Teacher to Teacher

Andrea LunsfordANDREA A. LUNSFORD is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.

Collaboration at the Santa Fe Indian School

posted: 4.23.15 by Andrea Lunsford

When Susan Miera—who did her MA degree at the Bread Loaf School of English and is a leader in the Bread Loaf Teacher Network—invited me to join her and colleagues and students in Santa Fe, I jumped at the chance.  I’ve known “Ms. Miera,” as she is lovingly known by legions of high schoolers, for many years, and I’ve worked with a number of Native American students she has mentored—and sent to Stanford.  She’s a whirlwind of energy, and I know that I will always learn something new from her.  This visit was no exception.

With support from Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS), the Bread Loaf School of English, and Write to Change, Susan, who directs the writing center at SFIS, and her colleague Alicia Fritz put together a day-long workshop on Writing and Teaching Writing in the Digital Age.  The workshop brought together middle and high school students and teachers from SFIS as well as from Pecos (public) and Monte del Sol (charter) high schools, so bright and early on Friday morning about 30 of us gathered on the gorgeous SFIS campus to begin our day.

This eight-and-a-half foot bronze statue, by artist Estella Loretto, welcomed us to SFIS

Colleagues at SFIS describe it as a “grant” school, meaning that they receive some federal funds.  But they are also supported by the nineteen pueblos of New Mexico, along with other local and state sources.  What I sensed immediately was a strong sense of ownership among the students and faculty at SFIS, captured in what they said about their relationship to the school as well as in many posters and art works throughout the school that stressed commitment and pride:

After introductions and greetings, I talked about the necessity of collaboration for learning and for writing, enumerating four challenges I think we need to address:  the individualistic premises on which most institutions of education rest; the fact that our classrooms are now public spaces; alternatives to the “lecture mode” still common in many schools; and the need to retain the best of the “old literacy” while embracing the best parts of the “new literacies.”  Then we divided into groups, making sure to have students and teachers from all three schools in each group, and we got to work designing activities and assignments and policies we thought could address these issues.

The day went by in a flash, as groups presented their ideas and plans:  everything from designing a Think-a-Tron machine that would allow people working in groups to immediately access each other’s thoughts (!), to presenting PARCC (State test) WARS, in which the students designed a movie trailer to parody the test, to designing a unit on Romeo and Juliet that is thoroughly interactive, participatory, and performative—and a whole lot more.  Watchword for the day came from Steven Johnson, who in his “Where Good Ideas Come From” talk says “chance favors the connected mind.”  Once again, I had the privilege of spending a day with insightful, thoughtful, witty, and wise young people.  And once again I came away convinced that today’s youth are prepared to use literacy—together—to reimagine classrooms, schools, and themselves.

Susan, Alicia, and me

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Multimodal Mondays: Play day!

posted: 4.20.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Today’s guest blogger is Monica Miller, a Marion L Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the school of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, specializing in digital pedagogies and multimodal composition. She received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 2014, where she studied American literature, with concentrations in Southern Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her work focuses on the intersections of region and gender. Her current book project, Don’t Be Ugly: The Ugly Plot in the Work of Southern Women Writers, examines the ways in which ugliness marks fictional characters who are excluded from traditional gender roles of marriage and motherhood.

“My friend said that his 1101 class was the best, because they watch videos all day—but he doesn’t get to play with Play-doh like we do!” –Overheard in my first year, multimodal, “maker culture”-themed composition classroom.

The students in my class were to some extent open to the idea of playing in the classroom, as the course theme of “Maker Culture” was one which encouraged play, seeing it as a key to innovation. “Play” is actually one of the guiding principles of Mark Hatch’s Maker Movement Manifesto, as important to his philosophy as other guiding principles such as “Share,” “Learn,” and “Tool Up.” Hatch encourages makers to “Be playful with what you are making, and you will be surprised, excited, and proud of what you discover” (2). Although there is much less awareness of maker culture in FYC pedagogy than there is in STEM classrooms, I have found that maker culture’s emphasis on digital tools, play, and collaborative learning make it an ideal approach to the multimodal composition classroom.

Let me clarify, however, that this kind of “play day” is not the same as the “safe space” featured in a recent New York Times article which has been subject to much debate. While students in such safe spaces play with Play-doh, crayons, and bubbles in order to find emotional security, in my classroom, these craft supplies served very specific pedagogical purposes.


  • To learn and reflect upon collaboration
  • To introduce the concept of affordances

Background reading before class
Ask students to plan for the presentation by reading relevant content from your handbook or rhetoric:

The Activity
In small groups, construct “creatures” from Play-doh and other “play” materials

The students worked hard on their presentations, and many of them had been terrified by the public speaking. To reward their efforts, the class period following their presentations, we had a “play day.” I gave students Play-doh, construction paper, yarn, glue sticks, and scissors, with the vague instruction to “make a creature.” The only parameters I set were these: each group was to collaborate on one creature; the creature had to be finished by the end of class; and they couldn’t mix the Play-doh colors, because other students would be using them.

