The Next Step: Sustaining Multimodality

Sometimes, I get caught up in the excitement of new technology (especially social networking) and forget that learning/incorporating technology is a cycle for teachers, as Richard Selfe (husband of renowned Cynthia Selfe) reminds me in his chapter “Sustaining Multimodal Composition.” Because the cycle will continue as new technologies are developed, “computer-supported instruction continues to be exploratory” (167). Luckily, teachers are not alone in their endeavors! Selfe explores the myriad of people essential to creating a sustainable network of multimodal composition. I appreciate that Selfe doesn’t just focus on the professional/administrative component of such a network; he also mentions that a “supportive social environment” can be just as important (167).

I’d like to ask Selfe whether or not digital communities count as a sustainable community of scholars, administrators, students, and teachers. Seems to me that a collaborative digital space would be easier to create online rather than in person (dare I say ‘more realistic’). A good example is #chats on Twitter, a phenomenon where stakeholders in the featured subject gather on a designated date/time to exchange ideas and answer questions. I like to observe and occasionally participate in #edchat, where the community focuses on educational technology.

My other favorite part of Selfe’s article is his practical tips and questions for teachers of multimodal composition. I’ve been reluctant to “jump in” with a multimodal assignment for my own classes, because I wasn’t sure exactly to go about it. Selfe gives me important questions to consider, as well as practical tips/tricks. The most important takeaway for me was to be realistic about the learning curve of software and technology. It will take time to learn, and even more time to develop projects, so allowing adequate time and keeping projects short are essential for multimodal assignments.


2 thoughts on “The Next Step: Sustaining Multimodality

  1. Hi Brie: I do think that Selfe would consider online communities part of that overall community of practice; do you subscribe to TechRhet? It’s a great resource for both new and experienced digital rhetoricians, and very often Dickie posts there himself with requests for assistance, as do others who need readings, information about a specific tool, jobs and calls for papers, you name it. I think it’s great to have that community to test an assignment involving technology, just because a colleague can give you that reality check about learning curve, pacing, etc. So yes, I think starting small is a good strategy. I feel bad sometimes we use so many things in this class, but that’s part of the process to determine what’s possible. Kris

  2. Hi Brie,

    I agree with both you and Kris about the value of starting small, although I must admit that I have trouble doing so. Equally important, however, is your point about giving yourself time to learn software and develop multimodal assignments that you can sustain in the long run. Four years ago I began incorporating video projects in my first-year writing courses. I didn’t start small–I asked my students to remediate 8-10 page academic arguments into 5-7 minute video arguments–but I did give myself time to learn video editing software, to create an assignment, to develop a pedagogy of video composing, to learn about copyright and fair use, and to educate myself about the infrastructure available at Oakland University. I didn’t have it all figured out the first semester I taught video arguments, and I don’t have it all figured out now. Each semester I learn something new, I revise my pedagogy, I succeed, I fail, but I keep moving forward with the goal of creating a sustainable pedagogical approach to teaching video arguments.


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