C thomas investigating the multimodal curriculum


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C thomas investigating the multimodal curriculum

  1. 1. The Multimodal Curriculum Investigating The Multimodal Curriculum Adolescent Literacy LCRT 5029 E50 Chris Thomas
  2. 2. The Multimodal Curriculum CONTENTS I. Proposal II. Abstract III. Literature Review IV. Introduction Terminology V. Research question VI.The importance of multimodality in education Learning styles VII. The Cognitive Foundation for Multimodal Learning Plasticity VIII. Our Personalized Brains – Creativity IX. Perception X. The Multimodality Enhanced World XI. Educational Approaches to Developing Multimodal Curricula XII. Multimodality in the Classroom Relevance Culture The Personal XIII. The Action Plan
  3. 3. The Multimodal Curriculum I. PROPOSAL My classroom based project is concerned with the use of multi-sensory media to enhance learning. This topic is based on the following observations: 1. that students are generally bored with school; 2. that students find school irrelevant, 3. that teaching methodologies used today are the sames ones devised when the U.S. Public school system was invented at the turn of the 19th century and are no longer appropriate for today's learners; and 4. that today's learners learn differently than they did even as recently as a generation ago. Additionally, I was concerned about whether male students gain more from visual representations than females as well as how students with differing levels of prior knowledge respond to multi-sensory media? My essential inquiry hasn't changed significantly. It is my contention that because people learn differently, different tools are needed to engage them. I feel this is the reason so many kids seem disinterested in school. As I read more and more, it became clear that the problem was more serious than I had originally thought. We often assume that kids in middle school and high school can choose to make the effort to access the information we're disseminating if they just understand its importance to their lives. If we see they're not doing well, we assume its because they either don't care, don't understand the importance, or have some learning disability. We blame the lack of cooperation at home. Home blames the school for not having adequate teaching, and the whole process turns into an ugly stalemate. In view of the fact that we have a national high school drop-out rate of nearly 40%, it's time we got to the bottom of this problem.
  4. 4. The Multimodal Curriculum In truth, one's learning style either fits into the verbal/linear process of schooling, or - one somehow figures out how to make some sort of sense of it even if we're not completely comfortable with it, or we're excluded from learning. It became clear to me that someone who is dominantly visual-spacial, like a large percentage of our gifted students and an equally large percentage of boys, feels like they don't speak the same language. Personal experience. My own background and personal educational experience feeds heavily into this area. First, I spent fifteen years developing learning modules designed to teach highly technical subjects to non-technical learners so they could understand the material at a level that enabled them to render an opinion in a patent trial. During that time, I learned how to design and sequence visual information. As a visual-learner, for every trial – and I did hundreds of them- I had to sit down with a stack of patents and commit hours to drawing them out so I could understand them well enough to create the modules; so necessity was the mother of invention for me. I also remembered struggling in school to take notes. I couldn't get the words out of my head and onto the paper, so I made drawings and created a sort of visual shorthand for myself. It was a wonderful day for me when I learned how to use a word processor that would go as fast as my fingers needed to in order to get my flood of thoughts down. It was an even happier day when I saw my first media wall with twelve screens each playing something different. I was thrilled that I could learn so much at one time. My brain was very happy. When, twenty years hence, I found my own high schooler didn't have the patience to sit through classes and kept telling me she already knew the material. She was an A-B student, but she hated school. I understood. Her senior year we let her transfer to a computer-based school that allowed her to work at her own pace. She had no trouble focusing, getting up at 7 to drive to Westminster to the computer lab, and finishing all her courses on time. Discussions with her group of ten or so friends made it clear that they all felt like they were wasting
  5. 5. The Multimodal Curriculum their time. One girl said, I've just spent four years studying and I don't know how to DO ANYTHING! I repeatedly heard kids tell me that what they were being taught had nothing to do with their current lives and they knew it wouldn't have much to do with their future lives either. Over the course of my graduate career, I've interviewed forty or fifty kids and the consensus was the same. They're very aware that the educational system isn't meeting their needs. So, based on the premise that new media: computer-based learning, cell phones, iphones, smart phones, video games, ipad, - all the digital-technologies that we live with now, have significantly changed the way we learn, I set out to find out how. My research was primarily through scholarly publications because I don't have a classroom or school to work with. That notwithstanding, I did draw to some degree, as I have indicated, on prior experiences to fuel my contentions. I felt, based on those experiences, that the answers could be found in the pacing and structure of material, and that there had been a substantive change – an upgrading - in student's neural capabilities for scanning, sorting, choosing, storing and assimilating required media that needed to be acknowledged. To that end, I researched the most current approaches to the use of media in learning and also pursued the cognitive aspects as well. Interestingly, both topics tend to migrate toward the linguistic theory of literacy that tells us that literacy is not simply verbal, it is predominantly non-verbal and that with the digital and cultural stimuli of our highly visual world, the visual side is taking over. The outcome of this journey is somewhat surprising. Because the digital revolution has placed the control of learning squarely in the hands of the learners, they have become knowledge-makers in their own right. In a learning system where students are researching and creating their own learning under the mentorship and guidance of their instructors (no longer “sages on stages,”) they also learn how they learn. Their personal learning process is much more closely tied to their experiences of their own learning interests and needs. The surprising part is that the next step beyond learning about how one learns through creating learning in which one is interested, has to do with appreciating oneself as a learner, gaining confidence in ones'
  6. 6. The Multimodal Curriculum thoughts, and ultimately, understanding that others have the same kinds of interior experiences. This led me to a session on education where physicist, Dr. Murray Gell-Mann, psychologist, Daniel Siegel, educationalist, Sir Ken Robinson, metaphysician, Eckhart Tolle and the founders of the Blue Man School sat with the Dalai Lama discussing “Educating the Heart and Mind.” A reasonable process in changing the educational approach would be to personalize education, encourage and guide research in the digital world, and open new avenues to accomplishment and employment that afford young people as much respect as if they had attended a college (which would mean de-emphasizing the purely academic path). The outcome would be people who find greater fulfillment in creating their own life-long pathway of learning.