When asked why we were playing with Play-doh in class, I said that I did have some pedagogical motivations for the day, which I would reveal on Thursday, but I asked that they trust that there was a pedagogical foundation to the exercise and try to immerse themselves in the play. As the photographs throughout this post show, it was generally a fun day—something about the smells and textures from childhood coupled with relief from having a big project behind them allowed most of them to really let go and enjoy themselves. (Also, engineers have some skills with craft materials!)

 Reflecting on the Activity
The class period after our play day, I began by focusing on the collaborative learning aspect of the exercise. My students were used to frequent collaboration in their assignments, whether brainstorming, peer review workshops on drafts, or more formal group projects. That day, I started class with a writing assignment, in which I asked students to reflect upon the following:

  • The nature of their group dynamics while making the creature, comparing the experience to their group presentation project as well as the other group work they’ve done, both in English 1101 as well as other situations.
  • How the nature of the project affected how they worked as a group
  • How their group dynamics had changed over the course of the larger project.

We then looked at the photographs I took of the different creatures. Each group explained their process, what media they used for the different parts, and how their vision changed over the course of the construction. As we looked at the pictures, I asked students to think about what different purposes were served by different media. Yarn works well for hair as well as for being crocheted or knitted into clothes; Play-doh is good for larger body parts; construction paper can be used not only for details, such as eyes, but also for construction–several groups used it to make tabs to attach tails to bodies, for example.




Moving Forward
These observations allowed me to introduce the concept of “affordances” to the class. By first talking about the affordances of Play-doh in creature creation, I could then transition to a lesson in digital tools: a discussion of the affordances of different media—whether photos, video, or written text—in website design, which was their final project in the class.

I was quite pleased with the results of our play day. Maker culture is on to something—play encourages not only innovation, but also an atmosphere of openness which helps bring about the kind of community I strive for in my classroom. Playing in the classroom not only gives students a chance to catch their breath but fosters an environment of trust and (dare I say?) fun which I believe ultimately produces happier, more engaged students.

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Mondays assignment? Send ideas to leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post. 


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O Canada!

posted: 4.16.15 by Andrea Lunsford

This month found me returning to Canada, land of dreams for me ever since I taught at the University of British Columbia for ten years (1977-1987).  This time I was in Calgary, at Mount Royal University, where I gave a talk as part of their Distinguished Lecture Series and then participated in a colloquium on writing and teaching writing that brought together scholars and teachers from other Alberta Universities.  Calgary still has a frontier feel to me and I loved being in “big sky” country once again. 

Professor Sarah Banting of Mt. Royal’s English Department and Writing Program, convened the colloquium, which began with tea (in real teacups!) and pastries.  And it really was a colloquium, one that left plenty of time for talk and interaction, and that featured panels that were more like conversations than lectures.  (You should check out her blog, Issues in Teaching Writing: A Mount Royal University Conversation.)

One major standout:  five students and one faculty member responding to questions from a moderator.  The students were thoughtful, insightful, and witty, reflecting on their experiences with writing, writing classes, and writing instructors—and on their sense of the role writing may play in their future lives.  One student, a biology major, was particularly eloquent in describing what she had learned about herself through writing and about how she expected to use writing for the rest of her life.  Other speakers described innovative courses and assignments and explored new uses of technology in the classroom.  Heather and Roger Graves (both of the University of Alberta, where Roger is Director of WAC) talked about the development of a fascinating project, The Game of Writing, which allows students to monitor their own writing processes, making progress step by step, and also to receive multiple forms of response to their writing.

An extra bonus was seeing Nick Sousanis, now on a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Calgary.  Sousanis is a comics artist who visited Stanford’s Graphic Narrative Project a couple of years ago when he was writing his dissertation at Columbia University, in comic book form (!).  The book based on his dissertation—Unflattening—is just out from Harvard University.  A shape-shifting, deeply engaging meditation on the relationship between words and images and on visual thinking, it’s a book you should check out soon!

As always, I came away from this colloquium energized and happy to be part of the writing studies community in North America.  After 45 years in the field, it’s good to feel that if I were starting all over again, I’d choose the same path!

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Multimodal Mondays: Re/Mixing Traditional Academic Essays As YouTube Videos

posted: 4.13.15 by Andrea Lunsford

As I write this week’s post, I am wrapping up an illuminating weekend at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and its library’s conference Digitorium, where I engaged with colleagues who use critical pedagogy to “do the work” of digital humanities (DH).  There were so many different kinds of re/mixing and re/envisioning happening, that I felt, for the first time, the true interdisciplinarity of DH.  My colleagues were leading students in geocaching and visualizing distance reading data from biblical texts (see Bo Adam’s Presentation). So much of what I saw made me think about how our students really do produce texts for various publics, more and more frequently in digital spaces.  And it also made me think hard about the “doing of DH” and how we, as instructors, don’t have to be IT professionals to find a comfortable praxis in this “doing” and “re/mixing.”

