multimodality & teaching writing, a brief statement

As a part of a workshop at CCCC 2012 on multimodality that I am facilitating with colleagues from North Carolina State and Florida State (go State U's!), I am going to provide additional information on a couple of multimodal assignments that I have used in writing classes. Before I do that, however, I thought I might provide a discussion of my philosophy on multimodality and teaching writing. While I strive for innovation in my scholarly work--I am, with colleagues, "presenting" an interactive installation at Computers & Writing 2012 that visualizes sex-related content from a popular online dating site, for example--I am far more conservative in the writing classroom. In part because of my WID/WAC training, and in part because I was an extremely practical undergraduate, I tend to focus on traditional academic writing and research, as well as rhetorical training, when I teach writing. I use multimodal assignments as a) a way to expand students' understanding of writing and composing in order to prepare them to communicate in a heavily mediated world and b) an opportunity for students to examine critically contemporary web phenomena (e.g., viral video). Sometimes simultaneously.

I accomplish my goal of practicality through two primary mechanisms. Either I position digital media as a new mechanism for doing (sometimes very, very) old work, or I package multimedia projects as a part of larger projects that involve a variety of composing, editing, and re/presenting in multiple modalities. I rely on my strengths and experiences (e.g., working in the technology sector in the late 90s and early 00s) when designing assignments. Don't consider myself especially creative, at least one it comes to audio-visual design, which is the primary challenge I face when attempting to develop innovative assignments. However, the collaborative nature of the fields of composition and writing studies offers opportunities to work with others to explore exciting new avenues.