  7. 7. The Multimodal Curriculum II. ABSTRACT This paper addresses a series of issues having to do with the effects of the digital age and digital technology on both education and the students in that system. Most educational experts understand, if not agree, that the educational system we employ now is radically outdated and to a great degree – a nearly 40% high school drop out rate – ineffectual. This study examines the elements that have pointed the way to a new literacy, a form of meaning-making that offers to change the conformity of the educational system to one that ignites the creativity and ingenuity of each individual. Substantiated by linguistic theory and birthed by a generation of personal digital technologies, the power and relevance of personalized education is permeating the edu-sphere from the ground up. Research was conducted on two main topics: the use of media, and the cognitive foundations for that use; and in three realms, personal, at the library from scholarly books, and from scholarly resources on the internet. The results of both the education and cognitive research indicated the importance of personalization of the learning experience to maximize engagement and the construction of substantive bodies of knowledge in learners' minds.
  8. 8. The Multimodal Curriculum III. LITERATURE REVIEW The literature I investigated centered around the primary topic of multimodality and was supported by studies of cognition and the aspects of technology-derived thinking that caused multimodality to congeal and veer off the trodden path and into new territory. In particular, I looked for information that dealt with applications for secondary and post secondary students. My original research question specified “multisensory” media, which I quickly found was referred to in the literature as “multimodal” methodologies, a definition that was broader and sometimes somewhat ambiguously applied. Most particularly, I was interested in determining the cognitive foundations for the use of multimodal processes. I wanted to be sure there was sound documentation concerning the effect of media on learning. And while statistical information of learning was not conclusive, the foundations for the effect of personalized learning was across the board, unanimously endorsed by published authorities. I learned that because of the non-linear complexity of the brain processes, the statistical analysis of information understanding was not very relevant. While researchers understand the general processes of the brain and can surmise information from EEG's and fMRI's, they are seeing only a slight fragment of what is actually happening. The doctoral thesis of Ms. Anastopoulou, entitled: “Investigating multimodal interactions for the design of learning environments” helped define some basic terms and pointed out some pedagogical issues having to do with the use of media. Rudolf Arnheim's study of visual thinking, provided a profound inspiration with its ground-breaking exploration of the connection between perception and thinking. Dr. Arnheim, Professor Emeritus at
  9. 9. The Multimodal Curriculum Harvard, in his book, “Visual Thinking,” seeks to expand our understanding of cognition. This work is a pivotal link between the traditional approach to assimilating, processing, storing, and retrieving data and the much more complex process of seeing, understanding contextualized information, and building knowledge structures that characterizes multimodal learning. Dr. Dispenza's book, “Evolve Your Brain,” helped elucidate some of the physiology of the brain and helped me understand its changeability or neuroplasticity. His writing is detailed in such a way as to break all our preconceptions of how we think we think and his description of the flexibility of our knowledge building, and its effect on our physiology expands our conception of the brain and its functions. These aspects supported my contention that the brains of young people today have neurological capabilities that others before them have not had. The study of the brain brought me to the topic of learning styles and whether there might be a brainrelated reason that handicapped learners in our predominantly verbal education system. As a basis for understanding these styles, I read work by Ms. Cherry, in her psychology article, “Learning Styles Based on Jung's Theory of Personality.” It provided a comprehensive overview of learning styles as delineated by several educational authorities. After reading so much about brain process which makes it sounds like a big computer, it was refreshing to read Dr. Eagleman's newest book, “Incognito.” It provides the most recent update on some of the more esoteric aspects of the brain. He detail the latest research which not only confirms the amazing activity of the brain that deals with our uncanny awareness and the affects of the unconscious, likely biochemically-caused aspects of human activity. It also provides a substantial “Ah_ha! I knew it! --factor” which allowed me to more fully appreciate the incredible capabilities of our minds. Richard Felder, provided, in his web resource, Index of Learning Styles, an overview of several different approaches to the issues of learning styles. He elaborated more fully on the ramifications of these in his article, “ Understanding student differences” as he discussed the problems of adapting engineering curriculum to meet the needs of a changing student population.
