For your final consideration E501

This week in our Theories of Writing class, we are wrangling over the place of multi-modalities in classroom instruction and their current and future impact to Rhetoric and Composition. Professor Lamanna asked us to think on how we individually feel about the viability of the CO150 Freshman Composition class in the face of multiliteracies both inside and outside the classroom. Is CO150 a dying breed?

For me, it all comes down to communication. If the “hybridity and intertextuality”, which The New London Group speaks of, can truly blend “creativity and…culture-as-process” together and therefore design new modes of meaning, I am all in (19). Composition pedagogies will benefit, in my opinion, from the fusion of multimedia- text, sound, and visuals. This hybrid, newfound functionality freshens compositional goals-that of “articulating new ways” of getting the message across.

As long as the multimodal pedagogies still promote argument, critical analysis, and rhetorical principles, I say go for it. Because, even with all the bells and whistles, writing still has to make sense. The message still must be communicated effectively. If pictures and sounds are blocking the message, then the writer will need to make changes to be successful in communication. It’s pretty straightforward. Logically speaking, teaching digital design will only serve to better equip students for the future. Technologies build on each other, so the savvy student will be ahead of the game with a firm foundation. Being a deft and flexible writer in all modalities, especially knowing one’s way around interactive technology, is confidence building.

The confidence to approach an argument from many sides is smart. The goal to successfully communicate a message is the prime directive. No matter the newfangled wrappings, the clearness of the message will always make or break the delivery system.    Rhetorical principles will always stand the test of time. It’s like how the changes to the automobile changed the approach to auto maintenance. As automobile design advanced, the tools required to maintain the new vehicles changed to meet new standards. But any auto mechanic will tell you, no matter how fancy the car, they still need to learn the basic knowledge of auto repair.

Pamela Takayoshi and  Cynthia Selfe point out in “Thinking about Multimodality” that, “it is important to remain in step with the ways in which students, workers, and citizens are communicating” (3). Staying relevant is key. And for now, digital design is a popular mode of communication. Smart classrooms are in demand more and more as, hopefully, attention spans lengthen with the inclusion of interactive classroom material. Takayoshi and Selfe report that “[a]ural and video compositions reveal and articulate meanings students struggle to articulate with words; audio and visual compositions carry different meanings that words are not good at capturing” (3-4). So, if teachers  can lessen the struggle some students encounter with writing by implementing technologies…isn’t that worth trying new things? Aren’t the “long-lasting and useful lessons” teachers can provide with multimodal composition methods worth the extra time and training to incorporate them into classroom instruction?

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pitsburghphd
    Dec 09, 2011 @ 08:51:19

    “The goal to successfully communicate a message is the prime directive. No matter the newfangled wrappings, the clearness of the message will always make or break the delivery system.” Yes. I agree wholeheartedly. I also agree with that statement if you reverse it. If your message is clear, but your modes, strategies, and delivery medium don’t allow that message to reach your intended audience, then the text fails. In Writing Online students are often stunned (even though I emphasize this in class) when my evaluation of their website says that from a purely design perspective the site is well organized and visually pleasing, but that the design does not meet the needs of the intended audience they described in their proposal and is being downgraded for that. They still think (because this is still the way we teach writing most of the time) that the qualities of a “good” text are something separate from audience, purpose, and context.

  2. talishahaltiwanger
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:31:59

    Reading your post, I was thinking back to the question Carrie posed to us in class. I was initially hesitant to agree with her position, as I think many of us were, because it was so extreme, but I do worry that what I am teaching my students serves little purpose. When they ask me “what am I going to do with this?” the only way I am able to provide an answer that extends outside of the university is if I take the skills they are learning outside of the context of words on a page. Analysis, persuasion, effective communication, these are all skills they will need. As you discuss in your post, “staying relevant is key,” and right now, what is relevant to our students and our society are multimodal media. It would next to impossible that the skills we wish to instill our students with can only be taught and achieved through the traditional sense of writing. You write above, “As long as the multimodal pedagogies still promote argument, critical analysis, and rhetorical principles, I say go for it. Because, even with all the bells and whistles, writing still has to make sense.” And I agree.

    • rhetoricaheroica
      Dec 01, 2011 @ 18:43:13

      I admire the sacrifice you and the other GTAs are making to teach CO150. And then every class practically, we discuss the demise of CO150! Takes a cool head to keep the optimism up. I respect that. Thanks for your comment.

  3. tolovetowrite
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 13:36:54

    Great post, sort of sad that it’s a “final consideration”. Should we keep these going after the semester? Nothing worse than a graveyard of blogs, especially such good ones!
    I like that you expanded on our discussion Wednesday about the domino effect of allowing multimodal composition, inevitably leading to grading interpretive dance. Its the message, or meaning, behind whatever mode of text that matters. Intrigued by how you put it, “The message still must be communicated effectively. If pictures and sounds are blocking the message, then the writer will need to make changes to be successful in communication.”
    So, with the “Chopping Red Peppers” example, it could work even more effectively than a traditional essay. Its all about how the student is communicating and the mode is simply a means to convey a message.
    To answer your final question, I do believe that teaching multimodal composition is worth the effort. One day, there will be no need to teach the basics of multimodal text because the next generation will have evolved to use nontraditional text with ease. Composition needs to keep up pace.

    • rhetoricaheroica
      Dec 01, 2011 @ 18:40:47

      I am keeping the blog going…thank you for your interest!

    • pitsburghphd
      Dec 09, 2011 @ 08:44:13

      Yes! Let’s keep the blogs going! I love being able to keep up with students after the semester is over because a lot of the time the best learning takes place after the class is over and the ideas we’ve discussed have time to develop.

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