Now that we have collectively critiqued Twitter and several word-processing applications, your attention should be squarely on your assigned application for Unit #2. At this point, your preliminary draft should be complete (or nearly complete), and you should be thinking about how you will focus and refine your essay during the coming week. Although we will be in workshop mode for part of each class during Week 7, much of your work on this project will need to happen independently, so please pay close attention to the schedule and don’t let yourself fall behind on these checkpoint assignments.
Here’s a quick overview of these checkpoints for next week:
- On Monday, we will consider the concept of “multimodality” as it applies to our Unit #2 projects, focusing on the differences between printed essays and web-based essays. Then we will spend the remainder of class in a Google Sites workshop. Before you come to class, please complete the following tasks:
- Read pages 1–54 in Understanding and Composing Multimodal Projects (the thin blue textbook by Dànielle Nicole DeVoss).
- Leave a comment on this post that addresses the following question: Are schools (K–12) and universities adequately preparing students to communicate multimodally? Provide examples that support your stance and/or offer suggestions about what schools should be doing differently.
- On Wednesday, we will think about how to translate your essays into oral presentations and consider the affordances and constraints of each format. Before you come to class, watch a few Pecha Kucha presentations and tweet a link to your favorite one using the #engl3984 hashtag. There are lots of places to find these presentations (just search for “Pecha Kucha”), but two sites in particular have great collections: PechaKucha Night and Ignite.
As always, if you have any questions, send me an email or stop by during my office hours. (Top-secret hint: students who come to see me before they submit their projects almost always perform better.)
When I was in middle school, the major assignments I had were mainly essays. As such, I had nothing to put on paper but double-spaced lines of text (aside from MLA formatting and titles). My first multimodal assignment was in high school (English class, specifically), where I created a [fake] advertisement, which involved using text in Microsoft word along with visual images like photographs. For that, we used the computers in the library. In a later high school English class, we read books out of class that we were given the option of illustrating a scene from to include with a reading response we were supposed to write about it.
Because not all careers involve creating multimodal communication documents, maybe that is why I have had so little experience with it in middle and high school. It might be easier to create multimodal documents in a school assignment if teachers were not concerned with students getting distracted by their own computers. I have not had to wrap my head around creating multimodal documents until I started college. This is especially important in some of my English courses at Virginia Tech, which involve visual images to support one’s thesis in an essay or to show what one is writing about.
Because college students are sometimes required to bring laptop computers to class, they have it easier than students in middle and high school, who are discouraged from doing so, and probably do not even own their own computers. English classes in K-12 could give more assignments that involve visual aids in essays to better prepare students, specifically those wishing to major in English, for such assignments in the future, maybe even during their careers.
From third to seventh grade I was privileged to partake in a weekly advanced computer class, which focused solely on learning and familiarizing ourselves with multiple computer programs. The purpose of the class was to allow each student to become better at using Microsoft Office programs in order to use a variety of systems to put presentations and projects together. Since that time I have not only had the ability to put multimodal projects together, but have been expected to do so.
The other computer class I had weekly, in addition to this advanced class, focused more on typing abilities. Yes, there were books we followed to learn computer skills and related vocabulary we learned to be tested on. I admittedly got more out of the advanced class; this was because it was small with more direct attention from the teacher and there was a more specific area of study. Since some students didn’t get the same skill set, and there was never a mandatory class in high school to emphasize the basic knowledge they learned during elementary/middle school I feel these students never properly learned how to successfully put together multimodal projects/presentations. If teachers and professors are going to expect students to pull of such projects seamlessly, then a class should be provided and made mandatory for students to learn the right and wrong techniques for these multi-faceted projects.
I do enjoy using a variety of composition methods to create one solid presentation. What I dislike is the presence of so many multi-faceted features in one presentation that it takes away from what is being presented. This is where I believe schools should step in and teach the most effective ways to combine media components instead of giving students the tools to operate systems and then allowing them to combine aspects without background information or know-how. A class like this would give knowledge that most will utilize in their future.
So do school properly educate on how to create multimodal projects? I think it completely depends on the school and its location. For me, being educated in a small rural town the school was limited to the number of students that could be fit into advanced computer classes. The content they did receive wasn’t necessarily the right instruction for multimodal presentations. Should there be a class that teaches this specific knowledge. Of course, technology is our future and its important for the next generation to educate themselves with the skills need to put together a well-rounded and effective multimodal presentation.
