D-Ped 9/19: Moving Toward Multimodality

On Wednesday, Sept. 19th, Drs. Jonathan Kotchian, Amanda Golden, Mirja Lobnik, and Noah Mass will lead a digital pedagogy seminar on “Moving Toward Multimodality in Crafting, Drafting, and Reviewing.”  We’ll show how using some experimental digital tools and methods can enrich different stages of the composition process.

Discussion Topics:

Jon Kotchian will explain his plans to use interactive fiction gaming as a model for more responsive feedback and revision in his English 1102 course on “Puzzles, Games, and Mysteries.”  Text-based interactive fiction games, which require a player to type in what he or she wishes to do next, complicate traditional relationships between reader and writer, as the player becomes in effect a co-author.  Jon’s students will work in groups to draft short argument-driven games, then play-test each other’s games to recommend changes in their content and rhetorical structures.  The revision process will thus consider the games both on the level of code and on the level of player experience.  In Wednesday’s seminar, we’ll examine what this revision-via-playtesting might look like.

Amanda Golden will discuss her assignment, “Envisioning Apple’s Future,” in her English 1101 course, “Apple and Microsoft: 1975 to the Present.” After reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs (2011), leading the class in an activity engaging one of the readings, and giving group presentations, each student will design an iPhone and/or iPad application (app) or a future Apple product. Each student will compose a two page written plan explaining her app or product’s function and describing its potential users. The apps can have any topic or use, as long as it is legal. One example of an app recently developed at Georgia Tech is the GT911 safety app.  The students’ written plans must also articulate how their artifacts engage with or depart from Apple’s trajectory at the close of Isaacson’s biography. The students can also cite more recent developments. In addition, each plan must include a visual image or images of what the product or app will look like. These images should depict such aspects as the app’s cover graphic on the iPhone or iPad, address how it might look or work differently on the iPhone or iPad (and potentially other products), and could envision the appearance of different pages or facets of the app. Students’ plans can also describe, or possibly include, any audio or video elements that their apps might incorporate.

Mirja Lobnik will investigate possible uses of sound in the composition classroom. She will address the academic debate that arose in response to Cynthia L. Selfe’s “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing,” a text that explores the history of aural composing modalities (speech, music, sound) and how they have generally been subsumed by the written word in composition classrooms. She will then talk about assignments that highlight sound as a rhetorical and creative resource: a transcription assignment that focuses on the transformation of ideas from one medium of expression to another; an oral storytelling assignment that encourages the students’ use of voice inflection and body language to convey meaning, that creates a strong audience awareness, and that allows for the incorporation of pedagogical methods drawn from the performing arts; an audio essay assignment; and a video assignment. Finally, she will discuss the writing process (brainstorming, drafting, revising) as well as the production process (storyboarding, staging), paying particular attention to the collaboration among peers that each step involves.

Noah Mass will present on teaching essay writing, outlining, and drafting using electronic mind maps. Mind maps are methods of illustrating ideas in visual form so that writers can see the ways that those ideas intersect. A number of software programs allow teachers to model this process for students to create collaborate maps of ideas; these programs are also ideal for students to create their own idea maps that they can then organize as outlines (or even as complete drafts) and export as Word documents. The value of mind maps, in general, is that they allow visual learners, as many of us are, to conceptualize our ideas in visual form; but mind maps also help us to synthesize written ideas and multimodal tools in a particular electronic space.  In his presentation, Noah will present on several mind mapping software programs: Novamind 4, Novamind 5, and Mind42. Noah will demonstrate the way that he uses such programs in the classroom for collaborative brainstorming exercises and essay modeling. He will also show how students (as well as academics) can use these programs to go through all the steps in a project, from brainstorming of an initial idea to final drafting of that idea as a written or multimodal artifact. Finally, he will demonstrate a free online mind mapping program, Mind42, that students and teachers can use singly or collaboratively in a variety of applications.

We’d like participants to do several things in preparation for Wednesday’s meeting.


Required Materials:

Please bring your computers.