  10. 10. The Multimodal Curriculum Dr. Gee is one of my favorite sources on multimodal media and its effect on learning. His insightful understanding of digital media's importance in developing higher learning skills continues to point out that higher thinking is much more expansive and complex than we could have imagined. He, also, underscores the personal aspect in learning, and as a linguists and cognitive scientist, his work, “Social linguistics and literacies: ideology in discourses,” identifies the discoveries in language and culture that Gee finds “beautiful, exciting, and important.” Ms.Hornberger's article, “Biliteracy, transnationalism, multimodality, and identity:Trajectories across time and space,” provided interesting information on a broader linguistic perspective and its affect on other cultures. One of the linguistic gurus of multimodality, Dr. Kress's of the University of London very explicitly in his book, “Literacy in the new media age,” redefines new literacy. In fact, this book is probably the bible for multimodal literacy. Although sometimes difficult to understand, his linguistic approach helps ground the personalized approach to literacy. Mayer and Moreno always have cut and dried ways of looking at media and its affect on learning, and while I often don't agree with them, they have to be given credit for striving to discover reasons why learning from words and pictures makes such a difference for some people. One of the theories I don't agree with is the whole notion of cognitive overload. As I point out, it's far too simplistic in its understanding of brain function and fails to address the real complexity of perception involved with seeing not only an object but the entire world surrounding the object, including changing size, relative size, calculating motion, determining tones of lighting as the object differentiates itself from its surroundings, and a whole host of other small but vital pieces of data. We don't see parts of an object; we understand that even though we don't see its back surfaces, that something has dimension. Parts of objects don't get left out of our pictures because they didn't make it through the cognitive overloading process. I find it illogical. Palfrey and Gasser, and their book, “Born digital,” blazed the trail for naming and understanding the
  11. 11. The Multimodal Curriculum digital generation. And although, I don't subscribe to everything they say, they nonetheless, understand the importance of the digital revolution and the profound affects it brings. Mr. Prensky, in his article, “Digital natives, digital immigrants,” is one of the few authorities to proclaim the immense difference of brain processes between kids who grew up immersed in digital technologies and those who didn't. It was refreshing to have my thoughts on this confirmed. This article, “Brain Mechanisms of Serial and Parallel Processing during Dual-Task Performance, “ by Sigman, M, Dahaene, S., in the Journal of Neuroscience confirmed my thoughts about the processing abilities of the brain. I had read somewhere in a long lost article about the presence of both single and parallel processing capabilities, and this article confirmed it for me. Last - but first in my mind is Sir Ken Robinson, an international lecturer and consultant on education. His work is consistent, inventive, and entertaining and I am probably one of his biggest fans. His book, “The Element” is inspiring because it shows us what learning is supposed to do for learners: provide them with enjoyment, a fulfilling career, and an understanding of themselves and the things that are important in their lives. His ideas that a good education creates a resilient, resourceful, and happy contributor to the community – and that it's not so hard to do, always makes me want to help that happen in some way.
  12. 12. The Multimodal Curriculum IV. INTRODUCTION The contention among many linguists, communications experts, sociologist, and educationalists is that literacy can no longer be thought of in isolation from a vast array of social, technological and economic factors [12]. Gunther Kress, Professor of Semiotics and Education at the University of London, in his book, “Literacy in the New Media Age,” tells us “Language-as-speech” will remain the major mode of communication; “language-as-writing” will increasingly be displaced by image in many domains of public education, though writing will remain the preferred mode of the political and cultural elites.” [12] And so we find ourselves in a new place – a new frontier of literacy where we are no longer only addressing the reading and writing needs of our students. We are inextricably involved in the new visual ways of communicating; ways which have upended the dominance of the written word. Literacy instructors must now bridge the gap between what has always been considered standard literacy in American schools and the burgeoning realm of culturally-relevant, technology-stimulated, non-academic, real-world communication. This is the space bridged by multimodal meaning-making. In fact, according to Dr. Anastapoulou in her doctoral thesis, the very purpose of multimodality is to “structure the interactive space between the learner and the learning task with the aid of digital technology.”[1] Terminology. First, a re-definition. I have used the term, “multi-sensory” to refer to the inclusion of information that is available to us through means other than our intellect. This includes visuals, sounds, tactile, olfactory, taste, and any experiential activities that involve “doing.” Educational and pedagogical research, however, refers to this genre as “multimodal” although it carries a much broader definition – a means by which humans communicate sensory information. [13] However, in the literature, it is widely used not only in reference to sensory elements, it also refers to
  13. 13. The Multimodal Curriculum the different sorts of media used to convey learning, and, occasionally, it is used in a way that makes an oblique connection to learning styles as personal modalities. I find “modality” makes the most sense as a generalized conveyance, a delivery mechanism for information and meaning-making in both the physiological realms and the media realms. e.g. Vision is the dominant modality of the brain. In other words, information and meaning are delivered to the brain through the modality of sight. And – interactive, massive, online computer games are modalities that cause players to engage morally-based, decision-making processes. Again, information and meaning – in this case, contextualized by the game – are presented to the brain in order to engage the player and cause an action by the brain. V. RESEARCH QUESTION My research question, “how does a multi-sensory curriculum enhance learner engagement, increase retention, and why,” in fact opens a Pandora's box of research and technology, sociological priorities and political realities that profoundly affect and reflect personal and global change. I shall do my best to present these issues in the context of pedagogical concerns. As my research evolved, my inquiry took on deeper implications and wider scope. The change from “multi-sensory” to “multi-modal” is a substantive expansion that by definition includes all aspects of meaning-making, from words to sounds and images, and on to motion, symbols, shapes and all the means for understanding them. Investigation into the learning process inevitably leads to the realms of cognition as well as to the morass of sociological and cultural implications that are as profound as they are overwhelming. In response, I have tried to include an overview of these looming potentialities – some of which are already upon us – because their impact is so important. The applications of a digitally-determined, multimodal world in today's classroom are still, to a great degree, “dreamware.” While many instructors often include video clips and other media, it isn't done with purpose; that is, it isn't done knowing that it will make a difference to a specific set of students.