As far as my K-12 education is concerned, I received a lot of instruction concerning multimodal assignments, but this is only because I took a two-year-long Photography and Digital Media class that served as a serious background in a lot of applications of photo, video, and web-publishing. I learned a lot about Keynote (we were strictly anti-Windows in that class), Final Cut Pro, the Adobe Suite, CSS/HTML, and web-publishing and networking sites like Flickr. Had I not taken that class, though, I don’t think I would have had any background in multimodal mediums.
Not sure that’s the point of a K-12 education, though. Primary and Secondary education isn’t really designed to be a trade school, or prepare you for any real career. This is different in rural environments and small towns that don’t have a university backing them, but in my experience the point of K-12 education was basically a prep school for getting into the best college possible.
In my education, throughout English classes and all the rest, we basically wrote papers. In AP Science classes, we wrote lab reports. We didn’t use images or make websites or mix mediums. We wrote, read, and took tests because that’s “how you learn” according to the fairly classic education I received. The major exception was the photo class I took, and it always broadened my mind to multimodal writing and mediums, but I always went back to that classic writing, five-paragraph essay conservatism in every other class. It didn’t serve me especially well, except I got good grades, did well on ACT/SATs, and got into a good college because of it. Whether or not this should be overhauled, I really don’t know because it’s been in place for decades and in the end produces great thinkers, engineers, business people, and (for our uses as English majors) writers. As technology finds its way more and more into everything we do, this will gradually change on its own, as an evolution of education and how we learn and communicate.
Essentially we have been completing multimodal assignments ever since Elementary School. The first time I did a Powerpoint presentation was 4th or 5th grade, and even though it’s one of the more simpler forms of being multimdoal, it still qualifies since you are combining texts with images, sounds, video and transitions.
However, true multimodal instruction didn’t come until high school. Very similar to Jonathan, since I knew I wanted to do journalism, I took specific courses that were tailored to that type of teaching. So I had the opportunity to learn how to shoot and edit video; to be introduced to Adobe Creative Suite applications; to take high-definition photographs and make a photo stream. There are definitely certain schools and programs that prepare students to communicate multimodally. The average student in the average high school probably doesn’t receive nearly as much preparation.
Over the past 20 years or so there’s been an obvious emergence of ways to compose digitally, so it’s becoming even more difficult these days to instruct students on the many ways to communicate multimodally. But should it? Since there’s so many programs and mediums out there, shouldn’t it be easier to prepare students to communicate multiple ways since there are so many options? That’s the dichotomy here.
A school district back home got rid of all of their textbooks and gave all of the high school students their own individual Ipads. They are forcing to students to learn to work digitally since that’s where everything is headed. I think as a student, if you want to learn how to communicate multimodally, then there are so many resources out there to make that happen. I feel as though K-12 are doing their best to accommodate and foster that type of learning.
Universities are certainly preparing its students to communicate multimodally. Just in my freshman year I had to create an Ad in InDesign, a website in Dreamweaver, edit photos within Photoshop, etc. And since I chose the Electronic & Print Journalism option for my Communication major, I was doing speeches along Powerpoints with videos embedded very soon as well.
Depending on the type of school you attended K-12 (private, public, or boarding school) education experience can vary. My education experience to communicate multimodally, absolutely varied compared to my friends who attended other school divisions. I think starting off I was in a different place then most students entering Middle School, because I was in fact homeschooled. When must students had learned the basics of PowerPoint or typing a short essay for homework, I never had to do that. Going into 6th grade we were required to take a computer-typing course for six weeks. While the majority of students (being only 6th graders) didn’t have the correct fingers pressing the right tabs on the keyboard, my peers were still at a bit of advantage then myself; never having to worry about these computer proficiencies. For the first two months, I remember writing all my essays by hand initially, and than having to go back and type them at home. My mother saw me stress over this the most, regretting that she never had forced those computer proficiencies on me.
