Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Southern Polytechnic State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning, critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. This week, Kim shares her multimodal visual timelines assignment and some student projects. You can reach Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or at actsofcomposition.khaimesk.org
“I felt that our Timeline project was the most intellectually involved assignment I’ve had in a long time. I felt more inclined to give my full attention, and express myself more than I would in a typical task. I especially felt free in not being afraid to show who I am” ~Jacob ~
Composition teachers have long used literacy narrative assignments to promote rhetorical awareness and critical thinking about the ways our literacy experiences shape our lives and academic work. I extend on this assignment expanding our definitions of literacies to include all kinds of texts and discourse communities (both traditional and digital) that have impacted our lives. Our class discussion focuses on the ways one is considered “literate” in this day and age. In this Literacies Experiences Timeline assignment, my students explore and reflect on these types of literacy experiences and use a multimodal, visual timeline to help tell our stories.
The assignment asks students to place their literacy experiences on a digital visual timeline. Most of the students use Dipity, an online timeline creator, but they can choose other timeline and presentation applications as well. In the timeline creator, students place their experiences in chronological order and compose descriptive bubbles to accompany each entry. Each bubble contains a description of the literacy experience along with a multimodal representative image (a photo, drawing, video, animation, podcast, screenshot, etc.). I encourage students to move beyond mere information about their digital artifacts, explore the ways their own experiences overlap with the artifacts they described, and connect the artifacts to their overall messages and purposes. The selection of the artifacts is important as it asks students to think critically and selectively about their literacy experiences. They have to look at the design of their lives and realize which events were meaningful and which ones shaped their developing perspectives, decisions and identities.
After students create and revise their timelines (through peer feedback), they compose a contextualized authors’ statement in which they describe their literacy experiences as a whole, analyzing the isolated bubbles on the timeline. The purpose of this part of the assignment is to consider a larger audience and to rhetorically contextualize their timelines (they will later embed these as part of their blogs). In other words, they have to bring purpose, audience, voice, and perspective to their timelines to situate them in a different rhetorical context. The assignment calls for them to bring together the textual and the visual in meaningful ways for this multimodal form.
- Explore the broad definition of literacies including digital literacies and discourse communities.
- Help students gain rhetorical awareness as they compose for different audience, purposes, genres and contexts.
- Introduce multimodal peer responding techniques.
- Engage students in ethical digital practices through online citation instruction and introduction to public domain and creative commons resources.
Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of textual and visual design using multimodal elements are on-going learning opportunities for instructors. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts and helpful links. I encourage teachers to add to and enrich the list.
- The St. Martin’s Handbook: Ch. 21, “Online Texts”; Ch. 2, “Rhetorical Situations”; Ch. 23, “Design for Writing”
- The Everyday Writer and Writer’s Help E-Book: Section 3a, “Plan online assignments”; Ch. 5, “Rhetorical Situations”; Ch. 9, “Making Design Decisions”
- Writing in Action: Ch. 6, “Multimodal Assignments”; Ch. 4 “A Writer’s Choices”; Ch. 8, “Making Design Decisions”
- EasyWriter: Ch. 4, “Multimodal Writing”; Ch. 1, “A Writer’s Choices”; Section 2f, “Designing”
- Timeline Creator: Dipity (Note – we did find that this application worked better with certain browsers – another lesson in digital pedagogies)
- Creative Commons and other public domain sites
- Mark Prensky, “Digital Immigrants, Digital Natives”
- The Idea Channel, Are there Internet Dialects? (video)
Steps to the Assignment
- Introduce students to the concept of multiple literacies – traditional, digital and discourse communities. Ask them to compose an exploratory writing in which they identify, define and give examples of their literacy experiences. Encourage them to interact with the ideas of others, including their classmates and online sources.
