Multimodality in the Composition Classroom


In Towards a Composition Made Whole, Jody Shipka argues that we should reconsider college composition. In Chapter 1, she begins her argument by summarizing the traditional approach to teaching writing in college. Shipka argues that multimodal assignments should be a part of composition classrooms to make the learning relevant to students. She says that tools like social network and editing software can promote a multimodal learning experience. At the same time, she wants to avoid defining multimodal as strictly the technological tools that we use. Instead she argues that students can have a true multimodal learning experience “negotiat[ing]– an interplay of words, images, sounds, scents and movement (21). She supports this definition because it reflects students’ out of class literacy practices, one that is dynamic and reflective of their unique discourse communities.


In addition, Shipka notes the traditional practice of teaching college composition often alienates students and she says instructors can overcome this perception by transforming writing as a process for creating authentic communication. She argues that the traditional way of teaching freshman composition creates an artificial corridor around the skills developed in a classroom, hard to acquire and just as difficult to employ outsides the classroom. Instead, Shipka encourages instructors to equip students with an “experimental attitude” so that they see that literacy is context dependent and part of a social practice. To accomplish this lofty goal, instructors should be mindful of helping students develop transferable skills, by weaving students’ out of school writing practices into their teaching while shepherding students through a process to tailor their writing to fit their audience, purpose and genre.


I am glad that Shipka clarified what multimodal assignments should be. I initially thought that it should be about the use of technology or the use of visual images. I think my initial definition of multimodality was underdeveloped. I agree with her that we should help our students negotiate and mold different texts and have them interact with one another. We do live in a dynamic world with technology disrupting our very conception of writing. I think it would be useful to incorporate multimodal texts into the classroom so that students see that composition can include a lot of different mediums.


At the same time, I am also mindful that many of us operate in an academic setting where there are certain conventions that give students power and access. In that case, I believe that it is still important to teach students how to write for an academic audience. Shipka says instructors can be comprehensive by incorporating multimodality into their instruction and teach academic composition. Shipka says there is enough time to do it all but I question her stance. There are Student Learning Outcomes to follow and I will be evaluated based on my ability to meet these standards. I am afraid that privileging multimodal assignments leaves me little time to meet my SLOs. I see multimodality as text to introduce to the class but I would not assign the production of a multimodal assignment because I don’t know how valuable it is for their academic experience. I can have my students write a visual essay but what happens when they go to their history class and they are asked to write a research paper? Have I failed my students if I don’t teach them how to write a type of paper that is privileged in academia?





A Grammarian’s Love/Hate Relationship to Microsoft Word


OK, I am by no means “perfect” at grammar and style (who is?), but having tutored for a long time, taught English to speakers of other languages, and endured the misfortune of having a penchant for foreign women whose secondary and tertiary languages are English, which, admittedly, somehow results in a grammar lesson at least once a week, I think I know a bit about grammar.

Even when I write paragraph-long sentences.

And fragments.

Because I know the rules, such as not beginning sentences with “because,” that Word somehow doesn’t flag for some reason unbeknownst to me, yet watch it squiggly-underline any nonrestrictive relative clause using “which” that is lacking commas or recommend the deletion of a comma before “that,” for “that” should be used for restrictive clauses.


Yet, as McGee and Ericsson point out, modern style guides are actually far less binary and restrictive (wonk wonk) and it is not uncommon to find professionally published articles whose authors maintain a more flexible view on grammar. In fact, our beloved MSGC (Microsoft Grammar Check) is a bit mysterious in the way it determines the “correctness” of a sentence. Are we talking about Shrunk & White, the “classic”? There is something ironic about every construction of passive voice being flagged by MSGC, even if the passive form isn’t necessarily bad at all. <== Might I note that MSGC failed to notice the passive voice I just used. Perhaps because the sentence was too complex for the program.

However, it DID highlight “…actually far less binary and restrictive” as a “colloquialism.”

