Today’s guest blogger is Jeanne Bohannon.
I have written several posts this semester about how to re/mix traditional writing assignments into meaningful, multimodal compositions. Today’s post is my last for the semester, so I want to wrap up with one last re/mixed mission from a traditional research essay and then yield the post to my students to share their thoughts about “doing” multimodalities.
For me, democratic learning must include students’ buy-in to a project, from the building of the assignment parameters to the learning outcomes. Making these digital endeavors meaningful to students’ lives is also vital to engendering rhetorical writing. Projects that center on building meaningful digital literacies also enhance authentic engagement and meet the same learning outcomes as traditional “Dear Teacher” essays. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Hear it from my students, who have worked with multimodal assignments throughout a semester at a large, state comprehensive university:
“Multimodal pieces should be fun and engaging to read. Breaking up long stretches of text with other kinds of media is like giving the readers a short break. It’s less taxing, and the readers will be more likely to devote their time (which they are very protective of) to reading what you wrote. – Matthew Russell
“Multimodal writing deals with being able to communicate through a digital space. Whether it be Facebook or WordPress, writers need to be able to communicate effectively in these spaces.” – Anon.
“Multimodal breaks the mold of standard, mind-numbing assignments. Especially at the end of a course, multiple papers in the same format can hinder creativity. Multimodal assignments give the student a chance to write in a new field and reinvigorate the mind.” – Anon.
This public text construction comes at the end a course, after students have drafted a series of micro-studies, demonstrating their understanding of language conventions in digital spaces. This blogging re/mix further affords students opportunities for peer feedback and self-assessment.
Throughout the course, students practice applying grammar and syntactic structures in unconventional ways across digital platforms in social and public media. Blogs are spaces that incorporate these elements into a rhetoric of content creation.
Multimodal blog posts providing spaces for self-assessment and peer comments, re/imagined from a traditional, academic essay that was originally a series of analytical studies.
Goals and Measurable Learning Objectives
- Apply composition strategies to an electronic writing space
- Create blogs as rhetorical, content-management devices
- Synthesize content-meaning through critical production of digital texts
Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of reading and viewing visual texts are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in democratic, digital writing assignments. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.
- The St. Martin’s Handbook: Chapter 2, “Rhetorical Situations”; Section 6a, “Collaborating in College”; Chapter 7, “Reading Critically”
- The Everyday Writer and Writer’s Help 2.0 for Lunsford Handbooks:: Chs. 5-11, “The Writing Process;” Ch. 20, “Writing to the World”
- Writing in Action: Chapter 4, “A Writer’s Choices”; Chapter 9, “Reading Critically”
- EasyWriter: Sections 1c-1g in Ch.1, “A Writer’s Choices”; Section 1h, Section 3a, “Reading Critically”
Before Class: Student and Instructor Preparation
First, choose a previous research assignment. Our original assignment was a series of micro-studies, in which students chose an aspect or element of digital linguistic discourse and analyzed it through a the lens or race, gender, or class. In the past, I have also used annotated bibliographies.
My students and I run this writing assignment late in the semester, as a re/mix of a previous one. Prior to starting the process, the class reads, responds to, and discusses multimodalities of texts and content management across digital discourses. We read UNC’s Blogging Tips andPopular Media Writing Tips. We also peer review each other’s original micro-studies and offer ideas for relevant topics and avenues for re/mix.
In Class and/or Out
For the re/mixed mission, students take one aspect of their writing from each micro-study or other research project, and re/vise it as blog posts to include at least two multimodalities (Bohannon’s Model) in addition to text. Students construct four blog posts and provide feedback on at least three posts from their coursemates. Every semester, I crowd-source assignment details with the whole class, so each semester the assignment looks different based on students’ input. The basic requirements are
- Three 500+ word multimodal posts on a WordPress or Edublogs site based on research this semester. Incorporate at least two multimodal elements for each post in addition to text, with at least three tags per post.
- Read the posts of at least three coursemates. Comment on their blogs in >100 words, using the rhetorical analysis tools you have gained so far in our discussions. Submit the following in the Discussion Forum — “Blogs:’
- Link to your blog so colleagues can read your posts
- Comments to your colleagues (as new threads under their posts)
- Reflection on your work IN GENERAL (initial post)
- If you get to a blog that has at least TWO comments, go the next blog.
Students complete part 1 of the assignment outside of class; part 2 requires students to comment on their own and each other’s work, so some of it is completed in-class. I ask students to set their blogs to “moderate comments,” to ensure that they read their colleagues’ observations. To corral the large number of blogs and comments, I also require students to post links to their blogs and comments on coursemates’ blogs in a discussion forum, embedded in a learning management system (LMS) such as one provided by your university or Canvas.
Student Examples of Re/Mixed Multimodal Blog Posts
Next Steps: Reflections on the Activity
I think this assignment would work well across topics and courses as a WAC assignment because it doesn’t teach content but rhetorical behaviors. It draws both self-assessment and peer interaction, which engenders authentic engagement. Instructors could re/mix their own topics to meet the specific needs and interest of their students. I would love for folks outside of our field to try it, so please share this post with others!
Also, please leave me feedback at rhetoricmatters.org.
Guest blogger Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) department at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars.
Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in a future post.