My research interests are grounded broadly in literacy. However, I am most interested multiliteracies, and visual/multimodal literacies. My research focuses on the development of literacy in children and adolescents as they transact with a variety of texts, in particular visual and multimodal texts (e.g., picturebooks, picturebook apps, comics, illustrated novels, etc.), and the pedagogical approaches that support the use of these texts in classrooms and other contexts. This interest stems from personal experiences using multimodal texts such as comics, graphic novels, films, photographs, and propaganda posters in my own classroom as a high school English Language Arts teacher. The challenges I encountered using these texts in my classroom led to questions about how best to approach these texts pedagogically and how best to support readers in their literacy experiences. Even though students today are growing up in the "digital and visual" age, they were not necessarily equipped to make sense of texts that draw from more than one mode of communication (e.g., image or sound).
My current research examines the literacy practices that teachers and students develop as they make sense of, use, and produce visual and multimodal texts in various sociocultural contexts. For example, in my dissertation, I use a case study approach and ethnographic methods to examine the literacy practices that develop around multimodal texts as teachers and students in English language arts (ELA) and science classrooms take up comics in these contexts for the first time. Preliminary analysis suggests that regardless of the classroom content area or school context both teachers and students approach comics using traditional, ELA practices (e.g., summarizing plot, discussing author’s purpose, making connections, etc.). While further analysis is still underway, I suggest that inexperience with comics and multimodality causes teachers and students to draw on familiar English oriented literacy practices when utilizing these texts in classroom settings for the first time.