As promised in my last post on the importance of incorporating multimodal assignments into the classroom, I am dedicating this post to a multimodal composition of my own! I thought that, since I am wrapping up my blog series on 21st century literacies, it might be time to blog about something a little more interesting than my own general thoughts and research on said literacies.
This is also the blog post in which I confess that it was not so long ago that I would have stood with the crew that said things like, “Seriously? A video project? This is why modern students can’t write; because we assign things like video projects.” Composing multimodally was totally foreign to me. I had no experience with it and, because of that, I had absolutely no meaningful knowledge of the process that went into it. This was mostly prior to my taking the majestic Tanya Rodrigue‘s digital writing class, in which I was asked to complete this assignment as well as fundamentally challenge my understanding of what it meant to compose something.
The assignment is called “Concept in 60” and was designed by Dr. Scott DeWitt. The task is to create a 60-second video that illustrates a concept, any concept you’d like. Your video may take a critical, reflective and/or interpretive approach to the subject matter, but you need to follow these rules:
1. Your video MUST be 60 seconds–not one second more, not one second less.
2. You must strip your video of all actual/matching audio. You may layer audio in your project as long as you avoid all video/audio matching.
3. You must include a title screen somewhere in your video. You must also give yourself credit as the video artist/composer somewhere in the video text.
4. You must secure permissions for all materials used in your project by their rightful owner or use creative commons and public domain material. Also, you must include a works cited page for all materials used in the project.
I came up with this:
I love it and I loved the process of making it, as I imagine most high school students would. Videos are cool; everyone loves them. However, the thing that made this assignment productive for my personal composition skills was the accompanying reflection paper. In this paper, I was asked to think about the choices I had made when composing this video project and tie those choices back to some very literary strategies and scholarly research. I was asked to become aware of the process I went through, concretizing some of my relatively savvy (if I do say so myself) decisions. This involved me thinking critically about how I identified my purpose, structured my argument, appealed to my audience, and concluded my thoughts. I noticed points in which I used symbols and how those symbols made my composition more effective. By the end of the whole reflection, I was aware of how complex and intentional my process had been; it was very essay-like and I hadn’t even noticed. I began to think how equipped I would be if someone then asked me to write an essay outlining the idea of home. I was prepared to write something fairly complex and compelling.
As a writer, I learned so much from this process. I believe that the secret to strong multimodal assignments in the classroom lies in the reflective paper. Modern high school students are smart; they can often toss together a compelling video or audio project with minimal guidance. Let’s not dismiss that as irrelevant, but let’s also not accept that without analysis. Let’s channel their abilities and ask them to reflect on what strategies they are using to compose something effective or powerful. If our assignments ask this well, students will learn how those strategies can be applied to other types of compositions, making multimodality an invaluable classroom tool.