As I’ve written in an earlier post, this semester has been a reflective opportunity for me, in terms of re/mixing writing for multimodal assignments and applying multimodal composition as DIYs across genres and contexts. This week, I offer a re/mix of analytical micro-studies, re/envisioned for a podcasting genre and public dissemination on YouTube.

This public text construction comes at the end of an upper division writing course, after students have drafted two micro-studies, demonstrating their understanding of specific language conventions and associated usages in digital spaces. Throughout the course, students practice applying grammar and syntactic structures in unconventional ways across digital platforms in social and public media.  YouTube is, of course, one of the most popular of these spaces.

YouTube was part of our daily lives in this class, from serving as digital teacher, Ian McCarthy on Social Media, to digital tipster, Writing Better Blog Posts.  As we watched to learn, students began to comment about adding their own voices to these video conversations about grammar(s) and creating content in digital spaces.  So, we crowd-sourced an idea: student-produced vlog-casts.

A re/mixed analytical study, re/imagined from a traditional, academic essay to a multimodal, public vlog-cast.

Goals and Measurable Learning Objectives

  • Apply multimodal composition strategies to video productions
  • Create vlogs as rhetorical, content-delivery devices
  • Synthesize meaning through critical production of digital texts on-screen

Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of reading and viewing visual texts are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in democratic, digital writing assignments.  Ask students to plan by reading relevant content from your handbook:

  • The St. Martin’s Handbook: Chapter 2, “Rhetorical Situations”; Section 6a, “Collaborating in College”; Chapter 7, “Reading Critically”
  • The Everyday Writer: Chapters 5-11, “The Writing Process;” Chapter 20, “Writing to the World”
  • Writing in Action: Chapter 4, “A Writer’s Choices”; Chapter 9, “Reading Critically”
  • EasyWriter: Sections 1c-1g, “A Writer’s Choices”; Section 3a, “Reading Critically”

Before Class: Student and Instructor Preparation
My students and I run this writing assignment late in the semester, as a re/mix of a previous one.  Prior to starting the process, the class reads, responds to, and discusses multimodalities of texts and content management across digital discourses. We read Bohannon’s Multimodalities for Students and Popular Media Writing Tips.  We also peer review each other’s original micro-studies and offer ideas for relevant topics.

 In Class and/or Out

During the semester, we watch YouTube instructional videos.  For this class, we collaboratively searched YouTube for videos that taught us brief histories of English, helped us figure out usage (courtesy of Grammar Girl), and advised us on how to write for popular media.  Searching together as a group was a most rewarding experience; I highly recommend it!

After each viewing, we then analyze key rhetorical components through the Five Elements for Visual Analysis, noting what works and what doesn’t for different audiences and purposes.  We provide feedback in both large and small groups to re/vise our writing for Vlog-casting Guidelines.

We then produce our “Grammar Vlogs,” using tools such as iMovieQuickTimeMovie Maker, and Garage Band. The average time spent is about four, one-hour class periods, with production happening outside of class.

Next Steps: Reflections on the Activity
When my students reflected on this writing opportunity, here’s what they said: 

Based on my experience with this assignment I would do it all over it again. It was fairly simple because I was able to find information about putting together the technological parts of it online, as well as, through my professor and other students’ advice. One issue I came across was making sure the audio matched the timer but after playing with the slides for a while, I was able to make it work. I was inspired to continue practicing my skills and decided to start a YouTube channel of my own this summer. – Brittany Rosario, Digital Pragmatics

When deciding what topic to do for my vlog-cast, I thought it would be really cool to do one about language, using multimodalities. It felt 100% authentic to be discussing the linguistic phenomena of up-talk and vocal fry, and I thought that it was just organic and real. That’s why I decided to go with a vlog-cast instead of a traditional essay style of writing.  I thought it definitely helped me with a better understanding of my topic. – Becca Tuck, Watch Becca’s Vlog-Cast

“I enjoyed this assignment because my topic gave me an opportunity to reflect upon the characteristics of my fellow students. It was less formal than the traditional essay, [and] making the vlog helped me understand my topic in more ways than just seeing my thoughts written out.” – McKenna Hight, The Institutional Dialects of Students at SPSU

My Reflection
I think this assignment would work well across topics and courses, because it doesn’t teach content, but rhetorical behaviors.  It draws out rhetorical performances as well, which engenders creativity and scholarly research processes that are relevant throughout the Humanities. Instructors could re/mix their own topics and search for YouTube videos that are specific to their students’ interests and needs.  I would love for folks outside of our field to try it, so please share this post with others!

