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Teaching basic writing involves imagining more accessible classrooms for students that account for hearing losses of all kinds. That is, the loss of audible sound, and the signs of loss or trauma that may be inaudible and invisible for us, but not necessarily for our students. What if the seemingly glazed look, the head on the desk, the fingers busily at work on phone screens do not signify boredom or disrespect?  What if we, as teachers, learned to read “inappropriate behaviors” as part of a system of cognitive dissonance, a frustration with the incongruity of home, school, and working lives? What would it mean to think of hearing loss as the absence of audible sound, and also as listening to loss as expressed through audible and inaudible actions of our students?


HEARING LOSS: Several years ago  I began to notice the benefits of universal design at conferences that I attended. For instance, I watched emotions unfold on the faces of the sign language interpreters at general sessions and discovered a dimension to language that I had not imagined before. At a meeting of the CCCC Committee on Disability Issues, I learned about CART and felt more relaxed reading the captions. I added closed captions to videos we watched in classes, as well as at home and in the office.


Then I noticed in class that the steady hum from the projector seemed to muffle sound in the classroom. Students’ voices grew softer. I wondered if the changes were issues with auditory processing, a difference that can be associated with depression. But rather than self-diagnose, I visited an audiologist who confirmed moderate hearing loss. Universal design and the consciousness around accessibility gleaned from Disability Studies helped to ease the way.  Indeed, this is the purpose of accessibility, to create inclusiveness, to transform the stigma of difference. In a more accessible world, seamless transition is precisely the point.


LISTENING TO LOSS: The writing process may involve dealing with emotional self-disclosures that students will rightfully not wish to reveal to teachers or classmates. This semester I am attempting to honor this wish while still offering students access to emotion through other means. In reading and writing about the works of Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, and Terry Tempest Williams, students can identify with the emotions of loss and resilience without having to write about such events in their own lives. At the same time, if students do make the choice to disclose their experiences, they are offered a resonant perspective for comparison and exploration.


In practice, writing about “difficult times” often appears as writing that needs more development, specific details, and extended analysis. After reading through a recent round of rough drafts, I composed a letter to students that offered suggestions for riding out the storm. Here is a key recommendation:

Be as specific as possible throughout the essay. Rather than saying “times are difficult,” mention specific events that SHOW your perspective on why times are difficult. Here are some examples (insert your own experience or opinion in place of these statements, and of course, as ever, only what you feel comfortable sharing):

    • Tornado drills and school lockdowns made me feel unsafe in the classroom.
    • The startling differences between the troubles of Oakland, California, and the fantastic beauty of the uncolonized nation of Wakanda, moved me to tears. Throughout the second half of Black Panther, I wept openly.
    • The #metoo movement helped me to better understand my own situation because so many people openly discussed pain that had once been silenced.


I invited students to consider my “English teacher” style as an example and not as a model, further suggesting that students explore their own styles of academic writing. In discovering how our style grows and changes over time and through particular genres, we also can gain access to hearing our own loss.


By hearing the losses of others, we bear compassionate witness to experience in the lives of students and colleagues, no matter how different those lives may seem from our own. In recognizing hearing loss, I gain new perspective on the lives I encounter, moving closer to softer voices, and learning along with students to be as specific as possible to carry the weight of difficult times.

Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor of English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences 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 and critical engagement pedagogies; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: and



At this time in the semester, students are often researching for essays, literature reviews, and academic blogs. And yes, they are struggling to evaluate and cite valid sources – especially the multimodal ones. Like many instructors, I have found in recent years that students, particularly digital natives, seem to prefer using multimodal sources, such as webtexts, chat forums, videos, podcasts, and even memes over traditional print sources.


This year, a few colleagues and I conducted a study of first-year students as part of the Learning Information Literacy Across the Curriculum (LILAC) Project, seeking to describe students’ information-seeking behaviors in electronic spaces when researching academic papers. One of LILAC’s most interesting findings was in two parts: 1) Students privileged multimodal sources (videos, podcasts, etc.) but did not know how to evaluate or cite these sources; and 2) Students consider multimodal sources that include videos and images, not just webpages, when they seek information online for academic research.


So, the question becomes: How do instructors advise students to use multimodal sources and cite them correctly? If we look at MLA 8 formatting, we find multiple ways to cite common multimodal sources. The foundational rule for citing these types of texts is to make sure that readers/viewers/listeners can find the original piece. Digital readers need to be able to click through to find listed sources easily and follow working links. Today, I want to share a mini-lesson on interacting with students as they cite them.


Evaluating Multimodal Sources – Multi-level Activity

Instructors don’t need to be tech experts to guide students through multimodal source evaluation, interpretation, and synthesis. Using Lunsford’s book sections detailed below, instructors can help students frame discussions on why evaluating multimodal sources is especially important in an information age, where digital natives obtain and process most of their daily information digitally.