Going into high school, I was also taught to use the basic five-paragraph rule. (Introduction, three body paragraphs, and a dynamic conclusion). YAWN! I began taking only AP courses my junior and senior year (English being my favorite) teaching me the different styles/formats of writing. When it was time to review for the SAT’s, it stunned me that out of all my teachers, my AP English instructor forced us to drop back down to the five-paragraph method. It surprised me because I’d ask myself, “why am I taking an AP English course to advance my writing skills for scenarios such as the SAT’s, if I’m going to be forced to drop back down to the five-paragraph rule, that standard or honors students were still completing in their English classes?”
I definitely believe University’s are preparing their students at a much higher expectation, than what high schools are providing their students. While classes such as Journalism/Yearbook, Photography etc. were offered in high school, I never learned any of the Adobe Creative Suites until college. These basic tools on how to use computer software’s, such as Photoshop and InDesign are basically expected by your professors that you already know how to use them effectively. Whether it be from a previous course you took, or having to teach yourself during your free time, most professors at University’s expect their students to be knowledgeable about the latest technological updates and if not to teach themselves.
My suggestion for high school is to have a required senior course, which teaches its students how to use the different computer software’s that will be expected of them when they enter college.
I grew up in a bit of a different era when multimodal assignments and presentations (as we know them now) were really just beginning to take off.
With that in mind, the most multimodal assignment that I did in K-8 was probably a short story with pictures and a fictional news pamphlet. All my classes were very specifically divided; in music class we picked an instrument and played only that instrument; in art class we painted; and in other classes such as english/history – we wrote straight forward papers.
It wasn’t until high school that I actually did anything with video or power point but even then those projects were few and far in between. I probably could have used quite a bit more multimodal preparation in my experience, however, I am sure that it has improved somewhat.
Reading some of the other posts I can see that it seems to depend on location and school type these days as to who is better prepared but I’m willing to be that most schools are behind the curve on this one and need to implement specific courses to get their students better prepared for college.
I think one way for schools to improve is to have multimodal criterion requirements for as many classes as possible no matter the subject. Teachers from all disciplines should be encouraged to assign their students projects that would require them to to combine various modes in learning and presenting their subject, be it history, english, math, art, and so on.
This would expose the students to as much media as possible and they could even have a capstone course senior year (as Sarah mentioned) that would ensure they’re equipped with the proper knowledge before proceeding to the next level.
I think that the main problem with the way multimodal projects are taught in schools is that they are all taught the same way. When I was in fourth and fifth grade, everyone was learning powerpoint. We learned how to put pictures and text together for a presentation. We continued to use that same exact format throughout middle and high school for basically any presentation. It doesn’t create any diversity or foster individuality among students for their projects.
We were being taught multiple modes, but only a couple, and it was accepted that everyone’s presentations were practically the same. In order to better prepare students for the professional world, I think that our schools should vastly diversify the instruction of multimodal projects. Teach students a new way to present content with every project. The transition is slowly happening, but I think that the prominence of written essays and time-constrained presentations is a hindrance to the development of multimodal skill.
I would say that it depends on the school system. My school didn’t concentrate on thinking multimodally in the way that the book is encouraging us to. However, everyone was exposed to some form of multimodal content, even if it was just textbooks or a powerpoint slide. We were taught how to give presentations and turn in projects at a high school level, all of which were at least basically multimodal. I would say that it’s pretty much impossible for a student to go through school (K-12) and not be exposed to and taught some about multimodal projects, but the level of detail that the book stresses wasn’t there in my school.
I think that something like this book is a great way to start a student thinking multimodally. If the content in the book was taught in a way that students could easily understand, and then the concepts were applied to class projects and presentations, students would get it. It would become second nature to think multimodally, if it was stressed every time they worked on an assignment.
I remember being in third grade when my elementary school required students to start taking computer classes. At that age, I remember playing on Paint or exploring an interactive educational website. The goal was to just get us started with using the basic functions of a computer. I can’t tell you whether or not I remember being taught Microsoft Office at that age.
When I began high school, I went to a private school that was on a college campus. We were required to take college classes as part of our curriculum. The first class all freshman had to take was in intro to computers which was essentially a breakdown of Microsoft Office. Other than that I had to occasionally use PowerPoint for a presentation.
It wasn’t until college that I was truly challenged to explore different programs ranging from adobe to web building software.
