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Collection by
Peter Kittle
Published
Oct 25 2010

Resources in this collection

4 Resources in this collection
Bee Foster's resource, "Redefining Text," sets the stage for why all teachers should concern themselves with emerging composition practices. Bee makes these compelling assertions about the impact that new definitions about what counts as reading and writing can have on education: "When we expand our view of text in this manner, we celebrate and support a greater number of our student population on a regular basis. We acknowledge the ways in which our students are already reading and writing. We give them credit for their strengths and begin an important dialogue around the transfer of skills from one mode to another." Teacher-consultant Brooke Nichols, a participant in a yearlong study Bee documents, notes how expanding what counts as writing can help "keep [students] engaged throughout the process."
Erica Blaschke's "Authentic Audiences: Movie Making and Middle School" traces the trajectory of a journey she and her students took that began with an opportunity to enter a contest, developed into a study of the public service announcement (PSA) as a genre, and led to ongoing productions of PSAs for her school. The attention Erica and her students pay to the tools used by actual practitioners of movie making—scriptwriting, storyboarding, editing, videography—helps reveal to students the craft required to excel in putting together a movie.
Dave Boardman's student, Vanessa, crafts a compelling multimodal text as her way of sharing the knowledge she has gained about childhood in Haiti. When questioned about the legitimacy of the form (i.e., that Vanessa has not written a traditional essay), Boardman's response—"True, it's not, and I've always thought that's a good thing. Writing this book was serious work for Vanessa"—highlights the ways that changing the traditional circumstances of school writing does not mean a degradation of students' critical understanding of academic ideas.
In "Making Movies Happen," Jonathan Bartels describes how he and his students transformed the daily video announcements at Williamston High School into the subject and substance of an entire class. Focused on two particular issues—motivation and voice—Bartels provides myriad details about how he crafts a learning environment wherein "students engage in both old and new literacies." Particularly noteworthy from a craft perspective is the second section of the resource, "Video for Voice," in which Bartels' student Harris describes how she and her classmates thought through the craft decisions that go into composing compelling video presentations.

Engaged Writers: Crafting New Texts

Modded screenshot of Quartz Composer project

The prevalence of new multimedia authoring tools embedded in personal computers' operating systems or contained within websites has redefined the kinds of writing students can compose in our classrooms. However, the mere existence of writing affordances doesn't mean that students will automatically use them, much less understand how best to put new digital writing tools to use in a purposeful manner. 

As a teacher of writing, what excites me about the new digital writing tools is the ease with which students can create texts with multimodal attributes. While the traditional rhetorical questions that every writer faces exist likewise with multimedia composers, students often feel better equipped to respond to issues of audience, topic, and purpose when they have more than just the written word at their disposal. 

The resources listed here represent a variety of approaches to helping students understand the particular traits of digital media. Rather than assuming that students can replicate the effective practices of multimodal composers (simply by virtue of having been exposed to nearly endless multimodal texts through television, movies, video games, etc.), the teachers whose resources are highlighted here know that students need support in composing in multimedia. 

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