Technology has become a necessary literacy for success in higher education – a functional literacy. Functional literacy doesn’t have to mean, shouldn’t mean it’s not scholarly. In fact critical literacy very much applies to technology and Selber breaks down the ways and relationships students have with technology. For me it is not unlike studying language via linguistics to unravel the language and power relationship. Or, when working-class background academics argue for the knowledge and cultural values gained from this background. Critical literacy then potentially implements knowledges like this in the classroom for use and for analysis.
Selber’s chapter three is a detailed look at critical literacy as applied to computers, technology use. I particularly liked the critically literate student in the parameters of institutional forces from Table 3.1: “A critically literate student understands the institutional forces that shape computer use” (96). In my English 101 class students have different preferences for their composing tools. Some buy into the older generations critique of technology as bad: we can’t spell, write full sentences, and therefore can’t think critically. Selber brings the critical thought to the tools we must use for at least part of the composing process, as well as thinking about the tools we might, or potentially must use for multimodal composing and assignments. Without using critical literacy toward technology as Selber does, I think we’ll have a difficult time successfully assigning technology laden multimodal projects.
Part 3 – the final installment of reading response 7
After reading chapters one through four of Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication, I have some additional insights to my most recent analytical reflection post on my running mode and community. The most significant is how much the social is stressed in Kress’ book on multimodality. Using previous works we’ve read, the social influence is usually acknowledged in some fashion, but not at the forefront as with Kress.
My running community formed from people who like to communicate and represent themselves with beer, running, and fun. My running community grew in a small college town, primarily of various scientists, academics, and parents. We have nearly pro-level runners sometimes and we have lots of neurotically and competitively driven personalities. The group started as an escape, a pick-me-up on hump day, a combination of two loves, running and beer. It is still these things but the competitive, analytical, lovers of information that actually represented, or produced the group (and distributed…aaaalll the things), informed the communication and representation of the group.
We started keeping stats. Running stats (pretty normal, really). And beer stats. We put the serious on the silly and in turn the silly made our seriousness seem less serious.
The thing is somewhat intuitive which means I don’t know how to use everything on it – my birthday present from 2012. My parents spent a bit more on my birthday than usual ($100) because they have always been very supportive, sometimes overly supportive of my running. Sometimes I think using a GPS watch (and sometimes heart-rate monitor too) is a bit like getting the old approval from the parents, or peers, or coaches, (the latter two my previous collaborators) that I might not get from just going for a run. Other times I purposefully go running without my watch – I need to be liberated from data and instant feedback.
In addition to it composing my running, the data can be used to reflect the running culture that I sometimes live in.
Like any popular sport, stats has taken over. Even in my collaborate, community of runners, The Palouse Falls Beer Chasers, we have a data driven, lightly competitive record.
And if my watch had the feature that some of the more expensive ones did, I could hook it to my computer and get data in alphabetic text, that might look something like my Beer Chasers stats:
Shipka would say that how I run as I reflect is a key part of my process toward my end-goal or final product. The process behind making part one in this posting, involves thinking critically or differently about my running culture: I got my watch in place of a human coach and teammates; my present teammates and I collect data, compose our Wednesday workouts and drinking habits in multiple modes – remediated – after said run. And our workouts combined create collaborate data. I suppose it is no accident that the way scientists communicate, data, has shown up in our group of runners that includes a decent amount of scientists, students and professionals. And that we would have a narrative, alphabetic text remediation also makes sense as the founders of the groups were both professionals with an English degree (or two) and creative writers.
Here is the modes and processes and mediation: 1) meet at Birch and Barley on Wednesdays, (or don’t) then run, bike, walk, or do some kind of workout for at least 25 minutes. After working out, return (or arrive) to Birch and Barley. Order a beer. While drinking a clipboard goes around where we write down our data that one of our fearless leaders later puts into the website he built to house and display our data. It used to be a google doc/spreadsheet but as we’ve got a computer scientist in the mix, we remediated to a more impressive medium and end product (where you get the screenshots from of my runner data, for example).
Sometimes we also talk about the run we did, or a race we’re training for. Sometimes we talk about relationships. Sometimes work. Sometimes we cover all of the above and sometimes we do it while running before we even get to the drinking. So we’ve remediated, improved upon an arguably bad habit: drinking. We’ve gained an outlook of how others communicate and prioritize information. And this end product or result would most certainly not exist without different modes in the process.
Here are the parts toward a whole:
Toward a Composition Made Whole by Jody Shipka
Intro: Here Shipka states the overarching theme and caution in multimodal being equated solely with “new” technologies as well as the ongoing stigma attached to multimodal assignments, particularly with concern to the finish product.
Chapter 1: The title almost says it all with “The Problem with Freshman Comp.” We are constantly attempting an impossible task with English 101. We cannot teach the breadth and complexity of writing in one semester, for all fields of writing: impossible. Similarly, we cannot focus solely on the end-product quality or even usability if we are going to teach multimodal. Process and checking in and grading that process along the way.
Chapter 2: Shipka discusses the philosophy and theories that support multimodal learning. A “sociocultural approach” with analytic mediated action and reflection can revolutionize our classrooms and the way our students think about communicating and writing. Shipka reiterates the “always multimodal” concept of writing by keeping the idea that technology is not the only mode of writing as a major part and pushback in this chapter.
