.

Literacy ConferenceLooking back on 2016's conference: 'Language, Literacy and Identity'

From the 1–2 July, delegates from around the world attended the School of Education’s International Conference. The sparkling array of keynote speakers and conference delegates gave papers around the topic of ‘Language, Literacies and Identity’.

Read the Conference overview here