  14. 14. The Multimodal Curriculum Multimodality , as an educational tool, is expansive, but it is meant to deliver methods of understanding to specific groups of learners. Yes, it can be fun and entertaining, but it needs to be purposeful, otherwise its very akin to throwing the proverbial plate of spagetti on the wall. VI. THE IMPORTANCE OF MULTIMODALITY IN EDUCATION. Multimodality typically refers to the application of multiple learning methods – technological and otherwise – aimed at engaging students of diverse learning styles. These methodologies don't have to always be new or flashy. What is novel about multimodality is the unprecedented access to information afforded by the different digital approaches and the powerful synthesis of the verbal and symbolic worlds in support of any and all learning objectives. The impact of digital technologies can't be overstated. It has facilitated an economy of both visual and verbal communication that has overturned the publishing and printing industries and stimulated the world of visual communications. Computer software, cell phones, ipads, iphones, wii, video games, and all interactive, digital devices, have changed the way we communicate, the way we generate images, the way we manage businesses, the way we research and access information, and it has irrevocably changed the way we create meaning from both the verbal and the visual worlds. The synthesis of these two formerly separate lexicons - the spoken/written and the visual/felt – has rendered meaning-making as exponentially greater than the sum of the parts. It is a linguistic equation to which we may never understand the full answer because all of the operatives – the parts of the equation – are dynamic; that is, always changing. Still, we humans have to compartmentalize. In education, the concept of learning styles is one with which we are all familiar. Even before the research came out, we all understood that there were fundamental differences in the way people learned. We just didn't understand the full scope and classroom ramifications. Learning styles. Learning styles are “characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the
  15. 15. The Multimodal Curriculum learning environment.”[8] The reality of learning styles is that they are personal ways of viewing the world and as such, affect the ways in which we take in information and make our own meaning. As most of us who have taught know, those styles include, but are not limited to: -Active-Reflective -Sensing-Intuitive -Visual-Verbal -Sequential-Global The Jungian version of learning types is similar and is also the basis for the Briggs-Meyers personalitytyping. These include: -Introvert-extrovert -Sensing-intuition -Thinking-feeling -Judging-perceiving [7] The only other type that is not explicitly listed here is the kinesthetic learner which has been included in a “visual-spacial” category. As it turns out, the inclusion of “doing activities” is one of the elements that is most easily understood by teachers in the classroom and one which they can, and often do, implement on their own. Visual-spacial learning. The concept of visual-spacial learning was developed by Dr. Linda Silverman of the Gifted Development Center in Colorado and it describes kids who think in pictures. There is evidence that more children than we imagined think visually. [10] In fact, Einstein noted that he thought in images and sensations and that applying words to his ideas was a secondary effort. The application of multimodal media that is predominantly visual has obvious applications here, however, researchers weren't ready for this next set of results. Gender/ethnicity. Interestingly, studies conducted in the areas of gifted students revealed that 62% of a group of 750 gifted students preferred a visual-spacial approach to learning. In another study of Navaho
  16. 16. The Multimodal Curriculum students in Arizona, 71% were identified as visual-spacial. And although we're careful not to make assumptions that apply to minorities across the board, there's something in us that nods when we hear this. Studies have shown that while maturity in the areas of fine motor skills and verbal acuity is significantly advance in girls, boys' maturity in the area of visual-spacial skills is more advanced than girls'. Alexandra Shires Golon, author of the book, “Visual-Spacial Learners,” reports that as many as 80% of the boys she teaches are visual-spacial and raises the question of whether boys might need different kinds of learning methodologies. It's also not surprising that the vast majority of “gamers,” kids who play video games, are boys. The important element here is to understand the profound effect learning style has on a person's ability to learn. Personalized meaning-making directly impacts how individual's brains construct their information structures or “schemas”. The schema. One of the pivotal concepts of cognitive learning theory, the schema is a knowledge base - an abstract mental framework. Piaget believed it was the accumulated, interconnected body of information that individuals possess as a result of their life experiences. Still used by today's researchers, the schema includes not only educational information, but also cultural knowledge, skills and talents, philosophical understandings, memories, strengths, weaknesses, choices, and motivations. The cognitivist approach to learning holds that the information in an individual's schema is organized in a way that is personally meaningful. Researchers have found that people naturally choose topics and directions that connect with their knowledge base - the content of their schema. In this way, the schema becomes an influential part of an individual's personality and affects the way they learn. The human mind learns and remembers by connecting new information to old. If a person does not have or for some reason, cannot connect with existing knowledge, then learning is extremely difficult. Godon quotes sobering statistics: ` ”Boys represent 99% of the discipline problems, 80% of the dropouts, and 66% of the identified learning disabled in America's
  17. 17. The Multimodal Curriculum classrooms.” [10] These numbers suggest that many male students are somehow not able to understand and connect new information with old. Why is that? Learning connections are difficult if existing knowledge is encoded with highly personalized contexts, such as culturally-impacted impressions, emotional biases, sociologically-based blind spots in understanding, or inadequate language skills. In cases like these, other methods of engagement and meaning making need to be used. These other methods help define a multimodal approach to learning. Multimodality in education is a solution-based approach for reaching learners of all styles. It is a fuller, richer approach to education that goes far beyond the occasional Youtube video on a web page of text. It is nothing less than a re-visualization of primary, secondary and college curriculum incorporating social, cognitive, and sensory principles that are born out of an explosion in the personal media industries resulting in a fundamental change in the way students process information. Consensus among educational researchers indicates that learners need to be able to relate themselves and their everyday lives to the material they're studying in order to engage. This aspect of relevance is a powerful one that I will discuss in greater detail later on; however, from a learning perspective, the presentation of multiple representations of the material that incorporates learner's styles, is the foundation of multimodal learning. VII. THE COGNITIVE FOUNDATION FOR MULTIMODAL LEARNING or....What are they thinking? The examination of multimodality, must include an understanding of cognitive processes. Educational research depends more and more on cognitive analysis involved in information processing. Yet, as we shall see, even this leading edge science is rife with contradictions. The cognitive process used by educational researchers is a monomodial, theoretical process that
