Week 8 ENGL 516

 “The Low Bridge to High Benefits: Entry-Level Multimedia, Literacies, and Motivation”

 Daniel Anderson

This article is causing me to have many contrasting ideas.  For instance, while I can see the benefit and use of learning to use and employ different technologies in order to produce multimodal projects, I’m conflicted.  On the one hand, this is not something I have done outside this graduate program, so I’ve found it, for the most part, difficult.  The technologies aside (and that’s a BIG aside), it’s the idea of creating work using multiple forms of expression I have problems with.  I never learned to do it, I don’t particularly like it (being heavily left-brained), and I am not good at it (this is my luck, the minute I get the hang of “how things work”, it changes dramatically).  Now, I know that sounds cranky and bitter.  It is.  At the same time, there are only so many hours in the day.

I hope that the pedagogy of today is catching up faster than implied by so many of the articles we read, and that students are better prepared for the tech-oriented nature of academia.  Probably they are, and I’m simply paying the price for being old (so to speak).  Still, I wonder how useful making multiple videos or slideshows is, if it’s completely unrelated to what you’ll need to do for a job.  I’m in no way against knowledge for its own sake, and for the most part I feel like I just need to learn this stuff.  The other part of me?  Totally not interested in anything to do with videos…or teaching writing.   My options being limited by my schedule, here I am in two teaching of writing courses…with no plans to ever teach writing.  So, this has turned into more a personal rant than anything.  Oops.  Seriously, though, I like to think that we are preparing students for creative engagement and performance of civic duty.  Oh, and for the real world of employment.

In the meantime, perhaps we should have some technology courses for those of us that didn’t grow up with it, and haven’t engaged with new technologies much?  We are at a decided disadvantage and I don’t think it’s something you can do on your own.  There’s too much to learn.  It’s implicit for those growing up with it, but for those of us that didn’t, some explicit explanation would be exceedingly welcome.

The idea of motivation being essential is an interesting one, and again I have to confess that I do not have much when it comes to learning about teaching writing.  I have a vague interest, being a mother of two.  Outside that, I do not plan to teach writing, so I spend a lot (too much) time kicking myself for not doing a better job with my course schedule.

Then there’s this: “That Moriah found the visual mode more challenging than an essay might suggest that the grammars of visual literacy (while difficult because less familiar) may also be difficult because they enable a complexity of expression that rivals that of print. Appropriate technical challenges provide engagement, and the degree of difficulty translates not only into motivation but also into intellectual rigor.”  I think this is spot on, but how does one give oneself a crash course in how to utilize visual literacy in academic expression?  I ask, not rhetorically.  Difficulty does not always translate into motivation and intellectual rigor.  Sometimes it translates into apathy, despair, or panic.  I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but I can’t help thinking that while all the creative folks were denied forms of expression that would be more appropriate for them (which is grossly unfair), the tables have shifted in the other direction.  The old standard is the new minimum. It is a time of creativity and flexibility.  I like the idea of being able to do this: “a workaround that surveyed the available means of production and then moved fluidly between software applications and methods of composition”.

It would be nice to take this concern: “When it comes to integrating multiliteracies into composition classrooms, those who create environments where writers can experience the personal engagement that will translate into motivation and rich convergences of literacies are few and far between. When it comes to really transforming education with new media, even many compositionists must still find their voice”, and find the time to translate it into this reality: “Such a space embraces student creativity and pushes for movement from the practical to the personal to the public, knowing that as multimodal projects are moved from the studio to the networked world they will carry forward “the active mobilization of every individual’s latent creativity, and then, following on from that, the molding of the society of the future based on the total energy of this individual creativity””.

 “Making the Implicit Explicit in Assessing Multimodal Composition: Continuing the Conversation.”

  Susan Katz and Lee Odell

During the first part of this article, I kept thinking not of the difficulties of assessing print text versus multimodal text, but of the personal dynamic.  What I kept thinking, in relation to the conversation they show between the teachers, is that a lot of success in academia lies in sussing out exactly what each teacher is looking for.  Without making judgments about that, the process of learning about human nature involved with determining what a teacher wants is a highly useful skill.  It isn’t precisely marketable, one can’t put on their resume, “–learned to deal with crotchety old guy who never gives As, and got an A”, but it is an extremely valuable skill, nonetheless.

Getting to the point of the article, which I see summarized here: “new media present new affordances for writers and new challenges for those of us who must assess these media and then incorporate our assessment into our teaching” (3)  It would seem that one is still going to be looking for the same elements, and that the trouble lies in being able to know them when you see them.  In other words, a text (of any sort) still has all the same rhetorical elements, but when these elements are expressed with video, or art, or pastiche, determining their significance is a different skill from reading an essay.  As they point out, “Whether in print or in video, we are accustomed to identifying points at which an instruction is ambiguous or ways in which a claim does or does not measure up to standards of verbal disciplinary argument. But scholarly multimedia requires that we recognize ways in which, to use Ball’s phrase, visual elements ‘‘enact’’ an argument” (3).

Overall, I really like the way they point to the importance of definitions.  If we do not define the parameters of what is expected and appropriate with classroom assignments, how can we both expect students to do what is asked and how can we, without universal definitions, expect them to succeed in future endeavors?  Importantly, how can we possibly do all this and yet remain flexible?

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