- After the class has shared ideas and discussed all kinds of literacy experiences I have them list as many of their own defining literacy experiences (traditional, digital, discourse communities) that they can recall. I encourage them to think about experiences from their young childhood (reading aloud, learning to read, parents sharing stories, favorite books, television shows, magazines, etc.) and those that developed and defined themselves as they moved into adulthood (first phone, social media, video projects, music, impactful movies, important groups, etc.) .
- Send students to a timeline creator tool such asDipity(or one of their choosing) to start adding the items from their list onto the timeline. Have them select and focus on defining moments in this timeline to create a portrait of the ways they use digital literacies in their daily lives. For each of the entries they will need to add a short textual description that speaks to the source and why it is part of their literacy timeline. They should include a multimodal, representative image for each of the selections. They should include both literal images and representative images in multiple modes. The descriptions should include more than information and should also address their experiential overlay as they bring meaning and purpose to their selections.
- This is a good time to introduce ethical citation practices for the internet. Include introductions toCreative Commons and other public domain sites.
- Next, students work in peer response groups to give each other feedback towards revision. As a class, work to define and identify the rhetorical expectations of this mulitmodal composition. Click this link to a sample multimodal rubric to see the one I used for this assignment. After workshop, students revise based on feedback.
- For the final step, have students compose an accompanying contextual author’s statement for their visual timeline in which they reflect on their literacy experiences as a whole. Basically, they should write a narrative essay that includes some of the particular experiences (from their visual timeline) along with overall observations of what it means for them to be “literate” these days as a digital native. Have them examine the connections between their experiences to create a portrait of the ways these experiences shaped them as people. Ask them to reflect upon how their individual experiences have defined them, their communities, or their worldview. In the end of this reflective piece, have students introduce their visual timeline and include the link to access the visual work. This assignment works easily into a blog post and shows students how the visual and the textual work together to create context and meaning (I usually take these through a round of peer response and revision as well).
- I always have students share finished projects with their classmates. Bringing their ideas to a larger audience is a big part of this assignment. You can feature some for whole class or small group viewing and discussion.
Teaching and Reflecting Through the Multimodal Lens
Many times when I create multimodal assignments I move from the textual to the visual. In this case, however, I reversed that idea and had students compose the visual first. I think this is a product of that little voice in the back of our heads that still tells us that we should do the traditional writing first and then follow with the “fun” stuff. As we move deeper into multimodal composition we recognize the recursive nature of revision—that we can revisit parts of the process any time during the process. Multimodal composition teaches us that all of these modes of communication are on the same level but just require different rhetorical approaches and practices. Textual and visual composition now work together to construct and communicate meaning.
It was interesting to notice that students engaged immediately with this project when starting with the visual. They enjoyed learning about each other through the visual timelines and connected through common cultural references. The fact that they shared experiences such as getting their first phone, reading Green Eggs and Ham, posting on Facebook or playing World of Warcraft helped them to reflect on the ways these experiences have the power to both define and invent. Many also noticed connections between their early literacy experiences and their choice of major. The timeline acted as both an interesting final product and also a dynamic tool for rhetorical invention and idea generation. Students reported that the author’s statements (the literacy narrative portion) were much easier to compose because of the visual literacies timeline and saw these modes working in concert to communicate in ways they had not previously considered. One of my students states it nicely:
This assignment made me think about how literacy is in a lot more life experiences than I originally thought. It’s not just reading and writing — it is an understanding for certain things. We had to look back on our past experiences that have led us to learning and literacy, be it reading your first few books or sitting down to watch your favorite movie, and we organized it through internet media. The timeline was a visual representation of our ideas put into chronological order. Then our author’s statement just explained it a little more. I think the assignment was engaging and great for visual thinkers. ~ Alfredo
Check out the Assignment Shout-outs for more student feedback on the assignment.
Student Timeline Examples
My students generously agreed to share their visual timelines on my page. Enjoy and share these samples with your students as they create their own Literacy Experiences Timelines. Check them out at Literacies Experience Timelines (Fall 2014 Composition I)
Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to email@example.com for possible inclusion in a future post.