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This I Believe Goes Multimodal-The Process

Written by Rochelle Ramay
October 31, 2010

The Process

There comes a time in teaching when we need to jump in and trust that our theories and practices will prevail. Teaching takes risk sometimes, and for the person who flinches at these sorts of projects, I say…if I can figure this out, so can you.

I came to this project with a solid knowledge of writing instruction, but I knew very little about multimodal presentations. Like other things I don’t know how to do, I asked some experts for help: my writing project friends and teaching colleagues. 

Because so much internet access is blocked from schools, and our hardware is outdated, we pushed ahead with what is available. Some students own laptops, cell phones, digital cameras, and ipods. We gathered up cables, a scanner, and extra cameras. And we used whatever movie making program is installed on our school’s computers. My friend reminds me that you always “dance with who you brung.” We used what we had and it worked .

Studying Models

We spent a few days listening and reading actual selections
from the This I Believe collection. Choosing pieces with more of an
interest for teenagers: Be Cool to the Pizza Dude ; Always Go to the Funeral; The People Who Love You When No One Else Will, we listened then discussed the
effectiveness of each one. We read from printed pages in order to identify
particular strategies and features that impacted our impressions and responses
to the speaker’s purpose. 

In addition to Peter Kittle’s multimodel presentation, we watched Jason Shiroff’s Daddy Duty video. After several showings of each, students noted presentational modes they wanted to include in their own essays and videos.

Finding a Topic

Students composed extensive lists of beliefs, then tinkered with experiences that lead to those beliefs. This is the most intense, emotional, and frustrating step in the process.

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Many students began with one idea and ultimately abandoned it.

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(NPR makes a curriculum available, although we didn’t follow it.)

The Writing

The writing is EVERYTHING. Glitz and music can’t make a weak paper strong. This fact alone motivates good writing.

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After studying and internalizing the intent of writing a personal philosophy, students composed either by handwriting their essays, or word processing them.

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Revising and rewriting happened spontaneously as students tested their essays’ effectiveness.

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The Recording

Voice recording requires practice with phrasing and articulation. This is a time-consuming step in the process because recording takes at least 30 minutes per person. We have learned that cell phone recording quality is sub-par. Therefore, students recorded themselves reading their essays using a 1990 something laptop and a simple and inexpensive headset. Students sat in a quiet room, read their essays into the microphone, listened to them, and rerecorded as needed. 

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We learned that marking essays for revision required more than traditional notation. Students invented ways of indicating voice inflection, image placement, and musical timing. They rehearsed reading and carefully planned phrasing to synchronize with music, pictures, slides, and videos. This process helped them conceptualize their final projects.

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The Field Trip Without the Field Trip–Making a movie

Composing a multimodal project demands an extended time frame. To create several consecutive hours for students to work, we took them on The Field Trip Without the Field Trip. If students miss a full day of school for sports or trips to other events and locations, why not take them to the computer lab for a day of composing? 

Students arrived at school on the day of the field trip prepared to compose their videos. We gave general instructions, including permission to use their usually banned cell phones, ipods, and locked down websites. Students with lap tops accessed a wireless connection set up by the school’s technology expert, with access lasting from 8-3. 

For a single school day, 100 students were given the freedom to work on a single project without interruptions. They had access to adult mentors, school resources, and one another. 

(In order to qualify for attending the field trip, we established due dates for the essay’s final draft and the voice recording.)

Not a single student missed the field trip!



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