Saturday, March 26, 2005

Can we be multi-modal?

Perhaps the schism between writing on paper and writing through a computer will fade as we move to truely multi-modal forms.

I've noticed that the division between the two, (which I think plays itself out at the Cs in panels that are either all technology or no technology) may be of our own making.

My students will happily combine oral and visual modes of composing. They will work with paper and pencil, word processor, and/or in HTML to "get to" various audiences. I've also seen students work across modes while they are drafting. Has anyone else noticed similar patterns?


At 2:59 PM, Blogger Scott Rogers said...

Do you really think there's a schism? I ask because even though I'm kind of the technology guy in my department, I still default to papers and essays as the medium.

A while back, a friend of mine taught a composition class based on This American Life, where the students essentially wrote four acts and recorded them as a Sarah Vowell-ish audio essay. A neat concept, I thought.

Next semester, I'm going to begin re-thinking how I teach Composition (in an honors class), and I'm going to try to institute some of the things I've been working on, lately.

The thing I really fear is that I'm gong to have to spend more time teaching the technology than I want to.

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I'm not sure there's a schism either. I think what happens is that you choose, generally, a medium for delivery. So you might go the C's and read a paper on blogging. Or you might in another context, play a flash presentation to describe a book you've read.

I think the schism comes we generally use one media at time, though that's submerging. So you'll writing center tutors reading a print out of a paper, but responding to the writer via email. Or you'll see something like (tip of hat to Rich Rice [] on this find).

Grafedia is a project where you leave a word written in and underlined in blue, usually as an email address where the word is addressed to (for an example send a blank email to People who know about grafedia stumble upon the word -- see it on a side walk, billboard, grafitti, and use their cell phones and send an email to the ^word^ and then get an image or fuller explanation back.

But anyway, it's an example of multimodal - a word signals some other media, and use technology at hand to call it up (literally if you're using a cell phone).

At 11:31 PM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

I hope I'm not contributing to any perceived schism--I believe in multi -modalities as being extremely important to helping students learn. sounds cool. I'm going to try it.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger sharon said...

Hm....... thanks all. You've given me quite a bit to think about.

Perhaps since we're all "techies" we see less of a division, but I think the fact that people even describe themselves as "techies" or "non-techies" divides how we operate in the classroom into two distinct groups. Most of my department still operates as if "on paper" is the only way to "really" communicate. Though this is changing, it takes a conscious effort to integrate other modes into the classroom. I guess that is what I am defining as a schism.....

My students look at me like I'm nuts when I ask them if they consider themselves "techies". Even in my little, rural school they all consider the computer, DVD, ipod.....or whatever as an automatic extension of themselves. They would never consider writing done in and for electonic formats as not "real" writing.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger clc said...

I've been trying to respond to this for days, but have been having trouble with the commenting function. Very frustrating!

Though I still collect papers as hard copy, I do see that students vary greatly in their methods of producing work. Some write a paragraph in pencil then go to the computer. Some write a whole draft before going near the computer. Others claim they no longer even know how to write "by hand". For some, it is entirely natural to insert graphics such as photos or word art into their papers; others would never even think of it. I think their comfort level with the technology determines most of this.

I'm always uneasy about how much technology to "force" on them. As someone else commented, I don't want to spend a lot of time teaching the software, and I don't want anxieties about the technology to impede the writing process.

At 2:35 AM, Blogger Jane said...

I was really interested in the views emerging here - mainly because my initial interest in blogs came from a perception that it was a great way for 'non-techie' students and teachers (like me!) to communicate: all the benefits of being at the heart of the internet - and a terrific ease of access.

I now feel that I could probably improve on what I do with blogging in my classes - and that I need to expand my tech. skills in order to do so. But I still don't feel there's a great divide. And the last thing I want is for the technology to dominate what we do.

At present, because I guess we all feel at home with blogging, there's the same 'voice' coming through the students' writing in their blogs as there is in class. But, and this is an area I'm really interested in, the blogging 'voice' is actually nearer to the students' oral communication than to their writing. Because they are ESL students, that is a terrific bonus in fact!

I realize that this is a slightly different approach from the rest of your comments! Sorry for taking it off into a different direction!

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

Jane, please DO take the conversation in another direction! Your observations about blogging with ESL students are important--many of us teach students who are former ESL students, or we teach ESL. SO keep those ideas coming!

At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Shannon said...

I believe that there is indeed a schism. I will go so far as to say that multi-modal writing/literature will get to a point that it will be a separate genre from literature as we know it today. Don't you see how even this web blog, a form of multi-modal writing itself, differs from standard literature? There are links on here, paragraphs, conversations, not many but a few pictures...and so forth. The reactions and feelings you get when you are able to link to another web page, or see the pictures are much different than they would be if we were simply reading the plain text on a paper. By seeing the pictures played out for us, or by being able to link to a whole other article related to the topic, so many more doors are opened! Pictures bring emotion, hyperlinks bring in the technology and quick-paced conventionality of the world, and conversations bring life and personality to the text. Looking at multi-modal writing is a completely different form of literature than words words words words words books!
Okay, admittedly I happened to stumble upon this blog while looking for some sources for my multi-modal paper about multi-modal literature and how it may be a potential gateway to illiteracy. Ironic, no? This is an excellent topic, by the way. A very controversial and heated one as well.
I also found grafedia to be one of the most intruiging and innovative ideas I have found concerning multi modal writing and publishing. I may even start it up at our own small college in Columbus, Indiana.
Well, it was lovely to have read you. I enjoyed the post, and this exciting topic of discussion. Thank you for some insight and information for my final paper.

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