Today I think computers and programs such as Microsoft word and excel should be integrated into the classroom. Whether we like it or not, computers are not going away anytime soon. I don’t think k-12 schools are doing this effectively though. It’s not one persons fault or anything and hopefully over time, integration with computers will be much more practical. As for now, many schools do not have the funding or the resources to teach students these skills.
Another issue, like some have already mentioned, is that k-12 school isn’t designed to be specific to just one genre of subject. There are so many subjects and topics that kids need to be taught such as math and science which are essential to any education or job in one way or another that the topic of multimodal projects are easily overlooked.
I think as technology progresses and becomes apart of our lives in more ways than we know, K-12 schools are going to be forced to have to teach some type of class that contributes to building multimodel skills. If not, they will be leaving their students in the dark.
I can remember being in first grade and coming up with my own story, drawing pictures, and the binding it into a book. Everyone in the class had to present their books. Around 4th or 5th grade powerpoint and word documents were asked of us and it only build on from there. At the time I think it was the best they could have done.
I think the generation now start communicating at a fast moltimodally pace then my generation did (and more efficiently). They have more computer labs, the use of computers at home, and the software now a days.
I think they are and they aren’t “preparing us adequately.” I think they introduce tools too late within the curriculum. In all of my comm classes I believe visual media was the only one that really worked with photoshop. I think that program should at least be touched on in a freshman level course. Employers are looking for that kind of skill. If I could put on my resume that I am proficient in Photoshop, InDesign, Final Cut Pro, Dream Weaver, I make for a better candidate. But I can’t be proficient unless I work with the programs outside of class, because the curriculum is asking for standard word documents.
Now it’s hard to say for the generation coming up, and I’m not in K-12 grade anymore so I can’t tell what they have advanced too. But in all honesty the multimodal aspect has always been in school, except now-a-days, it can be done digitally. I think in some cases it can be more effective that way (a sad movie clips, or funny video) but advancing children in that way before they have the basics (reading and writing) nailed down I think the K-12 is good at where it is.
I was also homeschooled from 1st-6th grades (what up Sarah!), but I think I actually got a leg up in multimodal project composition. Not only was I given access to computers and training on computers (typing, as well as educational games, MS office products, etc), my mom also encouraged me to think more critically about the why or the context of things.
In middle and high school, I really don’t feel like the composition of multimodal projects more sophisticated than the occasional Powerpoint were available in my core subject classes. However, since I was extremely active in student media, especially the newspaper and literary magazine/creative writing classes (but also participated in the morning broadcast, yearbook, and filmmaking), I did get a lot of experience with multimodal projects, especially various computer technologies.
I think that this book tries to make a distinction between creating multimodal projects (like slapping together a powerpoint or making something in InDesign) and analyzing multimodal projects (asking the why about them). I definitely feel like I was not introduced to formal analysis of multimodal projects until college, but I did kind of know about analyzing, just from a very surface perspective, during high school during those student media classes. Now that I am a senior in college, I feel that I have been thoroughly introduced to both the creation and the analysis of these types of projects.
While it would be beneficial to introduce K-12 kids to multimodal project creation earlier on — which is already starting to happen much more frequently than when we were in school — what kids more is critical thinking and analysis training. People don’t learn to ask why about something until they are older, like in college, and have already learned to just accept many things the way they are and not read more deeply into things.
I feel like schools make an attempt to prepare kids to communicate multimodally, but I think it ends up working in the same way that schools prepare kids to take standardized tests.
They can check off “teaching kids to prepare multimodal presentations” if they have them make a powerpoint about George Washington. At that point, they’re kind of just teaching the test so to speak.
So, kids are presented with this great opportunity and resource for experimentation and option, but they are most likely not encouraged to do anything creative. This seems to limit the imagination of kids, which I believe hampers their overall ability to communicate a larger, possibly more complicated message than they are given credit for even being able to do.
Pro-conservatism (tradition): Applicable; Utilitarian
Most average schools neglect including creativity in their curriculum because of its suggestive nature. Grading and critiquing anything based mainly on creativity, like how unique it looks or how impressive the design is for instance, may lead to hordes of “A’s” based on how well someone can conjure irrelevant and alleged representations of answers, rather than how well they can study, remember, and reuse facts, or how good their work ethic is. The latter two are far more applicable in the work force and always has been. It would be like schooling people on how to lie and distort hard facts with inferences and symbolism, or how to evade work and responsibility.
