Multimodal Composing in Classrooms: Learning and Teaching for the Digital World

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  1. Why teaching creating multimodal texts is important
  2. Citation Tools
  3. Multimodal Composing in Classrooms: Learning and Teaching for the Digital World
  4. People also read

Everyone has a role to participate; the teacher is the director with the cue sign. They move in the classroom. The learning noise with excited laughter is heard. Most teachers mediated student learning by providing strategies at the point when students needed them to help clarify and refine their thinking and their group composing processes.

In another study, what Cercone called Mr. She had a hard time articulating what she wanted to say. So we had to sit down after the fact, after she got all her video, and we spent a lot of time talking about how she could use titles, all the strength in her message, how she could more accurately say what she was trying to say. The social context of the class and the mediational work of the teacher facilitated student-to-student mediation that studies showed occurred throughout the composing process in every class.

Much of the collaborative talk in the studies occurred as students planned, made decisions, and solved problems during DV composing. We decided on a person that we thought would be a good leader for Rome base[d] on what he could do, like physical[ly]. Was he strong? Was he intelligent? This question-posing about characters is what good readers do as they engage with text in a reflexive way.

Analyzing topics and solving problems posed of the text are clear examples of collaborative inquiry for DV composing that also mediated their reflexive reading and interpreting of print. Collaborative written composing was also promoted in DV composing in almost every study. Filming and editing were opportunities for joint reflection in groups, as well. The stimulation and pleasure of working together prompted effortful attention. Can you help me? This sense of abilities spread across students presents a clear example of distributed intelligence, which drives participatory culture Jenkins, , and was a major component of these classroom spaces.

Another component prompting social engagement and student thinking was the sense of felt purpose for the DV composing endeavor, initiated and mediated by the teacher, but ultimately co-constructed by students through their composing activities. Successful teachers in the studies worked with students to co-construct an explicit sense of purpose for multimodal composing. When teachers introduced a strong sense of communicative and expressive purpose, students became engaged in DV composing processes for designing and producing their videos.

Focal and case study students in this research had a strong sense of which DV projects felt purposeful. They felt an active purpose in creating a video on their found poems from a novel and their music videos on a song important to them.

Why teaching creating multimodal texts is important

When social studies teacher Molly engaged her seventh-grade English Language Learners in making a DV about their stories of immigrating to the United States, she learned the sense of purpose they felt and learned it was the best way to introduce the unit on immigration Miller, a. For instance, Darrius Borowicz, created a DV story in response to a novel.

He chose to depict his vision of the importance of loyalty among friends based on his experience. In an impressive change, he came to class early and often stayed late, sometimes giving up his lunch period to work on his movie. He orchestrated a tragic scene, demonstrating to the actor her language and movements before filming, then edited the footage using quick cuts and dramatic music to amplify the shock.

He watched his movie over and over, sometimes talking to himself, sometimes singing along with the music he had imported, sometimes turning to a fellow student for assistance. I could stay here and work on this all day. Successful teachers sometimes struggled with the transition to new purposes with active roles for students.

Students did not engage as she had hoped. A quarter of the class never finished the video. For those who did, in the screening it became obvious that each was very similar to the others—with a still image on weather, sports, politics, and so on, following the listed requirements exactly.


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  • Creating multimodal texts.

The assignment was constructed not as purposeful interpretation, but just as a display of known information. Students complied with rules rather than designed meaning purposefully. Students explored their own lives, with the purpose of representing self and communicating to others, first in print, then designed as a DV.

A case in point was the political campaign for Brutus in Mr. This need for interpretation appeared in a social studies class where the history teacher treated history as an ongoing story that had to be reinterpreted and open to new evidence Lauricella, This consistent attitude toward historical knowledge as not fixed, but evolving, created a felt need for inquiry among his students.


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Instead of following a linear chronology, he posed big questions and themes to get at underlying conceptual issues and conflicts. The interpretive purpose for students to engage in DV composing, then, was to make sense of their inquiries into multimodal historical texts and to represent their historical analyses. Students took up that purpose as their own to compose DVs on their historicized perspectives on events e.

In Mr.

The video was a social inquiry into their school that included interviews of other students, teachers, and community members. The surprise seems to appear from the unexpected agency involved—all the decisions, actions, processes, and the guiding purpose of meaningfulness to students.

Citation Tools

This changed the attitude toward literature in school away from decontextualized facts on quizzes. It invited students to recontextualize the novel into an inquiry of their own high school. In that class and others students developed a sense of purpose for composing and new sense of self.

