Monday, March 24, 2014

MARE: Multimodal Assignments, Responses, and Evaluations

Workshop Overview

google images from assigning multimodal composition search
Google image search for "assigning multimodal composition"

This will be a discussion where you'll discover, I wager, that you'll learn more from  colleagues than you will from me, but that's as it should be. Many of you are already  doing multimodal assignments -- digital assignments where students do more than compose in a word processor a document that could just as well have been composed on a typewriter. Some of you, no doubt, have students write in blog; others perhaps have assignments where students create videos that post to YouTube, or audio assignments that post to SoundCloud, or presentations in Prezi or Wix or Google Sites or Creativist or Medium or . . . well, you get the idea. So what we'll focus on in this discussion is each person imagining and beginning to plan for adding another layer to wherever they are, whatever they do, with a multimodal assignment to add either more multi or more modal to it.

Central Goal

To create a new, or amend an existing, multimodal assignment which does the following:

  • Enriches, if possible, the multimodal assignment. Enrichment may come from adding more multimodal elements (audio to something that only uses images, for example), the scope and purpose of the assignment in the course, or some other change that makes the assignment more central.
  • Draft the assignment to meet these three criteria:
    1. Makes clear to students how the assignment fits in with and meets course goals.
    2. Makes clear to students how the assignment is to be done -- its requirements, resources, procedures, and process.
    3. Makes clear to students, if you grade individual assignments, how the assignment will be graded. What criteria, rubric, premise for summative evaluation will be used. Or, if you contract grade or portfolio assess and do not grade individual assignments, makes clear to students how you and they will consider the assignment when coming to the final grade for the course.
Google image from search of "assigning multimodal writing"

Discussion Questions -- We'll Use the Blog Comments to Record Thoughts/Sketch Assignments

What's your next step? What will it take to layer in more to an assignment? How will your students respond to it, to each other in peer review? How will you respond to their work?  And a different question, how will you evaluate it -- both in the economy of the course grade and as an assignment that needs to fit into the ecology of the course goals and outcomes?

These are fun questions, open ended, and premised on the idea that what is doable is possible, given a first step and the joy of experimenting with teaching and learning. So, to circle back to the pun -- because we're in Louisville -- let's gather and ride the ideas for our MAREs.

Resources for Teaching Multimodal Writing

From Bedford/St. Martin's:

Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects by Kristin L. Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl E. Ball. (see citation below from authors in Hybrid Pedagogy for theoretical framework that informs this book.)

Integrating Multimodality into Your Teaching by Danielle Nicole DeVoss, Michigan State

Sample Chapter from Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Write by Elizabeth Losh, Jonathan Alexander, Kevin Cannon, and Zander Cannon. (Chapter 4: Argument, Beyond Pro and Con -- not about multimodal composition, but useful as a prelude to the video below, which explores how multimodal projects can radically alter the writing/creative process.)

The Making of Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing  by Bedford/St. Martin's

From Other Good Places:

TheJUMP: The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects, edited by Justin Hodgson

Kairos, A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, edited by Cheryl E. Ball

Arola, Kristin; Sheppard, Jennifer, & Ball, Cheryl E. (2014, Jan. 10). Multimodality as a frame for individual and institutional change. Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved from

A Pedagogy of Multi-Literacies: Concepts of Design, from The New London Group

Speaking with Students: Profiles in Digital Pedagogy interviews by Virginia Kuhn

Because Digital Writing Matters by Danielle Nicole DeVoss, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, and Troy Hicks

Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives -- OSU English and DMAC

Special Issue: Making the Implicit Explicit in Assessing Multimodal Composition, Technical Communication Quarterly, Volume 21, Issue 1, 2012, edited by Susan M. Katz and Lee Odell

Assessing Multimodal Compositions. Kent State Writing Program

McKee, Heidi A., and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss DeVoss, Eds. Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2013. Web.

Journet, Debra, Cheryl Ball, and Ryan Trauman, Eds. The New Work of Composing. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital P/Utah State UP, 2012. Web.