  18. 18. The Multimodal Curriculum describes what we know about the storing, accessing, and connection of bits of information in shortterm and longer-term memory. Current theory describes the fairly simple retrieval and storage system seen below. The Atkinson-Shiffrin model has been criticized for being overly simplistic; nonetheless, it has been used as the basis for much educational research. The Atkinson-Shiffrin model It does; however, give us an idea of how the theory of Cognitive Load could happen,[14 ] and the concerns researchers have about overloading the brain's processor with too much information. Unfortunately, this implies that most of the media that bombards students is wasted, never stored in long term memory. And because of that, it further implies that massive amounts of information gathered in the multimodal processes, while somewhat more effective, are not earth-shaking in their abilities to change learning outcomes. Much of this research points to the contention that our central cognitive processor only works serially, processing one thing at a time. Too much of certain kinds of information, such as those items that need to be connected to exiting schemas stored in long term memory, contribute to Sweller's [14 ] concept of “cognitive overload.” This condition is apparently caused by crowding problems resulting from thinking, decision-making, and cueing involved with accessing and retrieving longer-term memories. This model of the human thinking process underlies much educational research but misrepresents the scope of our very remarkable brains, possibly skewing the outcomes. When we study cognitive overload and discuss the serial functioning of the brain, we get the impression that although the human sensory organism can collect unlimited amounts of data simultaneously – through the senses, a bottle neck of sorts occurs as it is forced to cue up and be processed in a serial fashion. The implication that only one bit or piece of information is processed at a
  19. 19. The Multimodal Curriculum time causes us to wonder how evolution could have created such a marvelously complex information collection system and constrained it to a simple, single processor. It's further perplexing when we know that the brain is the fastest known information processor on earth, handling an estimated 300 billion bits of information per second. In fact, comparing the brain's processing abilities to those of a computer vastly understates both its complexity and its potential. There is simply no know computer that can approach the processing speed of the brain, nor its ability to receive, appropriately understand content, create understanding and meaning, and re-route information. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, the authors of the 2008 article, “Brain Mechanisms of Serial and Parallel Processing during dual-task Performance,”[16] determined that the brain has, in fact, multiple methods for processing information, two of which are, put simply: 1. utilizing a complex system of dual processing, and 2. utilizing a highly complex and task-sensitive system of timing and delays that allow the orderly flow of different kinds of information at different times. The result is that information from the sensory collection systems, autonomic systems, and all the other information input systems undergo a kind of evaluation and possible re-direction prior to processing. These different executive functions mediate to a great extent our unconscious responses to stimuli, supporting the theory that there is a sort of hierarchical assessment and sorting that happens to all information, not one little gate whereby bits of data are cued up for storing in short term memory. That said, researchers also determined that there is a crowding of task-related issues tantamount to a kind of bottleneck, but in response, the brain has a series of executive functions and other evaluative systems that help to resolve the problem. In any case, processing delays are calculated in the hundreds of milliseconds, as opposed to the full stoppage implied by the term 'cognitive overload.' In a study based on precisely timed tasks utilizing EEG and fMRI imaging, research “identified networks with qualitatively different timing properties. The results provide physiological evidence for the coexistence of serial and parallel processes within a cognitive task. “[16 ] The reason it's important to understand that the brain is profoundly fast and complex and sophisticated
  20. 20. The Multimodal Curriculum in its ability to sort, route and process information is because some argue that the brain can't keep up with the massive amounts of stimuli it receives in today's communication-obsessed world. It not only is quite capable, in the case of digital natives and many digital immigrants, it – the brain – prefers it. Plasticity. One of the most important discoveries about the brain is its plasticity. Once thought to be a lump of cells that gradually died off until the brain was incapable of healthy functioning, we now know that the brain is continually expanding and that it does so in response to repeated neurological stimulation. It is likely that those of us who find media exciting, have developed new neural pathways that process large stimulant loads. And it is also likely that those of us who have never known anything but the digital world, have neurological configurations that accommodate quantities of information at high speeds. VIII. OUR PERSONALIZED BRAINS – CREATIVITY “In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” Carl Jung “There's someone in my head, but it's not me.” Pink Floyd While educational research likes to tells us that learning depends on the mere mechanics of the brain, the process fails to address more personal topics of creativity and perception, both of which, I would argue, are pivotal to learning and are highly personalized aspects of our minds. According to Sir Ken Robinson, “creativity is possible whenever we are using our intelligence.”[17] It has to do with the processing of new material. We may think that our great ideas are spontaneous, but that's not generally the case. When we come to a moment of epiphany, we may think it's an original thought, but the truth is that your brain has been working on this idea for a very long time and has finally made the cerebral connections that make the difference. We think that our thinking brain is the center of the thinking process, but it is actually dwarfed by the huge unconscious aspect that not only keeps the whole physiological aspect of the human organism
  21. 21. The Multimodal Curriculum functioning, it does the behind-the-scenes grunt work of what we think of as our mind. The processing of new information happens in the right hemisphere. “Initially scientists speculated that the functions handled by the right hemisphere were more creative, intuitive, spatial, nonlinear, meaning-oriented, emotional, and abstract than the activities of the left lobe. According to our model dual-brain processing, this is correct. When we are creative, we are embracing novelty. When we are intuitive, we are projecting unknown possibilities. When we are nonlinear and abstract, we are not in routine or fixed in a pattern of familiarity. When we are searching for meaning in reference to our own identity, we are projecting new ideas in relationship to old concepts to advance the wisdom of self.” [3] Sir Ken Robinson, prominent educationalist suggests that we need to rethink our ideas about intelligence. According to him, we know three things about it. First, it's diverse. Humans think about our world in all the ways we experience it. We think of what we see, hear, feel; we think kinesthetically, and we draw abstract conclusions about our experiences. [19] Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. It's very interactive. Creativity, which Robinson defines as the process of having original ideas that have value, [18 ] typically comes through the connections of different interdisciplinary ways of seeing things. And thirdly, intelligence is distinct. It is unlimited in that it imagines. It has the power to bring to mind things that aren't present. Creativity is applied imagination. It is a unique representation of each of us as individuals. IX. PERCEPTION “Visual perception is visual thinking.' Arnheim, “Visual Thinking” Vision is the primary medium of thought and indispensable for the functioning of the mind. Yet, perception, which is closely associated with vision, has long been thought to be something separate from thinking. It has been reduced to a vague shadow of fact, one that is heavily imprinted with subjectivity – a questionable personalization of whatever information might have been there. In the