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Of course, for those whom “Standard Academic English” is second nature, it is easy to ignore MSGC. If I accidentally overlooked something I wouldn’t otherwise do, or if I hadn’t intended on splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition, MSGC can point it out and I may consider it. And however you look at it, MSGC can be very helpful because you know what, you might have written something that would make anyone in his or her right mind say:


Microsoft Word drives me crazy sometimes because it keeps highlighting non-mistakes and what is otherwise perfectly good English.

However, one of the more “serious” issues about MSGC, as McGee and Ericsson mention, is that because it is the dominant word processor on the market, its grammar checker is regulating language and policing the way we write. It is an extension of the “elite.”

For me, honestly, I think its arbitrary, stuffy rules are more troubling than the hegemonic linguistic structures it supports. Modern iterations of Word allow you to determine how formal you want your spell/grammar checker to be, so some of these complaints will eventually be phased out with future releases. I also wonder how dominant Microsoft Word will remain, particularly with Web 2.0 and many of our online activities, not to mention composing processes, moving to “the cloud.”

I wonder if we might have a “transparent” process of spell/grammar checking based on results indexed from the Internet? It sounds like it would be tough, but I think we have the technology to do it. Or perhaps you can download “style guides” into your browser-based word processor and select one based on the genre/audience of the text you’re composing. Or maybe, like Wikipedia, where everyone is free to contribute to articles (creating a democratic, shared body of knowledge – at least in theory), we can have a “worldwide English style guide” that anyone and everyone can add to, reaching a consensus and finding a balance across all Anglophone cultures.

As for why I don’t think MSGC’s enforcement of SAE is that big of a deal, it’s because I think that MSGC is a contributor to the problem, not the source of it. MSGC is simply coding that attempts to “flag” what some old school style guide out there said was “correct” grammar and style. If those style guides were more liberal with which to begin (ha, ha), then MSGC wouldn’t be as much of a pain in the ass as it is. And in some ways, isn’t it helpful? Sure, we ought to be critical of it, but it isn’t perfect, and I’m glad it isn’t, or you and I wouldn’t have tenable jobs!


Microsoft Word’s grammar check function is annoying, but I could care less.

(Didn’t catch that one, MSGC!)

Relating to “A Cyberwriter’s Tale”

In “Why technology matters to writing: A cyberwriter’s tale,” Jim Porter makes the case of how technology impacts and benefits writing through his personal narrative. He details how technology impacts writing based on the applications of the technology and the disposition of the writer. Each technology has a different purpose, and through his story of developing as a writer, he tracks his development through different composing tools (handwriting, typewriting, and cyberwriting). Porter’s story demonstrates how each composing tool not only influences writer’s practices but congeals to the writer. He asserts that composing tools work with the writer in unison, and therefore he suggests theorist and researchers need to celebrate the “variations of form and the complexity and fluidity of identity” that is being a digital writer (388). His examination ends by pressing readers to shift from a humanist viewpoint of “whether technology is good or bad, useful or not, humanizing or not” to the posthumanist viewpoint of “how we can shape technologies to improve human life” (388).

Porter discusses his early experience with writing teachers and learning” good penmanship (that is, readability) mattered” (377). Albeit my experience was different than his, but I could relate to his “hours and hours of disciplined handwriting practice” (377). I moved regularly as a child, and because of that I never learned how to write in cursive. By the time I reached high school, most of my teachers wrote in cursive on the board or in my feedback and I could barely decipher what they wrote. I spent hours and hours teaching myself to write and read cursive as a teenager so that I could read my others penmanship. Now I look at technology and I work with my old high school teachers who have started doing everything on PowerPoint, and I realize that cursive is becoming less and less a requirement “in terms of the credibility and character of the writer” (377).

Porter also discusses his experience learning to type. He recalls his learning how type on a typewriter, and “typing and retyping the same lines over and over” (378). Although I did not learn to type using a typewriter, my early education placed extreme importance on learning to type. From first to eighth grade I was also forced to retype the same lines over and over again, but I did not get the same experience of “examin[ing], reread[ing], contemplat[ing], and refin[ing] my style” (378) because I was simply reproducing in my typing classes. This made me think how valuable it would have been to practice my own writing in typing courses instead of reproducing sentences like ‘The dog ran up the hill.’ I have also regularly thought about how writing and engaging with process by retyping has dramatically changed in the era of the word processor. I very rarely use things like my spell or grammar check first when reviewing an essay on my word processor because I feel like that distracts from my own reflection and refinement of a text.

