Multimodality — it is a buzz word that tends to bring forth mixed emotions for both professors and students alike. Technology seems to be here to stay, and with the emergence of digital media platforms (social media, eBooks, blogs, and digital learning structures), it has become increasingly more imperative for English composition instructors to expose students to the conventions of writing in these types of mediums. As an incoming English composition teacher, I consider it my duty to prepare students for writing across the curriculum, as well as for life beyond the walls of an academic institution. In previous blog posts, I have thoroughly discussed my intention of structuring the course as a methods-process based design in lieu of product-based only. However, as Alexander Reid explains, “Some writing instructors view emerging technologies with great enthusiasm; others view them as a threat” (185).
Being from a pre-technological advancement era, I understand the apprehension in embracing multimedia components in a college-level classroom focused on writing. With only sixteen weeks per semester and classes that last only fifty minutes three times a week, there is so much to be covered. The question becomes, how do I effectively teach students grammar instruction, writing instruction, composition theory (so they understand the why behind what they are being asked to do), as well as how to write for multiple audiences not only within varying genres but also across numerous modes of publications/platforms?
The question is actually quite daunting, and while I find myself in this very scenario, I try to remain focused on Reid’s perspective, “Writers write. A course that takes as its objective the development of writers must begin and end with writing as an activity, and the amount of writing that students do should not be limited by the instructor’s ability to respond to the writing” (187). Bingo! My takeaway is this — just keep students writing! Regardless of the platform used, genre, or audience targeted, all writing and assignments do not need to be instructor graded. Since writers write, what better way to continuously support the course objectives and learning outcomes than to consistently provide students the opportunity to . . . JUST WRITE!
Keeping the concept of “writing” in mind, while attempting to continuously expose students to multimodal writing, I have begun to design unit four of my English 1101 course design. The final project/essay will incorporate light research and multimodality. Students will research a topic (still working on the exact nature and/or origin of the topic) and compose an annotated bibliography to organize their research and prepare for English 1102 (the second course of the one-year sequence). Students will be expected to write a summary/analysis of research that will be relatively short, approximately 2-3 pages plus works cited page.
Next, students will utilize the same research information from the essay and create a multimodal project.
Examples of multimodal mediums that may be incorporated into the final product are blog posts, brochures, webpages, and PowerPoint presentations.
The purpose of the assignment is to teach students first-hand how writing can be adapted not only across various genres but also across varying mediums. Technology is here to stay, and finding a way to incorporate said technology in composition classrooms will only strengthen students’ confidence in the art of writing, as well as provide real-world examples of why the concepts taught in English composition are of vital importance to life outside of academia.
Altmann, Gerd. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/light-bulb-think-idea-solution-2010022/.
Altmann, Gerd. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/interaction-social-media-abstract-1233873/.
Pexels. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/photos/adult-diary-journal-notebook-book-1850177/.
Reid, Alexander. “The Activity of Writing: Affinity and Affect in Composition.” First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice, edited by Coxwell-Teague, Deborah and Ronald F. Lunsford, Parlor Press, 2014, pp. 184-210.
Tumisu. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/blog-blogging-blogger-computer-492184/.
The pendulum is swinging, and with each tick of the clock, I find myself getting closer and closer to that first moment of comprehension — the one where I face twenty-six incoming freshman students that are as apprehensive of taking a writing course as I am teaching it for the first time. Did I design my curriculum to best meet the needs of my students? Are my learning outcomes in line with the course objectives? Are my assignment guidelines structured in a format that facilitates both clarity and cohesiveness? Is the sequencing and scaffolding design of the semester’s assignments logically chronological? As Teresa Redd references, “Talkin bout Fire Don’t Boil the Pot” (146). In other words, studying composition pedagogy may prepare me for understanding the needs of students, and may offer direction on how to best design the course, but all of this does not TEACH the students WRITING; hence, this is where the professor’s role comes into play.