Also, please leave me feedback here or at rhetoricmatters.org.

Guest blogger Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) department at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at:Jeanne_bohannon@kennesaw.edu and www.rhetoricmatters.org


Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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The annual CCCC Chair’s Address

posted: 4.9.15 by Andrea Lunsford

OK.  If you have been completely out of touch for a couple of weeks, you’ve missed the CCCC meeting and thus Adam Banks’s 2015 Chair’s Address:  “’Ain’t No Walls Behind the Sky, Baby’: Funk, Flight, Freedom.”  And you’ve missed the thousands of tweets and postings commenting and celebrating it that have populated social media space ever since.  From his opening allusions to George Clinton and Bootsy Collins’s “I’d Rather Be with You” to his final “Thank you CCCC 2015,” Adam held the packed-to-the-rafters ballroom rapt—and with lots of response: the standing ovation was thunderous, and prolonged.  Since then, the presentation has been the subject of much admiration and debate on the WPA listserv.  So right now, whether you were there or not, go watch Adam’s performance (here or below).  It bears re-hearing and re-seeing.  And you may want to chime in on WPA with your thoughts.

As I wrote at the time, the talk mixed rhythms from Jazz and Hip Hop with echoes of the African American sermonic tradition, theorizing with personal anecdote, high-falutin’ academic language with oral vernacular, and a whole lot more.  It was in my view a bravura performance, embodying the themes of funk, flight, and freedom, arguing that “funk is worthy of scholarly attention” because it speaks of “honest expression and exertion,” of sweat and steaminess necessary to such exertion.  “Respectability will not save us,” he continued, not in our scholarship or our classrooms, nor will it save our students. “Intervention comes from those who are irreverent,” who are “wild,” from those who resist the tidiness and staying-in-the-lines of the traditional academy and fly free, beyond boundaries and boxes.

In one memorable moment, Banks paused to address “the essay,” saying that on this day, he declared it “retired” (long and loud applause).  Speaking directly to the retiree, he said that the essay could keep its office on campus and that we would even “continue to give awards in your honor.”  But as of this day, it was now the essay emeritus/a.  In doing so, Banks harked back to the work of Winston Weathers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and to his insistence that what he called the “Grammar A” of school writing was not the only kind of good writing out there—and he gave plenty of examples of Grammar B alternatives (An Alternate Style: Options in Composition, 1980).  Along the way, Banks alluded to the groundbreaking Students’Right to their Own Language (1974) and to the foundational work of Geneva Smitherman and others who have done so much to document the power of African American English.

Banks’s speech featured a liberal mix of Grammars A and B in putting the traditional school essay taught by Miss Fidditch and her colleagues as the be-all and end-all in its place.  But what most impressed me was the remediated essay that Banks performed, one true to the historical goal of the essay as a “try” or “attempt” and one emblematic of the essay as it lives and breathes and jibes in today’s discourse.  “The essay is dead,” I say:  “Long live the essay.”

We have work to do in understanding, describing, and embodying these deeply performative essays.  So I’ve been very glad to see teachers writing posts about assignments that ask students to listen to Banks’s Chair’s address, to respond to it, to analyze its parts and the sources of its power, and to try their own hands at such a composition.

Beginning around 2002, I began teaching a course I called “The Language Wars, a class that moved from studying the struggle over vernacular languages in Europe and around the world and the debate over what the language of the new United States would be (some argued it should be German)—and eventually to what should count as “good writing” in college today.  We read some of the scholars Banks referred to in his talk (Smitherman, Keith Gilyard) as well as June Jordan, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldúa, Lee Tonuchi, Gerald Vizenor, and many others).  Now I’m thinking I would like to teach this course again, this time beginning with Banks’s 2015 Chair’s address.  At the end of his talk, Banks said “Thank you, CCCC 2015.”  I would add, “Thanks to you, Adam Banks, for the inspiration.”

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Multimodal Mondays: Using Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) to Teach Multimodal Literacies

posted: 4.6.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Today’s guest blogger is Eric Detweiler, a PhD candidate specializing in rhetoric at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as an assistant director in UT’s Digital Writing and Research Lab. His interests lie at the intersections of rhetorical theory and writing pedagogy, and his dissertation puts those two in conversation with the rhetorical ethics of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. He also produces a podcast called Rhetoricity and is a student and practitioner of odd puns. More details about his work are available at http://RhetEric.org.

 From 2011-12, I helped plan and implement Battle Lines, an alternate reality game (ARG) designed to teach multimodal literacies in an undergraduate rhetoric and writing course at The University of Texas at Austin. In most cases, ARGs require players to work collaboratively in order to solve clues and puzzles, shifting back and forth between digital and physical environments as they do so—in our case, students

moved from hidden wikis to campus landmarks, from scrambled video files to the Texas Capitol. For example, using a computer program to discover a muted track in an audio file led students to a poster in an on-campus music venue. That poster, which promoted a fictitious Janis Joplin concert, included QR codes that took students to the sinister-looking website of a secret society called the Friends of Texas. And so on and so forth.