While word processor programs make completing writing tasks highly “efficient,” I cannot help but feel like I am missing out on some sort of deeper writing process by always having to engage with my computer. When I was younger, I could not go into a bookstore without buying a journal. I have started countless journals where I have written daily in the first 15-20 pages and then slowly stopped and forgotten about the journal in favor of consuming my time with technology. But each time I return to a bookstore and head for the check out I cannot help but pick up a new journal thinking that somehow, some way putting pen to paper will make me a better or more active writer. It took me years to realize that I was already writing and journaling by emailing, using social media, and keeping up with my school and work assignments. I was already improving my process by using technology despite how the transaction of typing versus writing may make me feel. Composing tools may vary and be ever evolving, but they all improve process if one is still participating in the transaction of creating text.

WoW…I’m Not Sure About Playing Games in the Classroom, Especially World of Warcraft.

Video games have been a major part of my life experience ever since I was able to hold a controller and barely move and jump in Super Mario Brothers or swing a sword in The Legend Of Zelda for the NES.


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Sources: Rebubble and Nitwitty

My experience with gaming has evolved over the years from home consoles to handheld devices to PC gaming. I have spent around 7 of the last 10 years of my experience with gaming has evolved over the years from home consoles to handheld devices to PC gaming. I have spent around 7 of the last 10 years of World of Warcraft’s (WoW) existence playing the game as well as playing League of Legends, Hearthstone, and other multiplayer games and I would love nothing more than to find a way to incorporate video games or game design concepts into the classroom on some scale. From digging into writings by pieces by Bogost, Alberti, and Gee on what we can learn from gaming, game design, and gaming concepts, I was sure that introducing these kinds of concepts into the classroom could be wildly successful.  I was all ready to pop the champagne and celebrate, but then…

I really wanted to write an entirely positive article, but I guess I am too enticed by challenging academics at their assertions because once I started reading the Colbys’ article I slammed on the proverbial brakes and turned that celebration car around, faster than you could say “LEEEEEEEEEEEEEROY JEEEEEEEENKINS!

And on that day, a meme was born.

“A Pedagogy of Play: Integrating Computer Games into the Writing Classroom” by Rebekah Shultz Colby and Richard Colby weaves an idyllic world where they could advertise a class in which the entire class would spend the semester playing Blizzard Entertainment’s wildly successful and still very popular game, WoW, and I am here to try to (probably unsuccessfully) tactfully explain why this would be a terrible idea that would not work outside of isolated cases. Maybe this type of class is not supposed to be adopted in any significant way in a school system. I find that kind of exclusivity to be a bit reprehensible, which is why I am so incensed at the notion of WoW or any high-intensity computer game, being used as the core aspect of a classroom.

If my work at community colleges and life as a student has been any indication, many students would not have the resources to be able to take the opportunity offered by this class. Sure, at Denver University, a private college where tuition currently sits at around 15,096 dollars a semester, students might be able to afford a computer with the capabilities necessary to run WoW well enough to play the game. However, if implemented where I live, go to school, and work, I do not believe this would be the case. While many students have laptops, most of them are basic machines that are built with only the bare essentials to utilize programs like Microsoft Office, Facebook (maybe casual games on said website), and content streaming services.


Given these choices, many would take the HP. Credit: Freebies2deals

Predominantly, these are the kinds of computers that are advertised to students by stores like Best Buy: non-gaming computers with no dedicated graphics processor that would barely run the game if at all. One would need to buy a laptop that  costs around $700 to run the game in a way that is playable.  Further, WoW requires its own monetary subscription of $15 a month after you buy the game, which, at this current moment, involves spending at around $40 to purchase the game and the most recent expansion. I would fear that students would not be totally clear on what they would need when signing up for a class like this and then have to drop, leaving them sans an important class for their GE. None of the financial aspects of this endeavor are examined in the paper; the authors only made the point that “WoW has relatively low system requirements.” Send a message to any PC gamer and ask them if playing on the lowest settings makes a game fun to play. The answer you will probably get is:

This class concept is not feasible or accessible to the larger student population of an American college campus, especially community colleges.