Borton, Sonya C., Brian Huot. "Responding and Assessing." Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers. Ed. Cynthia L. Selfe. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc., 2007. 99-111. (Word Doc)

"Ideological Foundations of Formative and Summative Assessment Processes in English 303: Visual Rhetoric and Document Design," by Kristen Dayle Welch, Longwood University -- a well-done conference paper account of one teacher's assessment choices for multimodal assignments used in her course.

Liz Losh's YouTube Description of her Digital Rhetoric Course

Not multimodal specifically, but important:

Andrea Lunsford on the Myths of Digital Literacy:

Paul Krebs "Next Time, Fail Better."

"Start Where Your Students Are." and "Know Where Your Students are Going," chapters 1 and 2 from

Never Work Harder than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn R. Jackson.

Peter Elbow. "Ranking, Evaluating, Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment." College English 55.2 (1994): 187-206. Available at:  

Peg Syverson, "The Five (or Six) Dimensions of Learning," Learning Record Online at

Some Free Multimodal Composing Tools 

Wix  -- Easy to use site/service for creating visually rich Web sites.

Creativist  -- Multimedia projects for apps, ebooks, and the Web.

Jing  -- Easy to Use Screen Capture Software -- record up to five minutes of video by TechSmith

Audacity -- Sourceforge's fee recording and audio editing software


Anonymous said...

This blog offers a very insightful model of teaching with technology by helping us understand the significance of several modes of writing that we make use of even without explicitly incorporating them into our writing.
I will definitely follow this website for designing my assignments and also doing my own research on multimodal writing.

Anonymous said...

I have students do them all the time though I'll admit to shying away from doing a lot with video because I get distracted from video when I watch it. So Ted talks -- not so much, interviews, nay. I do better w/ text because I need to flip back. But still, that's my prejudice adn I teach aroudn it.

Anonymous said...

I've assigned a visual piece (brochure, usually) and a "translation project" (much like Scott DeWitt's remix assignment). This year, I plan to incorporate an audio project (PSA) and a 60-second video project.

Anonymous said...

I do have my students do this type of assignment. I's what I do:

I have my students create a digital project that explores the Rhetoric of Coal in the media, scholarly sources and advertising. They first start with the standard annotated bibliography then I combine them in groups and they examine what commonalities that their sources have. They present these commonalities in a digital sphere that they choose (youtube video, presi, podcast, song with pictures, poem with pictures, etc.).

Anonymous said...

I like to conclude English 101 with a remediation project: I ask each student to take one of their three previous papers and turn it into a digital project.

Usually I offer three options: a video, a podcast, or a series of blog posts. Over the last few weeks of the course, we read/watch/listen to examples of such projects and discuss the affordances/constraints of the different media.

I tried to add a "digital autoethnography" portion last semester, in which I asked students to keep a double-entry notebook recording and reflecting on their digital media habits. I told them I wanted them to find potential audiences who might be receptive to their message... but it was not terribly successful, and I'm not totally sure why.

Anonymous said...

My multimodal assignment is the traditional remix assignment. I have students compose a print research essay on a topic of interest within their academic discipline and then remediate the print text into a multimodal artifact. I give my students free range of the types of technology they use, and I ask them to consider affordances and limitations of various modes before starting the project. We also focus specifically on how to create an argument within digital spaces in various ways.

I am currently working on this assignment with my students, but I have done this assignment previously and have seen some great video/music compilations and unique websites and blogs that showcase the students' work.

Brenda Brueggemann said...

I have used an assignment asking us all to consider how sound (both captions and additional back or foreground noise) works in relation to the visual aspects of a text. Students take a still photo and create a soundtrack for it. Or they take a filmclip (muted) and then (re)create a soundtrack for it. Or, they "listen" to a muted clip and then create the "captions" as they think they might be (from lipreading)--which renders some good material for (we view youtube's VERY BAD "auto-caption" feature to prepare for this.) etc

Anonymous said...

Criteria: follow assignment directions. If use the word parody as a guide, then do students know what a parody is and does the work parody the object/subject?

