One of the joys of teaching is learning from and being inspired by the students with whom you are working. Last week in a graduate course I am teaching called eLearning in PK-20, we focused on multimodality and multimedia in our teaching and learning. We read a chapter I had written with a colleague called “Multimodal Meaning: Discursive Dimensions of e-Learning” in the book eLearning Ecologies.
In our course, a different class member “sparks” a conversation for the week, and we all respond using FlipGrid. For this week, Sheri sparked our conversation and in a very thoughtful way, pushed back on some of the overemphasis in our chapter on thoughtfully, responsively, and purposefully designing multimodal/media instruction. She invited us to think about the unintentional and unexpected places we’ve been when we follow students’ leads. I appreciated the push, and it made me think back to another spark from Zachary who had invited us to consider if and how we were designing instruction that was (or was not) culturally responsive, and in humanizing ways, attentive to the diverse lived experiences of our students. Needless to say, I was inspired to focus on both of these dimensions in my response video for the week. Here it is:
For those of you interested, here is the first paragraph from “Multimodal Meaning: Discursive Dimensions of e-Learning”:
From graphic organizers to 3-D models of cellular structure to choreographed performances of Shakespearean sonnets, multimodal objects and practices are not uncommon in traditional schooling. However, these expressions are often presented as accompaniments to the central, dominant evidence of knowledge and learning—language in the form of print text (Bezemer & Kress, 2008; Jewitt, 2005; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001). All too often, learning activities and assessments are reduced to alphabetic expressions that can be collected and counted. This holds true for teacher planning materials as well, such as in the prescribed talking points and quiz questions in annotated textbooks. However, the rapid changes to the communicative practices brought on by the sweep of the digital era—including the prevalence of screens, the interactive and social nature of media composition, distribution, and consumption—have created an expanse between the practices of schooling and the practices of daily life, civic engagement, disciplinary study, and professional careers. More often than not, the texts we encounter in daily life are multimodal (Kress, 2003), and we are expected to digitally design multimodal texts in return. Miller and McVee (2012) argue that “integrating the dramatic broadening of purposeful literacies and practices of knowing to include multimodal systems beyond print text for all students may be the essential task for schools in the 21st century” (p. 6). In this chapter, we further argue that when educational spaces and practices are reimagined with the affordances of multimodal meaning making foregrounded—particularly those made available by digital tools and interfaces—the potential for reshaping many of the assumed building blocks of educational design and experience in e-learning ecologies is realized.
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