Pro-liberalism (creativity): Proactive
On the other hand, students who are taught how to work on something creatively are usually the ones who view problems from multiple perspectives, use different multimodal techniques to address those problems, and learn to solve new ones that haven’t already been solved, or that have no apparent or accessible answer. This may be “going against the grain” and it may take some time to sort through new and back through old processes, but it embraces an all-encompassing outlook and embellishes the fact that things may not be as simple as “the old way” may make them out to be. Creativity is getting your hands dirty while trying and failing at different techniques instead of using a guaranteed-to-succeed algorithm that is biased, merely analytical, and may be missing the point altogether. There’s no excitement in traditional methods, anyways, since the result is always expected; and who can learned when they’re bored?
Pro Combine-the-two-and-everyone’s-happy, -ism
Conservative methods will spearhead the fodder of overwrought liberalism, and along its violent(ly boring) and rigged path, it will inevitably be snagged on ‘sticky’ bits of that fodder and zip like a paladin’s arrow through the cold air of close criticism, the trace amounts of that liberal substance hardening over the tip into a larger and sharper point; and, also, inevitably… the arrow will find its way to the soil from which it must be withdrawn, reshot, and retrieved, over and over again. So is the nature of knowledge.
I have to say that I think that our age generation was not quite adequately prepared to communicate multimodality. For me, participating in multimodal communication was up to me. There were resources available, but it required that I take time out of school to really get a grasp of it. For example, the best experience I had was being and editor for our Yearbook Committee. As an editor, I was in charge of an entire section, so I was required to take the photos, edit them on Photoshop and design the layout through Adobe InDesign. We had class lectures to give us the basics and we were constantly learning about various techniques and I am extremely grateful that I took the course because I improved my photography skills and started learning about various computer applications.
The only other experience I had with computers in high school was with a typing class. As you can imagine, the course required me to reduce my typing errors and increase my typing speed. However, the purpose for the typing class is really what I’m talking about here. The class is focused on reducing your errors and typing as fast as you can. It all comes back to convenience. Typing fast is always a plus, but no one really cares about how fast I can type anymore in this day and age. In high school I would brag about being able type over 90 words a minute, but that’s not something I’m going to go brag about now in an interview.
When I got into college is when everything really changed for me. I taught myself more advanced Photoshop skills and through self experimentation and YouTube videos I started to pick up on things pretty quickly. Eventually, I asked for the Creative Suites program for Christmas, so I’m very fortunate to have it all on my computer now.
I have a feeling that even though I was in high school less than four years ago that things have already drastically changed. I think that everyone started realizing the benefits and potential educational resources from multimodal communication and have started to adjust. I mean look at our class. We have an entire class website where we blog and even a Twitter group. That never would have happened four years ago. It’s amazing to see how far we come and I think it will be very interesting to see how effective the next generation is at multimodal communication.
As an elementary school student, I did not have many opportunities to complete multimodal projects. I believe I learned how to use PowerPoint for the first time in middle school, and that was my first taste of working multimodally. My personal awakening working multimodally came in the middle of high school when I was sports editor of my high school newspaper. Working with Adobe InDesign and Photoshop were incredibly difficult at the time, but looking back on it I am grateful to have gotten such thorough experience with both platforms.
In terms of how we are educating students today, there is no doubt that technology is making teachers educate with more multimodal programs. When I interviewed the Radford high school principal this week, he was quick to praise his school’s ability to constantly have new technology at their fingertips, namely with new computers. He also stressed how important it is for today’s generation of students to learn how to use technology early on, as so much of it becomes available. I think he also raised a great point when he said educators need to learn how to use new media to teach because kids can’t just sit back and listen to their teachers lecture anymore. Also, I think the introduction of tablets that are geared towards younger children are an eye-opening reminder that the new generation really is getting started off much younger than ever.
At this point in time, school budgets are what probably dictate an institutions capacity to teach multimodally, but it is now very important to get started at a young age. Not only do people need to be able to work multimodally, they must also be able to analyze their work effectively. Most students don’t get to the analysis part until they reach college, but I believe that age threshold will continue to be lowered as well over time.