After months of trying to absorb as much as I can researching different theoretical pedagogical perspectives, I now begin the process of mapping out assignments while considering the fundamental takeaways I feel are most critical to incorporate. Several takeaways stand out to me in the readings for this week and are highlighted below:
- Diversity in writing – “To develop students’ rhetorical knowledge and sense of authorship so that they can adapt writing to different purposes, audiences, and contexts” (Redd 147).
Coming from an occupational field outside of academia, I genuinely understand the need for students to be able to transfer writing skills from an academic to an applied setting. Learning how to write for audiences outside of the college classroom is something all students should be exposed to. Upon graduation, students may be tasked with various genres of writing: professional emails, corporate marketing, newspaper articles, social media postings, and for some, creative writing.
- We write to learn – “ . . . writing enables us to think in ways that are virtually impossible without writing because we can reflect upon our thoughts more easily when we can see and preserve them” (Redd 148).
I have seen this scenario play out daily while working in the KSU writing center. Sometimes, students will come into the writing center and feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. In this situation, after carefully reviewing the professor’s assignment guidelines, I will begin the freewriting and/or brainstorming process. Often times, students will start to develop a structure or pattern based solely upon what they have written in these brainstorming sessions. I associate this process directly with “we write to learn” — we don’t know what we know until we write it. Furthermore, students recognize the fact they DO know something about what they would like to write.
- Writing is a process – “We cannot truly teach writing without teaching the process of writing, for it is the development of flexible processes that will enable students to fulfill the wide range of writing tasks they will encounter in the university and beyond” (Redd 149).
As I have previously discussed in one of my recent blog posts, I believe teaching the processes of writing is very paramount in students’ success of not just freshman-level English composition, but I believe it is fundamental in helping students write BEYOND the current assignment. I met with a student just yesterday that has always enjoyed writing and has had great success in writing. For some reason, the current assignment was overwhelming them to the point they had writer’s block. I immediately began talking to the student to try and identify “processes” they had relied upon and typically used throughout the years that had seemed to work. Within a matter of a few moments, the student was writing again, which wasn’t due to anything I said other than encouraging them to draw upon their “processes.”
- Understanding different genres of writing – “Conventions make it easier for readers to comprehend a text, in large part because conventions fulfill readers’ expectations” (Redd 150).
Not only do students need exposure to writing across different genres for various types of audiences, but they also need to learn and understand the concept of genres and why they exist. For example, the characteristics of a personal email are quite different compared to the audiences’ expectations of a professional email. For one, professional emails typically require the writer to formally introduce themselves, persuade or inform their audience of a specific event/need, and request a call to action. Usually, none of those characteristics mentioned above would need to be included in a personal email. If students haven’t been introduced to various genres of writing, they won’t understand the needs and expectations of writing within those specific spaces.
- Multimodal writing – “To be truly literate, students need to choose appropriate technology for their role, purpose, and audience . . . At the same time, students need to incorporate technology to save time, paper, and energy” (Redd 151).
Multimodal writing is prevalent in today’s society, and I suspect it isn’t disappearing any time soon. If anything, it is here to stay. Understanding the prescriptive guidelines in multimodal writing and expression will help students identify and align with their intended audiences. For example, having students write a research essay on a topic of choice teaches and reinforces field research. Once the essay is completed, professors could have students compose a multimodal assignment (blog post, travel brochure, etc.) incorporating the same research as incorporated into the essay. This type of assignment would aid students in understanding how the same information can be presented in a multimodal and multidimensional environment.
Altmann, Gerd. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/tutor-coach-teacher-manager-407361/.
Altmann, Gerd. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/puzzle-planning-strategy-process-1686920/.
Altmann, Gerd. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/social-social-media-communication-3064515/.
Free-Photos. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/photos/audience-crowd-people-persons-828584/.
Iqbal, Mudassar. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/illustrations/webdesign-design-web-website-3411373/.
OpenClipart-Vectors. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/vectors/hand-pencil-pen-edit-eraser-write-160538/.
Reed, Teresa. “Talkin bout Fire Don’t Boil the Pot: Putting Theory into Practice in a First-Year Writing Course at an HBCU.” First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice, edited by Coxwell-Teague, Deborah and Ronald F. Lunsford, Parlor Press, 2014, pp. 146-166.