Background Reading for Students and Instructors

  • The St. Martin’s Handbook: 12d, “Evaluating Usefulness and Credibility”; 12e, “Reading and Interpreting Sources”;  12f, “Synthesizing Sources”
  • The Everyday Writer: 14a, “Understand the Purpose of Sources”; 14c, “Evaluate a Source’s Usefulness and Credibility”; 14d, “Read Critically and Interpret Sources”; 14e, “Synthesize Sources”
  • EasyWriter: 14a, “Evaluating the Usefulness and Credibility of Potential Sources”; 14b, “Reading and Interpreting Sources”; 14c, ” Synthesizing Sources”


Assignment Parameters

Instructors can use dialogue and a flipped class model to engage students in deep conversations and understandings of the credibility of multimodal sources using a two-part assignment.


  • Part I. Ask students to find a Youtube video that they can argue has ethos and one that might not. Using the criteria found in The St. Martin’s Handbook (section 12d), The Everyday Writer (section 14c), or EasyWriter (section 14a), students rank each source on a scale of 1 (doesn’t meet criteria) to 3 (exceeds criteria). Ask students to explain their rankings first in a discussion forum in your LMS and then to the class as “experts” on these multimodal sources. As the flipped class facilitator, the instructor can guide reflections on students’ rankings and source-choice while allowing students to attain competency in both arguing for their choices and presenting those choices to an audience.
  • Part II. Assign students in groups to review the examples of credible multimodal sources below. Ask each group to interpret their source(s) and compare/contrast them to the sources students found on their own in Part I of the assignment. Ask questions like “How do the sources address challenges of audience and argument (logos, pathos, ethos)? Why do some of the sources rank higher in evaluation criteria than others? How can writers determine the validity of multimodal sources based on these criteria?” As an additional exercise, have students complete citations for their sources based on the MLA citations of the examples given here.


Examples of multimodal sources to be used in a mini-lesson

Citation examples constructed by Jeanne Bohannon

Citing a TedTalk video: As with all multimedia, include the URL if you have it. Titles of TEDTalks are in quotations; the website name is in italics. Always include the talk date and the speaker.


Example: McWhorter, John. ”Txtng is Killing Language. JK.” TEDTalks, February 2013,


Citing a YouTube Video: The key here is understanding the difference between an author and an uploader – they are not always the same.


Example: “The Language Hoax: A Talk with John McWhorter.” YouTube, uploaded by Santa Fe Institute, 7 June 2016,


Citing a podcast: Remember to name the page where the podcast is found, as well as the podcast sponsor and date the podcast was recorded.


Example: McWhorter, John. “What’s the Deal with Eleven? On the Etymology and Pronunciation of English Numbers.” Lexicon Valley: A Show about the Mysteries of English, Slate Magazine, 23 Jan. 2018,


Citing a blog post: Similar to a webpage, except use screen names in brackets when available. Also, include both the post’s date and the date you accessed it.


Example: Andrea A. Lunsford. “About Those Speech Bubbles.” Bedford Bits, Macmillan Community, 8 February 2018, Accessed 26 January 2018.


Citing A Tweet: In place of an author’s name, use the Twitter handle instead. Treat the tweet as an article, in quotations. Remember to also include the timestamp. Date accessed is optional.


Example: @Bedford_English. "Andrea A. Lunsford encourages readers to think ‘About Those Speech Bubbles,’ as she considers the question of how to represent emotion, mood, or stance in a medium without sound." Twitter, 10 February, 2018, 9:00 a.m.,


Citing a Comment on a Post or an Online Forum: In place of an author’s name, cite the username instead. Insert the phrase “Comment on” before typing the article in quotations. Also, include the URL.


Example: Patricia Emerson. Comment on “Summer-Time Multimodal Mondays: Digital Drop-ins for Visual Analysis and Meme Crafting.” Bedford Bits, 15 July 2016, 10:14 a.m.,


Citing an Image, meme, or GIF: It is important to note that when citing an image in any electronic space, you should include the web source where the image is actually found. Similar to citing a work of art, an artist’s name goes in place of an author’s name. The key additions are the URL and the date that the site/image was accessed. When citing a meme or GIF, include the username of the GIF creator as the author.


Example: Fairey, Shepard. Peace Elephant, 2011. michael lisi/contemporary art. Accessed 11 February 2018.


Example: @jerseydemic. “Close-up Cat.” Giphy. Accessed 12 February 2018.


Help for Instructors Thinking about Multimodal Source Evaluation

Students learning in the 21st century research, read, and write in electronic spaces every day. In fact, according to the LILAC Project findings, more than 73% of students surveyed reported that they conducted their research online as a first choice. Additionally, only an average of 18% of these students reported that they are comfortable with their online source evaluation and citation skills. These numbers, collected over a five-year period with more than 400 students across diverse institutions, represent an exigence for instructors to teach students how to effectively and accurately source and cite the diverse texts they find in online and electronic spaces.


When instructors work with students in evaluating multimodal sources, we often tend to approach that practice drawing on our traditional experiences. An alternative practice might include similar considerations, such as audience and purpose, while incorporating electronic genre, non-traditional syntax, and social context as additional categories of evaluation.


Instructors can also draw on the expertise of librarians and work with these colleagues to model evaluation of sources for students. LILAC’s longitudinal study of information literacies indicates the need for a partnership between instructors and media specialists in teaching students both how and why to evaluate and cite multimodal sources for academic and public writing.