I would also question a student’s time dedication to be able to participate in this class. Unless you are already an avid WoW player, which the paper identifies is not required, there is a huge amount of time that a player must commit to gain expertise in any aspect of the game without putting in a significant amount of research on other websites (and I would argue that both of these are required to be able to contribute to a wiki or make a guide on the game). For some students, playing the game might take far in excess of the expected time, and, even then, I would be concerned how much time would be required to play the game in addition to time spent doing the various class writing assignments. Leveling a character, finding and immersing oneself in a guild, leveling a profession, and learning how the mechanics of the game work take hours upon hours of play and research even in the current version of the game which is MUCH simpler than it was in 2008 when this article was published. Most active guilds will not look at you twice if you are not at or near max level and player interaction is minimal outside of a guild. In addition, you just do not learn enough about the game or its community at low levels.


 time played

This is my most recent character and I have not even gotten him to max level.

And I sort of know what I am doing half the time.

The Colbys only identify two cases of students in this experimental class environment, “Josh, an experienced WoW player” and Tiffany who had a roommate who played WoW often and took the class with her. I was disappointed by the lack of other representative experiences for this proposal of a WoW classroom if a student was not a WoW player. There was no real consideration of what to do if one or more of the students in the class decided that they did not like the game besides the result of dropping, which, again, really punishes the student.

I honestly do not know of a massively multiplayer online style game that would dodge both of these serious issues with this pedagogy. I want to love this idea. I REALLY want to. But just like any game community, even if one could find a way to make this work, I doubt its longevity. Semester to semester a teacher might have to find a new game or gaming community as games die and a new fad emerges. When this article was written WoW was the biggest PC game that had ever existed boasting around ten million subscribers, but now the game has less than half of that number and seems to still be declining.


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Now down to around 5.5 million subs.

A multiplayer online battle arena (moba) like League of Legends would be the WoW of today, but who know how long that game would last (Nor would I ever subject my students to that game’s community. I have been called every slur, profanity and disgusting use of language imaginable when I am playing badly in that game. It is the YouTube comments section of video games. Only click this if you want an example. It is not safe for work because of the intense language.)

Gaming is definitely a New Media Literacy that, as time passes, more and more students will be playing in some fashion. Involving games, game design, and gaming rhetoric in the classroom is worth studying. Programs like Classcraft are already paving the way for creating augmented reality games in the classroom environment. To me, this is the most exciting use of the excursions composition academics have been making, in addition to using video games as a way of studying rhetoric and genre in the classroom.

I think it is about time to end this rant and hope that this even fits the bill for this blog. I leave you again with an OC remix of the week. This is Legend of Zelda: ALttP ‘Come to the Dark Side, It’s a Funky Place’ by Nostalvania:



Social Media: The Renaissance Self-Expression and Community.. or is it?

I have spent the last few hours pondering what Micheal Wesch would say about the changes in spaces like Youtube and other social media since he made his video on Web 2.0 and his anthropological study of Youtube. Once upon a time, (though really it was not that long ago) vlogs and other personal videos were absolutely the predominant videos and content type on Youtube. Looking all the way back at 2006 we see much of what was being discussed by Wesch in simple user generated videos with just a few thousand views sitting on the front page.

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Credit: Graphitas

I am sure if we used The Way Back Machine then we would see many response videos, even to these front page entries. If we take a peek at the front page of Youtube today, the field has completely changed. Every front page is tailor made for the person who is consuming the media, especially if you have any viewing history or an account linked to your Youtube habits.

