Student Engagement and Multimodality: Collaboration, Schema, Identity

Peter Kittle, professor at California State University, Chico; member of NWP Tech liason group
Class taught: ENG 333, a class for pre-service teachers

Opening quote: "Making curricular change is never as simple a process as it seems when in the planning stages" (p. 166).
  • Very telling quote, we makes these grand plans for our students to enjoy and learn from, but the process of implementing is more difficult than expected, due to administration or technology roadblocks or the lack of knowledge of the students, or ourselves.

Web 2.O definition: "Descriptor for Internet-based technologies that invite web users not just to consume but also contribute to and produce online texts. Creates opportunities for rich and interactive information, collaboration, and contributive expression" (p.167).
  • Technology literacy may mean the ability to not only interact with the tools out there or to navigate through the tools, but also use the technology to create their own texts as a way to express themselves.

James Paul Gee (2003) What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Language and Literacy posits that video games "create environments constructed specifically to scaffold players' learning." Different media require different --and sometimes competing-- literacies to decode. Requires dexterity on the part of the reader.
  • We tend to think of video games as "the devil," but if you took at the structure, they are created so that the player learns as they go along and the more they interact with the game, the greater their knowledge expands. Perhaps we should use this lens to look at our lessons dealing with technology.

Teacher and students need a model and need to determine "genre features"
  • This can be done in advance or together, but you have to have the end in mind when you start. What are your objectives for the project and for the class and how does this project meet those objectives?

Technology is always evolving; multimodal projects will also be always evolving
  • The class used other examples of multimodal projects to shape their collective understanding of what their project would look like. This builds buy-in from the start.
  • They also did the same for the rubric.

This should not just a compelling story, but also using "rigorous academic thinking as a lens for helping the audience understand the significance of the points made by those stories"
  • We need to shift our paradigm to believe that you can apply rigorous lenses to such projects. These projects can take our thinking differently and deeper.
  • What we were unsure about is how to get high school students, and younger, to that point. How do we take them to the deeper level rather than a "surface" slide show?

Assignment: had students create a multimodal project describing how they learned something. Students had to:
  • include a compelling narration of a story
  • provide a meaningful context for understanding the story being told
  • use images to capture and/or expand upon emotions found in the narrative
  • employ music and other sound effects to reinforce ideas
  • invite thoughtful reflection from their audience(s)

Students also kept a reflection blog while they created their project.

Kittle includes an evaluation rubric on page 172. He also recorded mp3 comments immediately after viewing the projects in keeping with the "multimodal" theme.

Kittle found that students found their identity in these projects; it was much more collaborative and definitive for students and it increased their level of engagement and ownership. In addition, Kittle blogged with his students and they watched his own progression on his own project throughout. Students continually discovered new problems and solutions collaboratively...

Kittle concluded, as he assessed the projects, that he " found [his] students as a whole had demonstrated their ability to evaluate ideas and issues carefully, think in complex and abstract ways, shape and organize material effectively, skillfully integrate material from research, and follow appropriate conventions and rules" (p. 173).

  • Even though Kittle called this a "fairly risky adventure" (This project took months. He mentioned at one point that the due date got pushed back 4 full weeks. There was also a high frustration level for students and often an atmosphere of panic and stress) it seemed like a definitive project for students in that they took ownership, created their sense of identity, and in fact did demonstrate rigorous academic literacy skills and problem solving skills both independently and collaboratively.