Chapter 3: Here Shipka gets multimodal, including images of multimodal writing process assignments. Ultimately, Shipka recognizes that both the planning writing or creations and the final product are equally important. Awareness of how we communicate and others communicate will obviously make us better communicators, including writing.
Chapter 4: In this chapter Shipka returns to more theory based information as she unpacks how she has scaffolded multimodality into her classroom over the years. What really struck me is the ability and power of being able to sit with, include, the unknown. It’s okay if we don’t know what our students’ ideas might look like or be assessed.
Chapter 5: Shipka gives practical ways to incorporate multimodality in the classroom. I especially like her idea of “flexible rhetoricians” (113) and grading accomplished in part by the students writing out and justifying why they made the choices they did. In this way, you could potentially not grade the final product at all but still give students grades for it via grading the process and choices – emphasis on the why, the rhetoric, intended, and achieved effect of the choices. Maybe a project turns out just awful but the student is able to write and identify why in such a way that they ultimately improve their critical thinking and communicating skills; even better to have a way to learn by hard knocks, but without having to have a failed grade to accomplish it.
Conclusion: Shipka sees the best writing as only accomplished after consciousness has been raised. And as teachers, we can only best cultivate this somewhat moral philosophy as well as multimodality projects if we practice what we preach. As a creative writing major in undergrad, I didn’t really know how to write a research paper. Now I know how, I don’t do it particularly well but well enough, and in the failures and consciousness and I better teach how-to write a research paper. If a teacher doesn’t know how to incorporate or grade a multimodal project, make something multimodal!
My questions for Professor Shipka:
Can you talk more about modes or mediums as an addition versus a replacement? How do you make this case to external parties in academia and English department? In a English 101 class, does this end up replacing an assignment to go alongside traditional text-writing? Or, do you feel adding multimodal works (best?) as a remediation of a text they already created or will create?
After sending out my questions, I actually read the book; so now I feel that my second question is pretty well addressed by chapter 2 and 5. So I would focus on my last two questions.
“…it appears almost unthinkable that an English teacher could look past the errors in an alphabetic text to focus mostly on responding to the ideas…” (Palmeri, 2012; 96).
Initial summary and response is for me, overwhelmingly positive. Palmeri acknowledges biases, angles from the start. As might be implied from the title, he ‘creates’ the history of multimodal pedagogy stating how all histories are rhetorical, built. In my American Studies class we discuss under the realm of modernism “prosthetic memories” or a folding of the present into the past to live both places. Palmeri makes a point to make clear his own angle while breaking down the perspective of multimodal as ‘new’ or tied to certain technologies.
Sometimes I respond with a giant eye-roll when we get to base with definitions (all things were pop culture once, or writing itself is writing technology) however with Palermi’s book I enjoy it immensely because I want to incorporate multimodal but don’t always know how. When we view modes as talking about what we wrote or incorporated relevant visuals with our research paper, well, it makes it much more accessible to me. I’ve take out some of the actively multimodal projects this semester because prior semesters, I wasn’t sure what I was doing or if it was really productive work for the students.
Finally, I really could just do an admiring agreement session with Palmeri over a bottle of wine. Of course there isn’t one pedagogy fits all: “our goal should not be to choose one pedagogy over another, but rather to consider how we can recombine them – remix them – in ways that can enable us to develop a more nuanced and complex view of what it means to teach composition in the contemporary digital moment” (Palmeri, 2012; 15). It’s amazing to me how much this idea is resisted. Upon completed English 501 at WSU fall 2013, I assumed the point of reading all the different theorists in composition was to realize that there wasn’t one right answer and no one had figured it out perfectly. It’s not possible; there are too many variables and we are not static, though sometimes education structure/administration sure seems like it might be. And on that last note, in discussion the book with a new graduate student/colleague, I realize he’s written in a way that requires a lot of outside knowledge. That is, before getting my master’s, a lot of the people he references, the way they converse with each other or contradict, would have absolutely no meaning. Because I know the names and the types of issues the author’s he references tends to tackle, I follow. Another topic for this all-topic final paragraph, revisiting ‘remixing.’ Once again American Studies crosses over with the discussion piece “Everything is a Remix.” Another conversation outside of class on the issues of reading all the composition journal articles from 1970’s Berlin, Shaughnessy to present, is the idea of somehow getting it right finally or that we aren’t merely doing the same teaching but in a teaching ‘outfit’ if you will. Palmeri also addresses this in his section(s) on multimodal projects and teaching used to reinforce the current-traditional.
Questions for Palmeri:
In your experience do you encounter active resistance, indifference, intimidation, or laziness for teachers not incorporating multimodality in their courses?
Is the idea that no one theory nails it really so radical?
You don’t quite outright condemn multimodality to reinforce or return to current-traditional standards, but basically you do. I wonder, while I agree with the need for change and not reinforcing the traditional, is it such a bad thing if teachers teach multimodally for the current-traditional (or the expectations of academia)?
Or, how much assimilation is too much?
And, is multimodal associated with the dominant discourse hurting its revolutionary cause/objectives?