Diane, the director, took the leadership responsibilities. Their purposeful composing was closely connected to identity-making, a notion that echoes throughout the new literacies scholarship e. This inclusion of identity in purposeful multimodal composing opened the classroom to student lifeworlds. Students consciously drew on available cultural resources as strategies or remixes for their work in ways that changed their sense of interpretive competence. Recruiting the designs and cultural resources familiar to adolescents for representation provided opportunities for them to use their extensive media and other experiences as part of school learning.


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Students developed a new DV genre, the confessional, based on Reality TV shows, where one of the participants enters a private place to share real thoughts and feelings about situations, relationships, and events. Students took on the roles of characters in a confessional to discuss their real feelings about who was to blame for what happened in the play. The three witches, played by young African American women, took up a pose e.

This video provoked discussion in the class about who really was responsible. Hip hop was often used by students as sound tracks for their movies. In some cases, students rewrote the words. Every time the teacher mentioned genetics in one science class, students who had made a music video about genetics started singing their lyrics on genetics to the rhythm of a popular song Miller et al.

Tenth-grade students Goss, each wrote part of a rap for different sections of the Odyssey , videoed the performances, and edited the scenes into a movie. Miles was last to rap and he worked with the teacher after school to write a choral rap for the whole class, which they filmed to sum up the Odyssey in the spirit of a Greek chorus in gospel mode. Students were confused—why write it down and not read it? Inviting youth culture and student lifeworlds into the classroom functioned to open up the available resources for composing and learning New London Group, And we chose to make a—to have a student make a choice whether to stay at school or to drop out.

But you can show it. Connecting what seemed impersonal and distant to the personal and materially present was part of the affordance of DV composing. For the soundtrack, they used a haunting antiracist song suggested by one of their mothers. The class was stunned by the video. Materializing curricular concepts and texts by interanimating them with known cultural texts and everyday experience allowed students in many studies to reframe the curriculum as part of their lives, making the curricular concepts accessible and developing in students a deep sense of curricular understanding.

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Multimodal Composing in Classrooms: Learning and Teaching for the Digital World

Successful teachers saw multimodality as another means of making content accessible by engaging students in thinking about and learning the significance of concepts in the discipline through visual, aural, spatial, gestural, and other kinesthetic modes. With their extensive media experience students had tacit understanding of multimodal design. Hughes Knips, a showed sample videos, professional and student-made, and analyzed them with students to introduce a movie trailer assignment. The digital affordances of DV composing provided students with editing design tools of visual pacing, special effects, multiple sound tracks.

Students learned to use editing to layer meanings in the visual mode. This is a bad feeling. In their workgroups students spent time pondering issues of digital rhetoric, imagining audience and calculating how to design videos to grab attention and represent meaning multimodally. They played both parts in this imaginative dialogue—the composer and the viewing audience.

Why you guys running the other way?

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As students grew more attentive to design in classes Miller et al. Their dramatic opening represents love through a close-up of a handsome dark-haired young man bestowing a rose it seems to the viewer. These selections of angles, sounds, camera distance, music, gesture, movement—all show an advanced control of design and use of cultural and literary symbols to establish meaning. The romantic aria continues throughout, contrasting with the fast visual tempo of the violent shots.

At the end, a fade-in and a music change support the strong final message of speaking out about physical abuse. Drawing on and orchestrating all of these multimodal resources to persuade with a meaningful message provides a clear example of multimodal composing as literacy, that is, encoding meaning with available resources.

Teaching in a Multi-Modal World: Digital Writing with Digital Kids

Focusing explicit attention to design provided students with new modes for understanding, representing, and learning. Composing multimodally in this way required translating between modes, that is, representing understanding from one symbolic system e. At the same time, these students learned the content concept how the law and social services address interpersonal issues that was the focus of explicit curricular attention. Digital composing provides ease in creating these translations between symbol systems like image and written text, juxtapositions that provoke and develop thinking Dickson, The video of their group talk showed the three intently generating and evaluating titles for 7 min.

They shook their heads, one held his head in his hands, another tapped his foot, a third played with his fingers, as they rejected in turn, Murder, Fear, and Darkness as insufficient to translate the sense of mystery. Their transmediation from multimodal text the video to print text the title was a rhetorical challenge, requiring consideration of the affordances of different modes and how they worked together to represent their genre.

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