This keynote presentation at the University of Denver's Writing on the Range conference details the multimodal writing pedagogy Cheryl Ball developed from her editorial work at the online journal Kairos.
In 2008, I had a breakthrough in my professional life, specifically in regards to teaching. Although I had been teaching for a decade by then, I had not had the chance to repeat a course more than once using the same syllabus. Some of that non-repetition was my fault: our discipline’s natural inclination to hack syllabi semester after semester, updating it to the most interesting ideas, innovative pedagogies, and engaging themes we think will reach students.
Some of it was that I taught at four institutions over that decade, with four different sets of course assignments.
…now… <wonder woman pose>
Back in my PhD program at MTU, I learned about NLG… key theorists who the WPAs had integrated into the university-wide writing curriculum.
language for talking about mm features in a text
but also gave us a pedagogical theory for enacting that language — one that mimicked the writing process we knew so well. [EXPLAIN GRAPHIC]
I glommed onto this pedagogy quickly, because it gave me a way to theorize the practice I was already doing in my classes—asking students to build essays in web-editing programs, add images and (later) other media, create lyrical and rhetorical leaps through hyperlinks, and reconsider their structural and logos-centric approaches to persuasive writing using multiple media.
But every single semester, I changed the assignments and the theme. Every single semester for roughly a decade. I had been teaching the modes of meaning progressively through various media—that is, moving from smaller assignments in single media such as short blogs and podcasts, then combining them into longer video productions—was not getting at the learning outcomes I wanted for these writing-intensive courses. Students would create what I’ve elsewhere called the five-paragraph video.
The students were learning that all texts are multimodal, and they were learning the technologies, but they were not learning to make any sustained rhetorical moves in this work. Because I wasn’t teaching them to.
They also weren’t learning to transfer their rhetorical knowledge from one writing situation to another. I had been training them to compose “mutt genres” (Wardle) for my consumption only, not implementing a pedagogy (described in this book) that helps students understand that genres aren’t static (“social action”), that the best writing teaching happens when students write genres that are NOT only for teachers, and, thus, can be assessed based on actual genre conventions of those texts, not some rubric the teacher made up according to what she thinks is “good”.
Of course, I didn’t realize this was an important theory in writing studies until I was in the midst of pushing my syllabi towards it. (Isn’t that often the case??) All I knew at the time was that I was unhappy with the assignments in my class, and I was unhappy with what the majority of students were producing. It was boring work. And I was bored.
The one thing that WAS constant and exciting in my life was Kairos. (Ima come back to how this relates to my class… let me introduce the journal first.)
What is Kairos online since 1996 (20th anniv), free independent; formed by grad students first subtitle: Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments (audience) my first pub in 99; joined staff in 2001; lead editor in 2006. publishes webtexts (HT theory, etc.)
What are webtexts? [RQs, unique designs, form:content]
I like to show webtexts so that readers can see how multimedia and networked writing works in this kind of scholarship. criticisms (not understanding the intellectual labor or work-as-scholarship: OSU ex.) so I like to take people behind the scenes (peer review…)
3 tiers of collaborative review [EXPLAIN] that are developmental, formative, recursive, and evaluative. We are writing teachers, after all.
—> No author ever gets accepted in their first submission.
Every webtext is different. New technologies, media, genres… There can be no evaluative rubric for webtexts and Kairos reviewers are not academically trained to evaluate webtexts based on a standard set of criteria, which means we have to approach each text individually within the multi-genred conventions that comprise the 20 years of webtexts available. (available designs)
So, what does this have to do with the classroom? For me, now? Everything.
tell class story… 2008 Watson conference.
brought ugrad students in mm comp class together with webtext production that could be published.
assignment sequence matches authoring process for Kairos webtexts
dynamic criteria mapping
several articles that discuss webtext assessment criteria —> digital media values + webtext values (across venue, audience, discipline, technological affordances) + shifts depending on individual and semester (AND GENRE)
macro example peer review: conceptual core + creativity + form/content
These in-class criteria map onto the four design-editing issues Kairos addresses in its developmental and copy-editing process.
— TALK ABOUT how the peer review process maps onto the assignment sequence in mm comp class in re values and roles.
replicate over multiple semesters —> 20+ authors Watson conference + ugrad special issue of Kairos + grad student publications.
—> needed to theorize this for my scholarly work. —> pulling mm theory, RGS, & my own editorial praxis together under editorial pedagogy
theories that inform practice
practice that informs research.
[explain briefly DCM]
In order to come up with criteria to evaluate their own webtexts, students first pick favorite or interesting pieces of digital media texts and have to tell the class WHY they thought these pieces were interesting, successful, and other criteria that made them want to share the pieces with the class. They are then given three sets of evaluative criteria mentioned here, all of which are specific to the kinds of scholarly multimedia published in journals like Kairos. (I’m not going to detail these, because they aren’t really the point of this particular talk.)
Using the four sets of criteria (their own + the three above), students analyze published webtexts to decide which criteria they find the most useful. They then have to justify their “short list” by publishing it on their class blog and explaining their choices.
Designing peer review for digital media instruction
Designing Peer Review for Digital Media
Dr. Cheryl E. Ball
West Virginia University
Cope & Kalantzis (1999). Multiliteracies:
A Design for Social Futures. Routledge.
New London Group’s
Pedagogy of Multiliteracies
• Situated practice
• Overt instruction
• Critical framing
• Transformed practice
image from http://www.psephizo.com/
multimodal composition assignment
• Hypertext essays
• Hypermedia essays
• Video poems
• Music videos
• Short documentaries
• “Open” assignments
• Book designs
• Informational websites
• Audio essays
• Audio poems
• Video CFPs
• Class reflections
See Ball, Fenn, & Scoffield. (2013). “Genre and transfer in a multimodal composition class.”
New London Group’s
Modes of Meaning
any combination = multimodal
• real-world genres
• actual audiences
• evaluative criteria based
Bawarshi & Reiff, Genre: An introduction, 2010.
Webtext Evaluation Criteria
Institute for Multimedia Literacy Honors Program at University of
Manifesto Special Issue of Kairos
(DeWitt & Ball, 2008)
“Assessing Scholarly Webtexts” tool (Warner, 2007)