If the purpose is to instill empathy in the student and classmates who view the work, will I need a reflection to be handed in? And will I assess that?

Funny. I would make funny a criteria. Did it make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

To assess an assignment like this I would have students think about:
-What audience they are writing to (and also creating by building this video)
-Be prepared to talk about the rhetorical decisions that they made (in a reflective letter to me)
-Understand the purpose of the assignment and fulfill that purpose.

Anonymous said...

When assessing a digital project like this, I might go one of two ways:

(1) I'd not assess the project itself except for completion, and instead ask students to write a reflection piece about the choices they made (which I'd then assess based on the extent and quality of their justifications


(2) I'd assess the project based on some features we'd agreed on before, e.g. "Does it somehow address the problem of disability access to media?" "Does it make the viewer think about the original piece in a new way?"

Anonymous said...

Find sources that can be directly relevant to your project. If your ideas are like parody, make sure that you are familiar with the original genre and see how the parody communicates ideas and for what purpose.

Anonymous said...

Form? Is this a genre and what are expectations?

It's strange what I'm finding doesn't matter: grammar, punctuation, spelling, thesis state, organization, use of evidence . . . kind of liberating.

Anonymous said...

Critera for assignment related to remixing captioning in some way... I think we would first discuss and note major features of successful captioning (and its counterpart, unsuccessful captioning) Reading some of Zdenek's blogposts at "accessible rhetoric"
would probably help start/guide this discussion (taking criteria/points from his critical readings/commentary on captioning). Then what they do/create should somehow illustrate (or subvert) one or more of his concepts? I think I would also ask them to write up their own "critical commentary" on WHAT they did, HOW they did it, and WHAT they felt they learned/gained from doing this assignment. (so my response/grading would then center on a) the application and critical connection they with a point Zdenek makes about captioning b) their own critical reflection

Anonymous said...

- considerations of genre and media

- considerations of affordances and limitations of various media and modes

- rhetorical decisions in constructing an argument in multimedia platforms

- considerations of audience

- reflecting on choices and how these choices ultimately enabled them to fulfill their goals

Anonymous said...

For a peer review I would have them look at the rough cuts and look for:
-if the words match the emotion of the person
-if the words line up with the person's mouth
-what the effect is on the audience? Funny? Serious?
-what is the overall effect of the video?
-describe how this fits our course goals/outcomes.

Anonymous said...

I've found that students feel attached to their videos and much more reluctant to edit them after feedback than in purely textual projects... so I usually have multimodal peer review happen at the brainstorming or storyboard stage.

I'm not sure that would work with this assignment, though, especially if "quality of the dub" was one of the criteria. Maybe students could come in with ~30 seconds of their 2-minute video completed, and get feedback on that short clip.

Anonymous said...

early on -- meeting assignment goals, good plan for proceeding.

into it -- does purpose and audience align. If goal of writer is empathy, is empathy being established?

later -- exectution, fine tuning,

Brenda Brueggemann said...

When assignments are particularly complicated (as mine tend to become, progressively, throughout the course) I like have students do a "live reading" of the assignment (creative voice performance is invited as well). One student reads a section/passage of the assignment. Then I ask another student, "so, what did that *mean* to you?" Or I ask another student (following the section reading, "So, what concerns, confuses, encourages, engaged--choose your verb--about that part of the assignment?" Yes, it takes some time in a class to do this.... but it seems well worth it (P.S. I've only very recently used this idea b/c I stole it from one of the new GTAs this fall that I observed teaching a 101 class for her first time!) : )

Anonymous said...

For peer review, readers may look at the ways the project addresses the purpose; what visual details are used, and how sounds match with the actions.

Anonymous said...

Peer review, I think, is difficult for these assignments because students are often at varying stages in the process -- and that’s okay. Some questions I would consider asking students to answer in a peer review after a week or two of working on the project would be these:

- what emotions are evoked from the reader?

- can you identify the overall purpose/focus of the piece?

- what is working overall? what is not?

- what would you advise this student to do? what is suggested plan of action for this student to continue the project?