The design, implementation, and results of that game are described and demonstrated in an article that the Battle Lines team—a group of graduate students working in The University of Texas at Austin’s Digital Writing and Research Lab (DWRL)—composed for Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. That piece, “Crossing Battle Lines: Teaching Multimodal Literacies through Alternate Reality Games,” is also available in the Parlor Press anthology The Best of the Independent Rhetoric & Composition Journals 2013.

Since the article itself provides explanations and examples of the game’s various challenges, I won’t rehash them here. Instead, I want to suggest something a bit more ambitious: having students design their own ARG level. Let me clarify that I’m not suggesting students design and implement an entire ARG. From idea to article, Battle Lines took over three years and hundreds of hours of work (the article alone had nine coauthors). But designing an individual clue, perhaps within the framework of a preexisting game, provides students with opportunities to think about procedural rhetoric, audience, the relationship between physical and virtual environments, and a variety of other rhetorical variables.  

Sample student work from Battle Lines

While such an assignment might be especially relevant for courses focused on games and/as rhetoric (cf. Dr. Justin Hodgson’s Rhetoric, Play, & Games or Battle Lines project leader Chris Ortiz y Prentice’s Rhetoric of Video Games), it could also be a relevant part of first-year writing courses that incorporate multimodal assignments (cf. this lesson plan that the DWRL’s Lily Zhu developed for an introductory rhetoric and writing course).

To provide students a situated, collaborative opportunity to explore the rhetorical possibilities and constraints of multimodal composition.

Advance Preparation
This assignment particularly depends in a thoughtful consideration of audience (and predicting audience challenges and habits). Ask students to plan by reading relevant content from your handbook:

Have students familiarize themselves with an extant ARG: in addition to Battle Lines, the ARG that preceded the release of the film The Dark Knight as well as the one that occurred between the second and third seasons of the TV show Lost could provide useful and particularly robust templates. Guide students’ attention to procedural questions about the game:

  • What technological or other resources does this game require or presume on the part of players?
  • How or to what extent does the game lead players from one step to the next? How much room does it leave for error, confusion, or misinterpretation—whether intentionally or unintentionally?
  • In what ways does the game require collaboration, and/or to what extent could players proceed individually?
  • How does the game try to keep players invested and invested? In other words, how does it try (successfully or un-) to persuade and affect its players?

The following could unfold either over the course of a class period or as an assignment between course meetings.

  1. Divide students into groups of 3 or 4 (given the collaborative ethos of ARGs, as well as the challenges of designing them, a multitude of voices can be both appropriate and useful).
  2. Assign or have students pick a particular point in one of the ARGs with which they’ve familiarized themselves.
  3. After reminding students of the questions listed above, give them the remaining class time to design a clue for insertion at that point in the game. This could be a side quest that departs from the game’s primary trajectory, or it could be an extra step added between two of the game’s extant challenges. Students don’t necessarily have to execute their clue (given the complexity and temporality of ARGs, this could be a time-consuming if not impossible task)—just explain it. This could be as simple as a step-by-step written description, or include storyboarding and other multimedia and/or digital components.
  4. At the start of the next class meeting, have each group offer a five-minute presentation on their clue. (If time doesn’t allow, they could also read each other’s outside of class or present their clues on the same day they design them.) You might prompt them to address the questions from the Advance Preparation section above.

After all groups have presented, give students time in their small groups to revisit their clue. How does it differ from the other groups’? What particular strengths or weaknesses are they noticing now that some time has passed? (Again, this could take place inside or outside of the classroom, written or orally.) What limitations or affordances—technological, temporal, etc.—influenced their process and product?

If this is as far as you want students to go with the ARG assignment, have them explore connections between their ARG clue and the other modes and media in which they’ll be composing. For instance, in what ways might the degrees of freedom or constraint that their clue allowed players inform the relative flexibility they’re willing to grant the audiences of other texts they compose—even the level of explication or ambiguity they might allow in an essay or research paper?

In a games-oriented course, the assignment could be taken further: students could actually make their clues playable, or—if you’re willing to make it a major collaborative project—students could design and/or implement an ARG for their classmates, the student body, or other communities of which they’re a part. There are a host of pedagogical and ethical considerations that come with such an assignment—accessibility issues, the extent to which players and non-players might misread game elements as real dangers—which, depending on specific course goals and the scope of the assignment, could be worth addressing in advance.

For more on the pedagogical, academic, and rhetorical possibilities at play in ARGs, see the work of Jane McGonigal or Frostburg State University’s Jill Morris, this blog post by Henry Jenkins and Jeff Watson, or Ian Bogost’s book Persuasive Games.

