“There is No Delight and No Mathematics”: Teaching the Multimodal Avant-garde

A portion of Jenny Holzer's "Inflammatory Essays." Photograph by Damian Entwhistle, via a Creative Commons license. Original image available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/damiavos/12686078413/in/photolist-5QJvSR-5QJw46-5QJwg2-awweZz-awwgHP-awwgL6-awzbdu-awwnbB-wjXnUS-wk5voM-kk2t8T-kk1DjP-kk2o68-kk1Ev6-kk1yfk-kk2etP-5MEnh8-kk1BXF-kk1AWc-kk47Tb-kk2h1H.

Before coming to Georgia Tech, my approach to teaching writing and communication through fictional work could be summed up like this: students will learn how to analyze novels and short stories and then write arguments explaining their analysis. They will support those arguments by close reading passages and quoting academic articles they find on JSTOR or Project MUSE. Sound familiar? This semester, I tried a different approach in my English 1102 class, “What is an … Continue reading

Theatrical Training in the Multimodal Composition Classroom

Students including Ethan Telila (L) help me demonstrate how a tension-relieving physical and vocal warmup frees our bodies for expressive performance.  Photo: Josh Ortman.

I run my first-year composition seminar as an acting class several times per semester.  What does that mean?  If you were to visit us, here are some of the things you might witness: physical and vocal warm-ups movement and dance experiments improvisation games observation exercises imagination training scene study discussion of characters’ motivations and actions other performance work Below, I’d like to explain to interested TECHStyle readers some of the exercises my students and I … Continue reading

The V in WOVEN: Student Posters and the Rhetoric of Waste


 In this post, I’d like to write about student posters and start/continue a conversation about the importance of the V in WOVEN. The Rhetoric of Waste and Sustainability: Teaching writing at Georgia Tech, an institution that prides itself with training problem-solvers, I invite my students to use multimodal communication as a tool to identify and propose solutions to problems of sustainability and resource waste. In a sequence of three major assignments—rhetorical analysis, visual artifact, and … Continue reading

Infinite 1102: A Collective Romp Through Infinite Jest, Part I


  1079 pages. 388 footnotes.  2 lbs 10 oz (and that’s the paperback). David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is nothing if not formidable. It languishes on many a “to-read” shelf alongside Joyce’s Ulysses and Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Despite its intimidation factor, Infinite Jest can be a pretty accessible read, and it is absolutely a rewarding one. Infinite Jest deftly critiques politics, entertainment, cavalier abuse of the environment, and the advertising industry; hauntingly captures the nature (and process) of … Continue reading

“Tech Gets Medieval” and Other Ways We Teach the Past

Tech Gets Medieval graphic

For many instructors, teaching about the past can be problematic, especially to Georgia Tech students who may have little interest in any time period that predates their existence, or who may have the interest, but don’t see how such topics can aid them in their pursuit of a STEM degree. While this article focuses on my specialty, the medieval era (roughly 500AD-1500AD), this issue is pertinent to anyone who teaches an historical period. To that … Continue reading

Early Modernism and Multimedia

Brittain Fellow Diane Jakacki’s book chapter, “The Roman de la rose in Text and Image: A Multimedia Research and Teaching Tool” (co-authored with Christine McWebb) has just been published in Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture (Brent Nelson and Melissa Terras, eds. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2012). This chapter presents the early development stages of the imageMAT image annotation tool project for which Diane is the interface designer. The project is funded by the Andrew W. … Continue reading

D-Ped 9/12: New Media


In this seminar session devoted to new media, we (Jason W. Ellis, Peter A. Fontaine, James R. Gregory, and Patrick McHenry) will discuss  forms of writing online and writing across/within networks. Specifically, we will discuss theoretical approaches and practical uses of Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging. We will share our ideas about using these technologies in the writing classroom, and we encourage you to share your plans and concerns about using new media for achieving appropriate … Continue reading

Blake and Cooper publish multimodal textbook


Look out for MONSTERS, a new composition textbook co-edited by third-year Brittain fellow Brandy Blake and former assistant director of the Writing & Communication Program Andrew Cooper. The textbook is part of the Fountainhead Press V Series, each of which focuses on a single, specific topic and its relevance to today’s world.  Dr. Blake and Dr. Cooper offer definitions and examples of monstrosity that have arisen from the Gothic tradition. Through the readings and assignments, … Continue reading

D-Ped 8/29: Multimodal Theory

In addition to finalizing the schedule for the rest of the semester, this Wednesday’s D-Ped seminar will be the first of two seminars that focus on multimodal theory. See the lists below for required and supplementary readings. Begin the conversation before Wednesday by using the Comments feature below. The next two seminars are also a great chance for second- and third-year Britts to learn more about the theories that support what we do — please join … Continue reading

Hybrid Pedagogies: Epistemology and Empiricism

This week’s seminar picked up where we left off, revisiting the usage of Twitter in a classroom setting with two instructor demonstrations of Twitter backchannels, including one for an in-class film screening. Another instructor demonstrated how the Piazza platform had stimulated classroom discussion in similar ways to Twitter, which led to the first of two main questions of the night: What we want from using a hybrid pedagogy? Possibilities included more student engagement, or a better quality of student work and responsiveness, but we also voiced the desire to create a classroom space that had a different sense of community that is somehow different from that created by face-to-face interaction. Once our goals were articulated, we were faced with the more difficult question of how we can assess to what extent we get what we want. It is this second question that this blog post will focus on.

While discussion mainly centered on practical and logistical questions, as well as anecdotal successes and failures, the underlying assumptions that shaped our inquiries are both methodological and epistemological. Epistemology and methodology are inextricably linked. The purpose of this post is to review the reasons why epistemology and methodology are so contentious among researchers in composition theory and technical writing, as well as create a space for further discussion. Continue reading