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As you can see, the trending videos look like a Hollywood catalog; they are almost completely comprised of massive company sponsored channels or the titanic channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers making professional content for our consumption. Now, I am not saying that this is necessarily bad, since millions of hours of entertainment have arisen from the ability of an individual to monetize their videos on Youtube, but the community of videos that was so exciting to Welsh ten years ago is dying if it is not completely dead already. It seems that a significant amount of social media is moving away from being a way of interconnectivity toward being a way to create or popularize a brand. Even my own Facebook feed has become more of a space to see updates from news and entertainment sites than just seeing what a friend is up to on any given day, resulting from giving a page or website a “Like.” Is there a new social media that has replaced this phenomenon? Maybe Vines? Snapchat? My experience with these new medias are limited so I have no real idea if those kinds of apps are filling this void.

Moving to a slightly different sphere, in “Examining Digital Literacy Practices on Social Network Sites,” Amber Buck examines what she calls, (finally…at the end of the article) “a rather extreme case of social network site use.” Throughout this study, her subject, Ronnie, is shown to be trying to make a “brand” much like the celebrities that we see on Twitter, Facebook, and other networking websites. I feel that this discussion is a bit disingenuous as a result because it is not indicative of most students practices on a social networking site. While we all create an online identity, I do not believe that most people are developing as complex rhetorical skills that Ronnie is displaying and Buck is discussing nor do I think most people are trying to generate fans and fame from their social media exploration. To me this kind of study just screams outlier case.

(As a side note her abstract mentions that the literacy practices we explore include navigating user agreements, which means that she thinks that many young adults read them.)


Now this is not to discount that rhetorical  and genre learning is going on and we as teachers cannot take advantage of that, but social media and how people, especially youth, interact with that media evolves faster than we can build data and studies on how to incorporate it into pedagogy and the classroom. We have read many papers examining Myspace, but that website is now a wasteland with most people’s profiles sitting derelict, an interesting photograph of our past social media lives. It makes me wonder how much of that study is still relevant as things so rapidly change. I am extremely interested in what the next few years hold and how social media and literacies will continue to evolve.

Will we see another website emerge to replace Facebook? Or has the evolution of social media begun to settle and slow down? If students are as active as Ronnie and I am just ignorant of this, then how might we best bring this to the forefront in the classroom?

I think I have rambled like a terrible cynic for long enough today. So I shall do what I always will and leave you all with an OC remix of the day. This is a remix by FoxyPanda of the famous “Aquatic Ambiance” Theme from Donkey Kong Country. Cheers!

“Don’t Bite the Noobs!”


Love them or hate them, online media (blogs, wikis, forums, etc.) are new aspects of composition classrooms that are quickly becoming part of the norm. With Tryon’s “Writing and Citizenship: Using Blogs to Teach First Year Composition,” Hunter’s “Erasing “Property Lines,”” and Benson and Reyman’s “Learning to Write Publicly,” one of the main connecting ideas between the three articles are the difficulties instructors experience in creating an authentic environment for students to write genuinely and for students to feel like that their writing is making some sort of difference on the world (with hopes of connecting with at least one other person). Luckily, the four authors mention and present different solutions and statistical proof on how online media can assist in conquering these dilemmas.  


ned-stark-blog.jpgWith this group of reading, I instantly started comparing the differences between blogs and wiki pages. Generally, blogs are written by one author and have content that is open for criticism by outsiders. According to Tryon, students become better writers because of this instant publication of their writing. Through this instant publication, students are capable of escaping the perception that they are “passive consumers” of writing and instead are becoming “active participants” of a specific writing community (Tryon 128). In the case of Tryon’s experience with his “Writing to the Moment” course, he was lucky to have readers outside of the classroom comment on his students’ blogs. As intimidating as that may be, this aspect of the course blogs made it so much more impactful for Tyron’s students because it showed an establishment of his students becoming part of that community. Rather than having the criticism in the comment section bring down their writing, students were able to strengthen their writing by incorporating the criticism into their next writing or using it to further establish their stances present in the blog; “blogging’s ephemerality, its focus on the everyday, and its no-holds-barred argumentative style” (128).