  22. 22. The Multimodal Curriculum face of EEG's and fMRI's, it has been marginalized even further; however, perception is an integral part of our thinking process even though much of it takes place below the level of awareness. Productive thinking is perceptual thinking. In science as in art, a student learns the importance of his own direct experience and response. As his experience matures, he sees more. A young artists “learns to see” and his abilities expand as his sight improves. A more experienced doctor or carpenter “sees” more than a novice. What makes perception a difficult concept is that its cognitive function tends to be both personal and relational. It is a prime provider of contextual information. It gives the mind greater options for attaching meaning which means that perception plays a major role in multimodal learning. X. THE MULTIMODALITY ENHANCED WORLD “The world told is a different world to the world shown.” G. Kress, linguist, University of London We humans have always perceived our world in a multimodal fashion; that is, through our senses and with the help of whatever information conveyance system was handy. However, because the written word was such a momentous step in the evolution of intellectual growth and education, everything of any import, since the fourteenth century, was recorded in text. It was not until the onset of the digital world that it became clear to us that our learning had been and still is to a large degree held hostage to the linear sequence of letters and words. Some of the advantages of the multimodality enhanced educational world are: 1. the augmentation of real-world interactions enabled by the student's ability to physically interact with digital, symbolic entities; e.g., learning science by manipulating animated models; 2. the ability to function in a conceptual world, such as the world of architectural design or sustainable economics where symbolic entities have explicit corollaries in the real world;
  23. 23. The Multimodal Curriculum 3. creating more universally accessible links between concrete understanding and abstract thinking; 4. facilitating the construction and negotiation of emerging ideas; 5. connecting activities with existing understanding. [1 ] Despite considerable research and positive outcomes in multimodal research, questions linger about the findings. The complexity of the brain is the prime culprit; however, consensus is that “learners who have access to multiple representations enhance their comprehension, learning, memory, communications, and inference. [14] In research conducted in the UK for a doctoral thesis on multimodal design, the researcher utilized three groups of students, one with very limited access to real-world modalities [digital resources] where they only read, one with greater access where they watched someone else manipulate the media and one with full access to real-world modalities consisting of physical manipulations, looking at the affects of their manipulations and reading and answering questions on the subject. The results showed that learners who had the least access to real-world modalities had the poorest results while with the other groups, the greater their access to modalities, the better their results on the learning tasks. [1] XI. EDUCATIONAL APPROACHES IN DEVELOPING MULTIMODAL CURRICULA. The development of multimodal learning material typically depends on the coordination of visuals and text. And while some of the principles listed below seem obvious, others depend on the material and the kind of learners. This list of general principles is from the work of Richard Mayer and Roxanne Moreno and applies more to design form than to content.[14] 1. Multimedia Principle: Retention is improved through words and pictures rather than through words alone.
  24. 24. The Multimodal Curriculum 2. Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen. 3. Temporal Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively. 4. Coherence Principle: Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included. 5. Modality Principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and onscreen text. 6. Redundancy Principle: Students learn better when information is not represented in more than one modality – redundancy interferes with learning. 7a. Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners. 7b. Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners. 7c. Direct Manipulation Principle: As the complexity of the materials increase, the impact of direct manipulation of the learning materials (animation, pacing) on transfer also increases. Content is king when it comes to creating lesson plans or an online course. The following elements pertain to the structure and sequencing of the information so that it helps learners build their information structures or schemas. In order to engage learners we need to provide them with a conveyance they relate to. Often it isn't easy to figure out what personalized methodologies are going to work for which students, but often, careful attention to their media habits and their conversations will clarify those issues.
  25. 25. The Multimodal Curriculum On the other hand, building content can be tricky, especially when the target includes several different cultures. Finding some sort of cultural common denominator can help add the personalized touch that will make the difference. 1. Contextualized content that tells the student substantial, subtextual information about the subject; this often includes sensory information such as visuals, sounds, smells, taste, and touch. 2. Well-thought out sequencing of information that allows the learner to understand the big picture, the over all concept, before exploring the details. This relies on an emphasis on the visual or pictorial aspect, followed by other methodologies. 3. Familiar media that is important to the learner; 4. A pace that doesn't bore the learner; 5. Content that carries cultural and social components that make it more relevant. Each of these areas affects students engagement and warrant further comment. 1. Contextualized information is the matrix of relational information surrounding a topic that gives the learner more understanding or meaning. The most common example is the visual surroundings of an object that place it in three dimensional space, such as its size relative to other known objects or its distance based not only on size, but in color that is lighter than foreground objects. Sight is the most detailed of our senses, and as we'll see later, a faculty without which the brain is severely handicapped. Every second, we take in enormous amounts of visual information which we may not notice, but which gives us a more complete picture. Showing context increases a sense of reality. Seeing a real time animation which shows the actual time it takes for a puff of cigarette smoke to fill the lungs and molecules of nicotine to reach nicotine
  26. 26. The Multimodal Curriculum receptors in the brain - a span of five seconds - is an eye opening realization. Seeing the immense speed with which blood cells surge through the body's veins and arteries increases our understanding of the dynamic nature of the body. Hearing, touching, smelling, taste are senses that also inform the body of important information. These are just as vital as our sight to survival and to a great degree, operate below the level of our awareness. However, in education, the use of any of these in an experiential learning situation, increases the amount of information about a topic and reinforces the learning moment. Sound is often considered secondary to vision and is ubiquitous in digital media. Some sounds are immediately recognizable, such as a heart beat, and can be utilized to great effect in the development of multimodal learning tools. Music can evoke moods and is pivotal for engaging our emotions as we experience storytelling in movies, television, and audio books. 2. The sequencing of information is a vital element in creating learning material. In the old teaching paradigm, information is doled out in serial fashion, generally starting from the most basic and moving with increasing complexity to the most complicated. A multimodal approach, however, might begin with the presentation of the full “thing” or concept, demonstrated in three dimensions and with important, contextual information or surroundings that give it relevance. A discussion might ensue about its different applications shown in a video summary. After everyone understands what this “thing” means, then the exterior of the computer model dissolves away and we start to look at the pieces that make it tick. An important element in this presentation is the opportunity for the learner to make his own connections to his own understanding. This understanding may relate to concrete experiences, or it may be an intuitive understanding that hangs on an abstract understanding of something in the brain; e.g. a student seeing a giant condenser in an oil refinery might not have a full understanding of its purpose, but the water droplets on the outside of the cold water pipes make him recall the water droplets on his glass of iced tea at the family picnic last Sunday. He understands “cooling.” 3. Familiar media is an ever-expanding topic; one that is easy for digital natives and somewhat