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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Multimodal Mondays: Makin’ it Funky at the 4Cs

posted: 3.30.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn.

It is clear that Multimodal Composition is “alive and well” in the field and in our writing classrooms.  I just got back from a great teacher experience at our annual, national Conference on College Composition and Communication — 4Cs — in Tampa, where digital writing is central to the conversation.  In his Chair’s address, “Funk, Flight, and Freedom,” Adam Banks spoke about the ways that the field of composition engages in the “funk.”  By that, he means that we are willing to “sweat and that we will look at all that pains us and still dance.” He extends to talk about the ways flight and freedom have always also been part of our discipline as we continually redefine ourselves in relation to the changing world in which we live.  He defines flight “as embracing and investing in exploration” and positions composition as a “hub for intellectual and critical dialogue” that gives us the “freedom to fly.” In his talk, he challenged us to move beyond the school essay and disciplinary boundaries and “promote other intellectual genres” as we “expand our vision to other forms.” He calls for boldly bringing technology and digital writing into our literacy practices – the kind of boldness that “climbs up from the soles of your feet.”

Adam Banks’s Chairs’ Address at CCCC 2015

This keynote address drove the crowd to their feet, ready to embrace their “funk” and set the tone for the rest of the conference.  Adam’s motivating words and ideas wove themselves into many connections and conversations.  I also had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Andrea Lunsford about her work in the field and the ways that we are embracing multiple visions of composition as we re-identify our writing programs and rethink our writing classes.  She speaks from a long career of shifts and changes and says it is “safe to say that multimodal writing is alive and well and prospering in writing programs across the country.”  Our own Department of Digital Writing and Media Arts represents this kind of reframing as we teach courses that are both interdisciplinary and intra-disciplinary, and that transcend traditional writing programs to prepare students for professions in integrated, interactive content creation that bring together texts and visuals, writing and design, and emerging technologies. As Andrea notes in an earlier post, there is a “whole lot of shakin’ going on.”

Perhaps, this was most evident once again at the Bedford/St. Martin’s Celebration of Multimodal Composition Showcase, where teachers from programs all around the country displayed and discussed practical, multimodal classroom strategies and assignments. For three non-stop hours we got the opportunity to talk to many teachers from different kinds of institutions at different places in this process of incorporating digital writing practices into their curriculum and classes. Jeanne Bohannan and I got to show off work we have shared on the Mulitmodal Mondays blog over the past year.  Jeanne presented her ideas on DIY blogs, wikis and twitter assignments and I got to share some of my assignments such as literacy timelines, mapping, and lifehacks.  Laurie Goodling showed how Microblogging and social networking for a cause can promote participatory learning and student activism.  Niki Turnipseed shared a dynamic series of multimodal blog assignments such as a Genre Analysis and community ethnography, and Molly Scanlon’s shared assignments included a researched feature article on students’ chosen majors. Kristen Arola shared her student’s informational campaign, and Casey Miles’ Remix presentation encouraged students to analyze and compose in new ways through transforming ideas in new forms or modes.  These examples represent just a few of the many interesting ways the showcase teachers engage students through multimodal composition.  It was great to meet people who followed our blogs, show off our amazing student work and support and encourage teachers wanting to learn more about multimodal composition.  The quality and complexity of the range of assignments showed the ways students, when given the opportunity, take ownership and critically and creatively engage with their own language and ideas to participate in the kinds of public conversations that multimodal composition affords.   It is truly an exciting time to be a writing teacher and embrace our FUNK.

Check out Jeanne Bohannon’s storify archive of the event.

Featuring my students’ work at the Bedford/St. Martin’s Multimodal Showcase


Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Kennesaw 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.  You can reach Kim at khaimesk@kennesaw.edu or visit her website: actsofcomposition.khaimesk.org


Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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The Other March Madness

posted: 3.26.15 by Andrea Lunsford

I’m just back from Tampa and the 2015 CCCC meeting—what I always think of as “the other March Madness.”  If I’m counting correctly, this was my 45th Cs, consecutive except for 2012, when I was on a round-the-world Semester at Sea adventure.  The earliest meetings I attended were quite small and relatively brief:  it truly did seem as if everyone there knew everyone else.  This year, over 3000 scholar/teachers coursed through the Marriott Harborside and Convention Center from Tuesday evening through Sunday morning.  I felt as though I’d been there a month as I rushed from session to session and met with friends and former students from across the country. 