Wiki pages are generally content manifested together through a community of different authors who are able to add their own content and are also be able to edit other community members’ writing. Despite the strong community aspect to wiki pages, these authors also have a “lack of ownership attached to mistakes” (Hunter 48). Unlike blogs, wiki pages are more of a group effort where authors can directly communicate with each other on their writing and how to fix it.


Although blogs and wiki pages are separate online genres, they share a commonality by emphasizing on some sort of community development and individual growth through that community. In a way, blogs and wiki pages fit Benson and Reyman’s use of Walker’s take on network literacy, “understanding a kind of writing that is social, collaborative process rather than an act of an individual in solitary” (9).


I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I’ve always felt tension when incorporating new media in the writing classroom –both as a student and an instructor, especially with blogs. Having gone through my undergraduate career, I can say that the strictly writing courses were tedious. Don’t get me wrong… I learned a lot, but they felt so repetitive. The saying, “Don’t Bite the Noobs!” in Hunter’s article stuck out to me because I think it’s something that we all can incorporate into our classrooms. Writing itself is such a hard thing. Even as a graduate student, I still find myself stumbling with words when typing the simplest of things: Facebook statuses, Instagram posts, and even text messages. Knowing that a community is open to new individuals definitely eases the tension and is something that can be beneficial for students.           



Tech Identities: An Evolution of an Old Problem in Academia

As I read “Becoming Literate in the Information Age” and considered my own development in my own identities in technology and literacy outside of the “norm,” I began to think on the struggle for teachers in the composition classroom to effectively instruct different speech and discourse communities; a Sociolinguistics subject I studied in undergrad and, currently, the reading subject of the Introduction to Composition class Theory here at SFSU. Students from these different communities have no issue with  conveying ideas or constructing communication; they simply don’t communicate in the specific way desired by those in power. Because the prestige language is not in their own primary or secondary discourses, these students are told that their language identity is incorrect either directly or subversively and the result can be the inability to succeed in academic institutions. Now, with technology creating further expansions and fragmentation of discourse and speech communities, not to mention becoming more important globally than traditional literacy, more students have the potential to fall through the cracks if composition teachers cannot find a way to incorporate some of these new literacies and recognition of tech identities, as well as language identities, into the classroom.

one-does-not-simply-a - One does not simply become fluent in a Secondary Discourse

This felt especially relevant in the case study of David John Damon explored in “Students Who Teach Us,” who, despite being an early adopter of web design, seemed extremely practiced, skilled, and talented at not only creating websites, but also networking people, failed out of college because of his non-academic language used in his speech and composition courses. Growing up in Detroit, he did not have the background in the “standard” Academic language discourse communities that the institution he took classes at wanted him to have skill in. His other talents were never considered or really observed by those that only saw his inability to construct traditional literacy by writing formal papers.

David spent a large portion of his time creating, learning, honing and developing websites for the various communities on campus he participated in. This is basically Tapscott’s dream student who is, “hungry for expression, discovery and [his] own self-development” (Buckingham 13). He showed all of the traits of a person who knows the importance of computer literacy in an increasing technocentric world and spent his time developing these skills much like the two people examined in “Becoming Literate”, but the difference was their upbringing, creating an academic as well as technological identity that helped to lead them to success. Sadly, while David’s teachers expressed concern for his issues with formal writing, nothing is said on attempts to work with him, nor do we find out what happened after his year at college.

It is too bad that these teachers had not also read the “Students Who Teach Us” chapter of Writing New Media since it contains some interesting ideas on how to create a culture of tech literacy and identity awareness in the classroom. These kinds of writing exercises can help students realize their own authorship and literacies that they have already developed, which might make an English class less threatening. As I explore further into this fascinating and evolving world of English Composition, I have to wonder how it is possible to incorporate even elements of everything that I am learning that seems like it would benefit student learning. In addition, I have concerns about students moving forward into other classes with teachers who are still very much traditionalists and a student’s ability to succeed coming out of a class that I teach and even more how the hell teachers can not only get away with these different ideas but begin to change the departments that they reside in, but maybe that is just me overthinking things.