  27. 27. The Multimodal Curriculum perplexing to digital immigrants. And, it will continue to be a challenge. The important thing to remember here, is that vilifying media such as video games is to miss the boat on important learning opportunities. As we will see, students today have very different ways of obtaining information and they relate to those methodologies for reasons that are hardwired into their brains. For those us who are hardwired into books, it's important to understand that the nature of the connection is the same; just different media for different reasons. 4. Pace is one of those reasons. The speed with which digital natives access information is a nonnegotiable requirement. Their visual and audio acuity, their attention span, the kind and size of the informational element they're looking for - all are determined by the speed of the digital technologies they have been born into and use every day. 5. Relevance. While audio and visual media, digital and web technologies, video games and learningfriendly instructional design techniques are pivotal to multimodal learning, they are simply accompanists to the looming importance of relevance in curriculum content and in the educational process, in general. Why is this? Whereas pedagogical techniques traditionally tend to come from the top down; that is, from academia to the classroom; new media - especially socially-relevant media - works in the other direction, originating with the student, or as a response to youth-focused markets. We have achieved a critical mass of learners, even those in junior high and high school, who feel they should be able to have a say in what is meaningful and worthwhile to learn. They want to understand why a subject is important to their lives. This contextualizing helps them associate new material with old; that is, it helps them build their own schemas. This is something they do everyday with computers, cell phones, ipads, video games and other technologies. The speedy delivery of information gives them the specific piece or module of information they need nearly instantly, without having to sit through a class. They have redefined learning for themselves. They have become knowledge-makers and they have taken control of their
  28. 28. The Multimodal Curriculum own edification, and unless the school system can present information in an equally efficient manner, the student won't be around to get it. The strength and breadth of this movement has not only caught much of academia unawares, it portends a power shift wherein the academic world is, through the sheer weight of media economics, being altered to accommodate today's multimodal student; that is, the digital native. [15 ] The connection between understanding and personal experience is now an inexorably part of learning for today's digital natives. These learners now require a personal element in their education, one that is culturally imbued and linguistically vital. This not just a sociological phenomenon. It is linguistically accurate to understand that literacy is inexorably tied to the language and the culture of the learner. The strength and breadth of this movement has not only caught much of academia unawares, it portends a power shift wherein the academic world is, through the sheer weight of media economics, being altered to accommodate today's multimodal student; that is, the digital native. [15 ] So, our definition of multimodality now must expand to include the space where linguistic issues and cultural issues are married, however uncomfortably, to literacy. Multimodality, then, is not just the accommodation of styles and assorted media. It is a linguistic concept, a content-rich and culturallyvital approach that integrates personal context with learning. Multimodality has been defined by McGinnis et al. as the “integration of words with visual images, sound, streamed video, and/or paralinguistic symbols,” through which meaning-making is premised on an understanding of literacy as “the ability to write oneself into an acquired fictional narrative.” That is, to see oneself or aspects of one's life in the subjects one studies. [11] Educationalist, Sir Ken Robinson, author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Element,” tells us that our languages carry our cultural attributes and that as we learn other languages, we learn new ways of “thinking, feeling, and relating.” [18] Dr. James Paul Gee, in his book. “Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses,” refers to
  29. 29. The Multimodal Curriculum this approach as “discourses,” which are ways of being “people like us.” They are ways of “being in the world”; they are “forms of life”; they are socially-situated identities.”[9] Therefore, as a linguistic concept, multimodality is founded on more than the idea that there are many different types of learners and that curriculum should include nods to kids' lives. Multimodality is all about the individual. It is a reflection of a new way of perceiving the world, of processing and of interacting with information. It's as if, while academia was occupied with its dusty dissemination of information, the keys to education were stolen by generations of students whose ways of learning evolved out of the technologies that changed the thinking of mankind. A new kind of student. Marc Presnsky, author of Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants [16 ] exclaims loudly that “our students have changed radically. Today's students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” The reasons for this can certainly be traced primarily to the average student's intense involvement in computer games, texting, email, social media on computer, television, and other forms of digital entertainment. But those activities, however annoying, have wrought profound changes in kids' brains. We know that with new experiences, the brain forms new neurological pathways and so there is every reason to believe that today's students' brains are very different than the ones we educated even a generation ago. They think and process information differently, and their thinking patterns have also changed. The application of multimodality requires that we view learners differently. It may be sobering to understand that most students learn differently from their teachers. There is a diversity of learners in every classroom; students who are compilations of learning style, language or dialect, ethnic profile, and socio-cultural attributes. They each learn differently. Because of this, no one methodology effectively reaches all students and as a teacher with limited time and an insubstantial curriculum, you can't possibly accommodate all the possible learning styles at the same time. So, for the first time in over a hundred years of public education, students and educators now meet on a sociologically even playing field, a field where students counter traditional education
  30. 30. The Multimodal Curriculum with a powerful technologically-honed, culturally and linguistically-vital environment which must be accommodated by educators if they intend to educate. The impact of this shift is dramatically demonstrated in the events of the Arab Spring where social media literally stimulated a grass-roots movement that brought down governments. The shift in education is no less profound. The multimodal media methodologies for accessing information are controlled by young people; no longer by the traditional academic systems. XII. MULTIMODALITY IN THE CLASSROOM The expansive nature of multimodality and the diversity of learning opportunities make designing classroom objectives somewhat difficult. One project, conducted in Bristol, England started with two objectives, both of which we have discussed earlier. The first was the inclusion of students' cultures and their linguistically diverse forms of learning. Secondly, it was important to include as many different forms of instructional and social media as feasible in the lesson plan. [13] These are the two foundations of any multimodal project: relevance and media. Next, in designing a cohesive curriculum for a diversity of learning styles, it's important to understand that some of the pieces are already in place and incorporating newer elements will round out or enhance the current offering. This is the synergistic combination of multimodality. The development included four steps: 1. Overt instruction – the use of standard methods of lecture and discussion. 2. Situated practice – the inclusion of student's own life experiences as a source for connecting with the topic and also their experiences as knowledge producers such as creators of videos. 3. Critical framing – students will discuss what they have learned in the production of their presentation both from the subject matter and from the standpoint of the media they used.