Joyce Carter’s program was especially rich this year, each time slot offering at least a dozen sessions I desperately wanted to attend.  Thanks to Joyce’s leadership and planning, the whole conference was extremely welcoming to newcomers and had a very conversational feel:  dialogic sessions replaced the traditional plenary “featured speakers,” multiple round tables left more room for discussion and sharing of ideas.  And there were highlights, of course, a method in all this madness:

  • The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, now in its 21st year, was a tour de force, organized by the group’s intrepid chair, Jenn Fishman.  This year’s event featured a “New Work Showcase,” with eleven scholars presenting poster sessions of their exciting new work.  This format helped establish the conversational tone I mentioned earlier, as attendees drifted from one display to the next, talking with the authors and trading sources, anecdotes, and methods. I was especially impressed with Tamika Carey’s “‘I Apologize’: What Rhetorical Missteps Reveal about the Risks of Contemporary Black Feminist Discourse,” which revealed that when a Black woman makes even a small misstep, the consequences can be quite severe, ruining careers and blocking further advancement.  These sobering findings indicate how badly we need research like Carey’s. Another fabulous presentation was Patty Wilde’s “Cross(dress)ing the Mason Dixon Line: Recovering Rhetorical Histories that Disrupt Narratives Notions of Gender,” a study of some of the five hundred to a thousand women who crossdressed in order to participate in the Civil War.  The fascinating and very complex stories of some of these women were illustrated with archival photos showing them as women—and as men—and raised questions about the way gendered identities can and do shift over time and circumstances.  This showcase was a veritable feast of exciting new research!
  • And all this before the conference even opened! That happened Thursday morning with the General Session calling the meeting into being, presenting various awards, and featuring Adam Banks’s Chair’s address.  These addresses, in my experience, are always more than worth the price of admission, giving the current leader a forum to discuss the issues he or she sees as most salient to our organization and ideals.  Over the decades, I have heard marvelous Chair’s addresses, but Adam’s talk—“Ain’t No Walls behind the Sky, Baby:  Funk, Flight, and Freedom”—took this difficult and challenging genre to a new level.  Mixing hip hop, funk, and jazz elements of African American sermons, personal stories with analytic critique, lyrical incantations with bullet-point lists, and great wit with great passion, Banks asked everyone there to join him in meditating on three key words:  “funk, flight, and freedom.”  His talk was a brilliant embodiment of all three concepts, eliciting the longest and loudest standing ovation I’ve ever seen at our annual conference.  I can’t wait for this presentation to be published—and to be posted on the CCCC website and/or on YouTube. Do not miss it!!
  • I attended a number of standout sessions, including a very informative panel on current issues of intellectual property and their implication for writing and the teaching of writing, and a terrific set of talks on the history and mission, working conditions, and successes and challenges of HBCUs. Listening to Faye Maor, Dawn Tafari, Hope Jackson, and Karen Keaton Jackson reminded me once again how instrumental these institutions are to higher education in the United States and to the lives of their students.  BRAVA to all.

I could go on and on about all I learned at this conference and how good it felt to be with this group of people.  When I got back to California, Jaime Mejia wrote to me about his experiences, saying that CCCC simply “feels like home.”  It does indeed, and for thousands of us.  But it’s a home full of challenges and wake-up calls, including Adam’s injunction that we not be too tidy, not too antiseptic and proper, but that we take to heart the lessons of funk—to be a little messy, a little way beyond the lines and boundaries, a little “wild.” As Emily Dickinson puts it, “A little madness in the Spring / Is wholesome even for a king.”  If this other March madness is good enough for Adam Banks and Emily Dickinson, it is certainly better than good enough for me.  So I plan to heed this call and to bring some of that madness, that wildness, into my thoughts and actions.

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Multimodal Mondays: Prezis and Source Use: Engaging in a Multimodal Annotated Bibliography

posted: 3.23.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Jessie Miller is a Master’s Candidate in Written Communication at Eastern Michigan University, where she teaches first-year composition and consults in the University Writing Center. In her Master’s project, she uses discourse analysis to analyze the language First-Year Writing instructors use in assignment sheets where they ask their students to compose digitally. Her research (and her Master’s degree) will be completed in April 2015. 

Since I began teaching, I have been increasingly interested in the role technology plays in the composition classroom. Last year at Cs, I presented a digital pedagogy poster on how I engaged with social media and technology in my classroom. For one of the large projects of the semester I assigned a multimodal transformation of my students’ research essays. They had to re-envision their essay on a social media platform of their choosing (i.e. Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). As I worked through this assignment with my class, I found myself negotiating the affordances and limitations of each platform with my students. Digital multimodal projects, I had realized, could easily become unwieldy.

So this year, I decided to thematize my first-year writing class around “new media” and its role in composition. Instead of having one large multimodal project at the end of the semester, I integrated several multimodal elements on an incremental basis throughout the semester, one of which I want to share with you today: “The Prezi Presentation,” a multimodal version of an annotated bibliography.


The goal of this assignment was to get students to see source use as an engaging and active practice.