Finally, to emulate one of my favorite YouTubers TotalBiscuit, here is an OC remix track that I feel emulates the wonder (and possibly a little fear of the unknown?) of this world of technology and literacy that we are exploring:

Counterculture in New Media


The description of Mann’s collage centered around the quotation-“Whoever controls the media“- made me recall a new media project I saw by another student years ago, where they focused their work around a scene from Clockwork Orange with the thesis: rebellious youth culture has overturned the bourgeoisie ideology that predominantly existed in middle class suburbs of London in the 1960’s through standard forms of media (music, television, film.) The Clockwork Orange clip serves to illustrate how the counter-culture movement presents the negative impacts that people’s fascination with capitalism and consumerism, masked by religion and wealth, has had on society. In Mann’s college, the main concept of media and the impact that a person can have on society (depending on who is in charge of it) is expressed through primarily visual images on one piece of paper. This other project is illustrated through the movie clip and relies heavily on music and speech to present a message. The images that Mann chose are all recognizable to a mass audience (President Bush and Rush Limbaugh) and as a result of this, they have immediate associations for the viewer that can carry meaning. Other signifiers are used, such as the television, the puppet strings, and even the crucifix. All are easily recognizable symbols, and they serve to illustrate Mann’s thesis that President Bush uses various spokespeople to send a negative conservative ideology, which includes, but is not limited to, religion and war propaganda. The Clockwork Orange clip above similarly uses religious symbols through the images of porcelain Jesus figurines (martyrdom), the snake (evil), the poster of the naked woman (Eve) and media is represented through movie clips from One Million Years B.C.(decadence) and Beethoven (conservativeness). Both projects are successful because they don’t just randomly present images and clips to the viewer, but instead construct these pieces of media with a unified message. The message is then further elaborated upon through examples and explanation-the how and the why. All things one would expect to see in successful essay, and this information is just instead presented through visual or auditory means.


“It is at first a bit disconcerting to see the lyrics of one song plays in the background; adding to the oddness is the visual experiences of seeing a very famous paintings faded in and out on the screen with the words superimposed on them…new context with new associations.” This description of Starry Night is similar to how I would describe the Clockwork Orange clip, and the value that each project has seems to rest in this last line: “new context with new associations.” That is the importance in multimodal assignments. However, deciding how to determine whether a new media project has accomplished this is the challenge facing instructors now. How to best assess multimodal assignments is a valuable concern when addressing the transitional process that is occurring in classrooms now where new media is being more readily incorporated. New media being defined as “…texts that juxtapose semiotic modes in new and aesthetically pleasing ways, and in doing so, break away from print traditions so that written text is not the primary rhetorical means.” Cheryl Ball (2004) “Show, not tell.”


The primary tools for evaluating new media, as presented in the article “Between Modes: Assessing Student New Media Composition,” are: looking at how effectively a project addresses audience and its ability to achieve purpose, how clearly the message or meaning is conveyed through the use of multiple modes (that each one has a purpose and is not just applied flippantly), and how effectively the connections between these modes have been formed in order to effectively illustrate meaning. Sorapure’s flexible stance that these assessment tools should not be applied to all assignments in all contexts, lest the value of the project be neglected because it is important to take the context of the assignment, purpose of the course, and the teacher and students themselves into account.


Problems occur when the project simply includes an element because it looks good or because it is a cool effect. There exists no meaning and then instead creates a distraction. Addressing this concern helps the evaluator not feel that just because the work is aesthetically pleasing, they need to give the project a high grade. The idea here seems that new media should be judged close to the way that an essay is assessed. There needs to be a central thesis, main ideas and arguments that link together the author’s ideas, and that these need to be elaborated upon through some sort of commentary. Ultimately, there does need to be some coherence that links together the purpose of the work, and analysis also needs to exist, so that there isn’t just a surface-level message. The article presented several examples of evaluated works, and Gabe Mann’s collage with the image of Bush as a puppeteer to conservative media moguls was presented as the most highly valued because of it’s use of both metonymic and metaphoric components. The combination of images, sound, and text worked metonymically because it linked images by association like “lines from a poem combined with a melody from a song.” This collage, like the Clockwork Orange project was successful because as a “Digital composition [it] weave[ed] words and context and images” with a unified thesis. This is something to look for when evaluating multimodal works.