  31. 31. The Multimodal Curriculum 4. Transformed practice – the result of item 3 wherein students use higher cognitive skills to reflect on what they did, what they learned, what they learned about their process, and what they would do differently next time. Perhaps the scariest aspect of this kind of integration is the freedom students are given to create their own meaning and learning. This is referred to by researchers, Cope and Kalantzis, as “agency.” Agency is one of the roadsigns of the digital age and acknowledges that students are now the creators of their own learning with teachers as their guides. [5] XIII. THE ACTION PLAN Because I don't teach, my action plan can only be theoretical. I have long purported that education should be personalized; that children should all be on their own personalized learning plan that takes into account not only their changing skills, but more particularly, their learning styles and personal interests. The major antagonist to this theory is that teachers don't have the time to do this for each of their thirty second-graders or for all of the high school students who pass through their room every day. Yet, this is a systemic change I feel needs to happen. School districts deal with numbers...numbers of kids, numbers of staff, and numbers of dollars, yet, the real focus has to be on each child. We have such a limited time with each child in order to help him grow, and if we fail, we send a young person out into the world with less than optimum skills for creating a fulfilling life for himself. We have failed so many. I see literacy in its many forms as pivotal to the success of students, however, I see literacy as a set of tools that helps student decode a wide range of learning situations. Those literacy tools are personally determined, based on language, ethnicity, and culture with the goal of learning to function in the wider society. Multimodality is nothing more than another literacy tool, or a series of tools, that can be specifically
  32. 32. The Multimodal Curriculum applied to take a student from a limited understanding to a wider appreciation of himself and his world. Certainly the digital world will continue to challenge us and we will always find ourselves in this “catch-up” mode, but getting through this transition from old education to new multimodal education will enable us to re-tool more easily in the future.
  33. 33. The Multimodal Curriculum REFERENCES 1. Anastopoulou, S., Investigating multimodal interactions for the design of learning environments. Retrieved from: [http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/18/1/Anastopoulou04PhD.pdf 2. Arnheim, R., (1969). Visual thinking, Berkley, University of California Press 3. Dispenza, J., (2007). Evolve your brain, Deerfield Beach, Health Communications, Inc. 4. Cherry, K., Learning Styles Based on Jung's Theory of Personality Retrieved from: http://psychology.about.com/od/educationalpsychology/ss/jung-styles.htm 5. Cope, B., Kalantzis, M., New media, new learning, The international journal of learning. Retrieved from: http://newlearningonline.com/~newlearn//wp-content/blogs.dir/35/files/2009/03/L07_8792 _ NewMediaNewLearning_final.pdf. 6. Eagleman, D., (2011) Incognito, New York, Pantheon Books 7. Felder, Richard M., Soloman, B., Index of learning styles, accessed 24 January, 2006. Retrieved from: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/teaching/learningstyles.html] 8. Felder, R., Brent, R., Understanding student differences, Retrieved from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Understanding_Differences.pdf 9. Gee, J. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: ideology in discourses. London: Falmer Press.
  34. 34. The Multimodal Curriculum 10. Golon, A., (2008). Visual-spacial learners, Waco, Prufrock Press, Inc. 11. Hornberger, Nancy H., Biliteracy, transnationalism, multimodality, and identity:Trajectories across time and space, University of Pennsylvania, nancyh@gse.upenn.edu; http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi? article=1150&context=gse_pubs 12. Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. London: Routledge. 13. Mathewman, S., What does multimodality mean for English? Creative tensions in teaching new texts and new literacies. Retrieved from: http://www.interactiveeducation.ac.uk/out_mat.pdf 14. Mayer, R.E., Moreno, R. Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Retrieved from: http://edtechnewsletter.wikispaces.umb.edu/ file/view/Cognitive+load+in+Multimedia+learning.pdf 15. Palfrey, J., Gasser, U., (2008) Born digital, New York, Basic Books. 16. Prensky, M, Digital natives, digital immigrants, From On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001 Retrieved from: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/ prensky%20%20digital%20natives,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf 17. Sigman, M, Dahaene, S., Brain Mechanisms of Serial and Parallel Processing during Dual-Task Performance, Journal of Neuroscience. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/28/30/7585.full 18. Robinson, K., (2011). Out of our minds – learning to be creative. United Kingdom, Capstone Publishing. 19. Robinson, K., The World Peace Conference - Educating of the heart and mind, retreived from:
  35. 35. The Multimodal Curriculum http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suojNzKZ8ew