Tag Archives: multimodality

A Day without Laughter is a Day Wasted.

As a child, I (Said) would take my parents’ newspaper and go straight to the comics section. I was less interested in world events & more interested in funny pictures and clever punch lines. Nowadays, there are webpages dedicated to comic strips and pages on our social media apps (Facebook, Instagram etc…) that we can like/follow. We have easy access to regular updates and new content, which are seamlessly integrated into our browsing experience. What happens next is incredible.

I stumble on a comic and I laugh amusedly. It reminds me of my friend Tatiana, and with the click of a button, I share it with her and comment, “This is definitely you”, “Doesn’t this perfectly sum up our lives…”, “This is me in a nutshell”. What follows is a conversation about how accurate the comic is, how well we know each other, or how it captures exactly what we are thinking at that point in time. It’s a digitally-mediated social interaction that does not require a lot of effort but does contribute to relationship-building in a subtle and indirect manner. It involves multi-modal texts and expressing ourselves in ways that extend beyond traditional text. Our students are also engaging with literacy in its many forms using different modalities, which teachers need to recognize and use to their advantage as they attempt to seamlessly integrate students’ out-of classroom literacies in the classroom.

Though I am connected to the web, I mainly use social media platforms to have information delivered to my phone, which I may then share/discuss with my friends (this ranges from funny pictures to world news to score updates). This in many ways is my kind of newspaper. There is something incredibly satisfying about coming across a comic that explains exactly how I am feeling. Recently. I have thoroughly enjoyed Sarah’s Scribbles, where Sarah Anderson tackles issues like being productive and the awkward but hilarious situations we encounter in our day to day lives. Below are a few of my favourite. I hope you lol (laugh out loud) or rolf (roll on floor laughing).

You can follow Sarah’s Scribbles on FacebookTwitterInstagram.

You can follow me on Twitter.
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Lens Blog and Visual Thinking Strategies

When developing the photo essay assignment for my course, I came across an excellent resource for teachers and students. The New York Times has started a blog entitled Lens: Photography, Video, and Visual Journalism. The topics covered in  the blog posts touch on several critical issues such as immigration, race, and class. The photos  captured in each of the photo essays serve as a great entry point into rich discussion. When using the Lens Blog in my classroom I find myself drawing on skills I developed during workshops many years ago.

When I was a public school teacher, I participated in a fascinating series of professional development workshops called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). By analyzing carefully selected images, students were able to develop critical literacy skills as well as visual literacy skills. Teachers were facilitators in this process and asked three open-ended questions:

1. What’s going on in this picture?

2. What do you see that makes you say that?

3. What more can we find?

I found myself using the VTS approach when presenting students the photo essays from the Lens blog. Students in my class really engaged with the photos and rich discussion took place as a result. I will definitely be using this blog for years to come in the classroom.

Below are some powerful images from photo essays on  the Lens Blog.

Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner

Link to VTS site: http://www.vtshome.org/

Link to NYT Lens: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/

Assessing Multimodal Projects

You may remember, in a former post on Mar. 21, 2014, I (Cathy) shared some of my pre-service students’ multimodal projects.  The dilemma facing me after these wonderful creations were submitted, was how to assess them.  As these were only part of a larger assignment, I already had a rubric in place for whole project, but after seeing the brilliance of the multimodal aspect, I felt these alone warranted more thought and introspection on my part.  Having a background in the arts, I was used to assessing creative process and final product, but this was different.  Although artistic and expressive, this wasn’t “art”.  Hence, I looked up a number of sources on assessing multimodal work and discovered a few different opinions.

Kalantzis, Cope & Harvey (2003) argued that a multimodal assessment needs to measure the creative process and the collaborative skills demonstrated.   Jacobs(2013) suggested it wasn’t about the final product, but “watching and noticing what students are doing and then using that information to guide the students toward new skills and knowledge”.  In the end I sought out the opinion of Gunther Kress, the founder of the Multimodalities Theory.  Kress (2003) explained that representation and communication were an affective/cognitive semiotic process and this must be taken into account in the assessment. He suggested that I, as the teacher [educator] should not ask “How does this project match what I wanted or expected?”, but instead should ask, “How does this project give me insight into the interests and motivations of my learner?”  I found this question quite insightful. In the end, I used Kress’ question to guide my feedback, which will hopefully guide the students toward new insights and knowledge.  The required ‘grade’ was based on a combination of the learners’ expressed interests from within the context of the whole project (which was on diversity), the creative process and the collaborative nature of the work.

Through this process I discovered that assessing in the new age of multimodality demands mindfulness, insight and the ability to make many connections.  To be effective, it also requires that the teacher educator, or teacher, know his/her students well.  This type of assessment takes time, but it is much more meaningful. I have to admit, as much as the students loved doing these multimodal projects, I loved assessing them in this “new” way.  We all got more out of the process.  Below is a link to one more student project expressed as POW TOON digital creation.  How would you assess it?

POW TOON Link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uM68P2rk24&feature=share&list=UUdKEvJ3G8Z-W-geAhhsX9IA

Multimodal Literacy

My (Cathy) pre-service students were assigned a multimodal aspect to a major assignment this year.  If you are not familiar with the Theory of Multimodality, it is Gunther Kress’ alternative to Linguistic Theory (which only privileges reading and writing as the main modes of communication in a school curriculum).  The Multimodal Theory contests that in our new age of multiple literacies, students need to be communicating, responding and expressing through many different modes of communication (e.g. speaking, music, moving, gesturing, image, and digital technology).

When I first introduced the multimodal assignment to my students, there was some trepidation and even some anger.  It was suggested I did not have the right to be marking them on their artistry or on creativity.  Hence, I had to teach the concepts behind Multimodality Theory so they could better understand what we need to be offering students of the 21st century.  They needed to see that it would allow them the freedom to express in modes of their own choosing; that it was not graded as art but as a production of design; and, that the work could be symbolic or interpretive depending on the meaning they were portraying.  The multimodal projects would also be shared in class so all could learn from them.  This project was not just them regurgitating information for me, it was them designing and producing personally meaningful projects that express what they learned and what they deemed significant.

This week we finished viewing the projects.  They were amazing, and the student response to these projects was encouraging.  My students (concurrent students just finishing a five year educational degree) had never been given this kind of an assignment before.  They loved the element of choice; working together; taking a risk; pushing their boundaries; feeling creative; and, doing something they were interested in.  The modes they selected  to express themselves though were sometimes more traditional (dancing, rapping, singing,  writing and reciting  poetry, creating 3D sculptures, puppetry, multi-sensory art installation pieces); sometimes digital (iMovies, pod-casts, prezis, Pow Toons, popplets, infographics);  and, were often a combination of both.

Collectively, we were all blown away by the results.  We were moved.  We were inspired.  My students all said they would definitely use multimodality now as teachers.  Below are a few images of my students presenting their projects:

role play poemfish bowlRAPguitarpuppet photo (13)

Now, I have to assess these designs… but that, dear reader, is for another blog.

Semiotic Linguistic Quiz

Saussure   Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)

As of late, I (Cathy) have been exploring semiotic linguistics to further  my understanding of multimodality (Jewitt & Kress, 2003). Ferdinand de Saussure is considered to be one of two fathers of 20th century semiotic linguistics.  He described semiotics a as a system of signs that are created within a cultural context.  Sausuure defined a sign as being composed of:

        • a ‘signifier’ – the form which the sign takes; and
        • the ‘signified’ – the concept it represents.

On the internet I stumbled upon these diagrams which are intended to illustrate the meaning of signifier and signified.  Do you think they are both correct?

tree

rose