New Media in Composition Classrooms

David Buckingham says in “Introducing Identity” that digital media shapes young people’s identities. I think that the internet makes it easier for people to create multiple identities.

In “Students Who Teach Us” by Cynthia L. Selfe talks about how composition teachers are slow to utilizing media texts in the classroom. New media is different from print text in that it increases interactivity and creates multiple literacies (seeing, listening, writing and reading)

People who are familiar with printed text may have a difficult time adopting the new media.

Here is an interesting site

Something that print text cannot offer is aesthetics and design along with information. New media, therefore, caters to a wide audience. Some interesting quotes are brought up in this article:

“New media texts now exist on William Blake, the Salem Witch trials, hip hop, the architectural history of Rome… among many other topics” (44)

Coverage of historical events is more accessible and convenient for the younger generation to get a hold of.

Also, “Imaginative texts percolates through the sub strata of composition classrooms in direct contrast to students’ laissez faire attitudes toward more conventional texts” (44) This means that there is more enthusiasm to learning. If teachers can utilize this enthusiasm, it would make for a dynamic curriculum.

The essay also talks about how students can be teachers as well, as they can teach the older generation of new computer capabilities. Rather than curriculum being teacher-centered, students can benefit from teaching their teachers new computer skills.

In Selfe’s “Becoming Literate in the Information Age” there is talk of increasing computer usage. Selfe says “writers might compose differently with computers but probably not better.” This is problematic because computers may not help people become better writers.

Two people’s lives were followed as case studies in Selfe’s article. Both of these people, Melissa and Brittney grew up in middle class families. The term “cultural ecology” was introduced. Selfe points out that schools are not the sole places where people gain access to digital literacy (644). From 1978-2003 personal computers slowly became commercially available into composition classrooms. In the 1970’s computer programming was introduced into classrooms. Britney was born into an era of internet and email. She grew up with computer as a child while Melissa taught herself how to use computers when they were first being used in the military. Britney says, “I appreciate when my teachers embrace technology” (660). She also says, “We do best at things we have a genuine interest in, not those that are spoon-fed to us.”

If English teachers can address new literacies in their classrooms, that would make a more dynamic way for students to learn.

Teaching Critical Literacy in a Digital Age

For those of you interested not only in how and in what ways new media and information and communications technologies can be adopted and used in educational settings, but also in how to teach students to become more aware of and able to critique the numerous social, cultural, and ideological functions that rhetorics of technology serve, here is a list of some books and articles you may find useful.

I highly recommend Mark Andrejevic’s iSpy as a must read.

Ebert, Teresa L. The Task of Cultural Critique. Urbana/Chicago:

University of Illinois Press, 2009. Print.

Andrejevic, Mark. iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era.

University of Kansas Press, 2007. Print.

 Gee, James Paul, Glynda Hull, and Colin Lankshear. The New Work Order:

Behind the Language of the New Capitalism. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996. Print.

Thomson, Iain. “From the Question Concerning Technology to the Quest

for a Democratic Technology: Heidegger, Marcuse, Feenberg.” Futures of Critical Theory: Dreams of Difference. Ed. Peters, Michael, Mark Olssen, and Colin Lankshear. NewYork: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003. Print.

Selber, Stuart A. “Technological Dramas: A Meta-Discourse Heuristic for

Critical Literacy.” Computers and Composition Vol. 21 (2004): 171-95. Print.

Toscano, Aaron A. “Using I, Robot in the Technical Writing Classroom:

Developing a Critical Technological Awareness.” Computers and Composition. Vol. 28 (2011): 14-27. Print.

Warnick, Barbara. Critical Literacy in a Digital Era: Technology, Rhetoric,

and the Public Interest. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.