Designing Online Learning for Multiple Literacies: Part 2 of 2

As I described in the first part of this article, Dan Melzer gave a fascinating talk at the end of January that illustrated the value of asking your students to create multimodal assignments. He offered three specific strategies for implementing this in your classroom:

  1. Modal revision. Ask your students to write a traditional textual essay, and then ask them to revise that essay into a different mode (e.g., video, podcast, infographic). The goal is for them to convey the same argument to a different audience via a different medium. It is also important to ask students to reflect on the different choices they make as they move from one mode to another.
  2. Self-sponsored literacies. Students engage in many different kinds of literacy outside of the classroom. You can use this! Ask them to choose a literacy they are already using (e.g., Facebook, Pinterest, gaming) and apply that rhetorical expertise to the academic assignment.
  3. Genre Constellations. Most writing projects involve a sequence of related activities. For example, if you are working on a research project, you might first write a whitepaper/position paper, then create a poster to present at a conference, then blog informally about the conference, and then write a formal academic research paper. You are presenting similar (and perhaps evolving) information about a topic in a variety of genres. You can do the same thing in your class by assigning a sequence of compositions that are logically connected and that also require students to move through multiple literacies. And, of course, you would also want to ask your students to reflect upon the experience.

What about second language writers? Melzer argues that second language learners are in a unique position because they already have a pluralistic view of language. They key is remembering that being a multilingual writer is not a deficit; it is an asset. Your students may need help with their English literacy, but they have more awareness of how to move between disciplines and modes and rhetorical situations than monolingual students.

What about basic writers? Melzer makes the excellent point that these writers likely have literacy competencies in other areas. They may be literate in social media, or comics, or song lyrics, and while these literacies may not be valued by the academy, they are highly valuable in a multilitearcies framework. Your job is to help those students leverage their existing rhetorical savvy as they acquire academic literacies.

What if my students don’t have digital literacy skills? Melzer argues that every class has built-in tech support; figure out which students are tech savvy and ask them to help the others. In the 90s, Melzer had a student who knew how to create websites, so he asked that student to be the class web master. As a group, they created a website—the other students did not engage in the technical aspects of composing, but they had to think about how that kind of composing requires different rhetorical moves. This strategy also creates a more student-centered classroom where peer-to-peer collaborative learning flourishes.

Resources for Teaching Multiliteracies

Creating blogs and wikis

Creating websites

Social networking/communication tools

Creating online magazines

Sound editing tools

Audio recording and podcasting tools

Video editing/screencasting tools

Creating digital posters and presentations

Creating brochures and newsletters

Videosharing tools

Public domain sounds and images

For more details, you can watch the video, and participate by following along on the Designing Online Learning for Multiple Literacies Handout.

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