For the second unit in my class, my students write an 8-10 page essay I call “The Rhetorical Research Argument.” In it, they pick a topic under the theme of “new media” and contribute to the discourse (or debate) surrounding that topic. Since their arguments must be rhetorically compelling, we naturally spent several weeks discussing effective source use before they began writing their essays. This discussion built up to “The Prezi Presentation,” a low-stakes in-class presentation conducted in small groups. Instead of completing a traditional annotated bibliography, I had my students use Prezi to visually map the relationship between their sources.

The guidelines for the presentation were as follows:

  1. Introduce the topic you plan to discuss in your essay
  2. Provide your specific thesis statement
  3. Discuss/Integrate the 7 (on a minimum) different sources you plan to integrate into your essay (you have creative freedom with how they introduced the sources, so this could be done in a number of ways)
  4. Provide a brief explanation of how you plan to use these sources to support your essay’s claims
    1. This should include some specific examples from the source’s text (i.e. Direct quotes or paraphrases)
  5. Provide a brief explanation of how the sources relate to one another
    1. For example, which sources support one another? Which sources disagree?

I told my students that they had creative liberty over the design of the presentation and the way in which they introduced their information (ex. Reading a quote versus pasting it directly into the Prezi). I also asked that they try to stay under ten minutes, but that was a loose estimate.

Instead of grafting a quote or two from a source, my students used a visual display of information to map out the interplay between their sources. I chose Prezi as the platform for this assignment because it does not have to be constructed linearly. In an essay, students won’t necessarily use sources in a linear way; instead, many sources have relationships to one another—they “talk to” one another. I wanted my students to use Prezi to help illuminate those connections for them.

In-Class Preparation
I introduced this project two weeks ahead of time. One the day I first introduced it, I provided laptops for my students and showed them how to use Prezi. Then, for homework I had my students write a journal entry in their Google Drive folder in which they responded to the following questions:

  1. Write down the title of each of your sources and provide the URL if it’s an online source.
  2. Write a 1-2 sentence summary of each source, then provide two paraphrased passages, and finally provide two direct quotations.
  3. At the end of the journal entry, write a paragraph in which you answer: How do these sources relate to one another? How will I use them in my essay?

This journal entry provided much of the framework for their Prezi.

During our next class period, we had an in-class workday where my students got feedback on their works-in-progress. Then, on the presentation day, I put students into groups of three or four, and each took turns presenting their Prezi while the other students graded them based on a rubric created from the assignment guidelines listed above.

Here are some student samples:

Internet Linguistics by student Keinan Slater

Citizen Journalism by student David Finquelievich

Children Learning from Apps by student Andrea Murphy

As I walked around the classroom while my students were giving their presentations, I was surprised to see how interactive my students were. Instead of sitting there silently during a presentation, students in the group often asked questions and offered feedback during the presentation itself. Likewise, the presenters would explain their sources, while also asking for help or direction as needed. As an instructor, I played little part in this final presentation day. I let my students work independently, which built their self-efficacy and helped shape their peer-to-peer relationships.

I am pleased with the results of this assignment. After the Prezi presentations, my students wrote a half draft of their essay, and in them they are already demonstrating a strong command of their sources. I am excited to see how their writing will progress from here.

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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posted: 3.19.15 by Andrea Lunsford

On March 9, I had the great good fortune to visit Colorado State University, where my friend and former student Sarah Sloane has been directing the writing program. Her graduate seminar on composition studies was meeting that evening from 4:00 to 7:00, and since they were reading an article of mine, I got to drop in on the class as a “special mystery guest.” Then I got to hear about the work these grad students are doing—on everything from disability studies to multimodal projects to curricular design. They were GREAT. While I was there, Professor Tobi Jacobi said, “I have a present for you,” and handed me a slim volume of writing published by incarcerated men and women. I didn’t have time to do more than thank her—but later that night, on the long flight back to San Francisco, I read every word. I was heartened by the words of these writers, who for the most part had rejected nihilism and negativity in favor of hope and commitment to a better future. But they weren’t sugar-coating anything: their experience in prison had marked them deeply, and these pieces of writing reflected that reality as well.

This was a gift I will treasure, and it reminds me once more how many teachers of writing across the country are doing similar work: going into shelters, half-way houses, prisons, and community centers to engage people in writing about themselves, their lives, their hopes, their dreams. These efforts—almost always done “on top of” a full load of teaching and administrative work and scholarship—are a hallmark of work in rhetoric and writing studies, a sign of how much teachers care and how much they believe in the power of writing and reading (and speaking out!) to change lives for the better.

When I got home, I ordered Jacobi’s book, Women, Writing, and Prison:  Activists, Scholars, and Writers Speak Out (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014). Edited with Ann Folwell Stanford and with a preface by Sister Helen Prejean, this volume introduces the project and the narratives from prison that follow. Now that I’ve read the pieces printed in We Make Our Future: SpeakOut!, the gift from Tobi, I am looking forward to getting this volume and studying it as well. Check it out for yourself—and let me know other similar efforts you may know of.

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