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Multimodal Composing: Claims & Implementation

Fall Faculty Meeting
First Year Writing, 2014

To revisit in an iterative and reflective manner, recall our AQ 2013 Fall Faculty Meeting: Toward Some Shared Vocabulary and Assumptions: Literacy & Technology.

Maybe more than one thing is possible …

Let’s recap:

 Multimodal composing refers to the purposeful and rhetorical integration of different meaning-making modes—alphabetic text, sound, video, gesture, color, animation, photographs, drawings—in order to achieve an intentional, rhetorical effect.

 Multimodality is not “new” — it’s how humans have always naturally communicated; what is new is our field’s attention to it. 

 Claims for multimodal composing in First Year Writing classrooms

  Moving students from consumption of texts to production

 If composition instruction is to remain relevant, the definition of “composition,” “writing,” and “texts” needs to grow and to change to reflect the world’s and people’s literacy practices

 Intellectually stimulating and engaging

 Acknowledges the materiality and physicality of writing and literacy, especially in the context of technology and our teaching and learning spaces

 Fosters deep explorations of rhetorical principles and rhetorical sensitivity

Claims against multimodal composing

 That’s not writing; I teach writing

 It looks amateurish, cartoonish, gimmicky, childlike, less rigorous, less scholarly than other, more traditional or familiar texts, such as monomodal, linear, alphabetic-text based essays

 Students who are accustomed to instructors telling them exactly what they need to do, how to do it, in what order, with what materials, what it’s going to look like, and how it will be read, may find multimodal composing time consuming and frustrating 

Integration opportunity #1: 
The multimodality of  linear, alphabetic-text based essays

You can also help students learn to see the multimodality of “traditional” writing by asking them—once they have finished a “traditional” paper—to write in response to the following prompts: 

Please write an explanation for the layout of the page (or pages) you are turning in. Why did you choose the typeface(s) you did? Why did you choose the kind and size of paper you did? Why did you use the margins that you did? Why did you put your name where you did? Why did you break paragraphs where you did—and why did you show paragraphs the way you did (that is, if you indented paragraphs or used two returns between them or used a large capital letter in front of each one, why did you make that choice)? Please list and explain every single design decision you made in presenting this work.

The questions above can help students see the choices that “traditional” written composition usually overlooks, and so can start a discussion into when and why students might want to be more attentive to experimenting with audience expectations about differing genres. (Wysocki, Compose Design Advocate Instructor’s Manual, p.5)

Integration opportunity #2: 
Digital literacy, visual communication, typography, remix & remediation, audio, video:

Integration opportunity #3: 
Shipka’s multimodal task-based framework for composing

Rather than requiring students to produce a thesis-driven, linear print essay that is, more often than not, intended for the instructor alone, students approach this objective by contextualizing it in ways that are of interest or importance tothem. They decide how, why, where, and even when that argument based on specific readings will be experienced by its recipient(s)

 The product(s) students will create in response to a given assignment 

 The operations, processes, methodologies that will be (or could be) employed in generating that product 

 The resources, materials, and technologies that will be (or could be) employed in the generation of that product 

 The specific conditions in, under, or with which the final product will be experienced

See Shipka’s remediatethis for examples of students’ projects and their statements of goals and choices” (SOCG) in which they articulate their projects’ purposes, contexts, and audiences for their work; detail and justify their selections; explain how their choices serve the overall goals of the project; and evaluate how the choices made allowed them to accomplish the goals other combinations of choices would not have.