Required Reading:

John W. Budd, “Mind Maps as Classroom Exercises.” The Journal of Economic Education 35:1 (Winter 2004), 35-46.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/30042572

Kathryn Crowther, “Punking the Victorians, Punking Pedagogy: Steampunk and Creative Assignments in the Composition Classroom.”  Journal of Victorian Culture Online (6 September 2012).  http://myblogs.informa.com/jvc/2012/09/06/punking-the-victorians-punking-pedagogy-steampunk-and-creative-assignments-in-the-composition-classroom/

Susan H. Delagrange, “When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship.”  Kairos: A Journal of Technology, Rhetoric, and Pedagogy 14:1 (Fall 2009).  http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/14.1/inventio/delagrange/index.html

Sean McCarthy, CWRL Novamind Presentation.  http://www.novamind.com/connect/nm_documents/341

Cynthia L. Selfe, “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing.”  College Composition and Communication 60:4 (June 2009), 616-63.  http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2009300874&site=ehost-live

This sample artifact, a mind Map of the film O Brother Where Art Thou?, in which students, in small groups, divided the film into “moments” of filmic language:

Required Viewing:

Novamind 4: “Creating your first Mind Map in Novamind for Mac OS X.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpK_FPr7ChU


Required Playing:

Please spend 10 minutes or so playing Andrew Plotkin’s interactive fiction game, The Dreamhold, to get a feel for what interactive fiction is like:  http://www.eblong.com/zarf/if.html#dreamhold

Please spend 10 or so minutes exploring Mind42, a free and easy to use mind mapping program.  http://mind42.com/


Recommended Texts:

Stuart Moulthrop and Nancy Kaplan, “Something to Imagine: Literature, Composition, and Interactive Fiction.”  Computers and Composition: An International Journal 9:1 (November 1991), 7-23.  http://computersandcomposition.candcblog.org/archives/v9/9_1_html/9_1_1_Moulthrop.html

Joseph Perkins, “Digital Pedagogy — Learning Journal Epilogue.”  Pedagogical Reflections (18 October 2009).  http://jperk30.edublogs.org/2009/10/18/digital-pedagogy-learning-journal-epilogue/

Novamind 5: “Novamind 5 for Mac introductory tutorial.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETNxPVQDWc0&feature=relmfu


To begin our discussion:

Please take 10 minutes or so to comment on this post.  You might consider a multimodal artifact you’ll incorporate in a present or future course, or just share an idea or a question.  We’ll touch on some common threads in our meeting on Wednesday.

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Jonathan Kotchian

About Jonathan Kotchian

A Brittain Fellow since 2012, Jonathan Kotchian (PhD and MA in English, University of Connecticut; BA in theater, Yale University) is revising his first book project, which shows how the figure of the superior author in early modern England co-evolved with satire. His second book project, which continues his investigation of “insider” literature accessible only to certain readers or viewers, explores the relationship between concepts of intelligence and literary taste. His interests range from Shakespeare and Milton to using theatrical training techniques in the multimodal composition classroom, where he asks his students to foreground their own motivations, self-presentations, and affective responses. Key interests: early modern literature, composition, authorship, satire, intelligence, drama, theater, interactive fiction games, and digital humanities. He can be reached by e-mail at jonathan.kotchian@lmc.gatech.edu or jkotchian@yahoo.com, and via Twitter @JonKotchian.
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  1. I thought the Selfe article was really interesting. As a nineteenth-century person, I found her historical background to be very helpful, especially as I imagine what the implications of this pedagogy might mean for me in the nineteenth-century courses I’d like to teach one day. (For instance, a class that studies the historical circumstances that affected nineteenth-century reading, publishing, and critical practices. The article reminds me of literary critical discussions about the ways “low-brow” texts became “high-brow” during the first half of the twentieth century. Selfe’s historical background makes me think about the fact that people’s very way of engaging with a text (a Dickens novel, for example) might change dramatically over the course of a century because of our modes of “discussion”: who talks about it v. who responds to it in writing.

    But for the purposes of writing and communication courses: I like the point about emphasizing/incorporating speaking and listening in our courses as goals that are as important as writing–and as natural complements to writing. One thing I’ve noticed, especially when students work in peer review groups: some students are very, very good at talking about ideas with incredible poise, but they’re not always the same students who paragraph easily. It’s interesting to see students work together to translate clear talking to clear paragraphing or the other way around. The great thing about making talking, listening, and writing work more equal goals is that students can find their sweet spots and use them to develop skills they find more difficult: they’ll turn to the good talker or the good listener in order to figure out how to refine, for instance, a topic sentence. (Or, someone who writes strong transition sentences has to explain how he/she thinks through the process, and that explaining is as important as the written prose.)

    I wonder about the voice-as-metaphor issues Selfe raises: beyond stressing the importance of discussions and presentations, how do we avoid rendering aurality a/the secondary skill?

  2. I can easily imagine that mind mapping could be a fruitful and fun approach to assist students during the drafting process, especially for group work. I’m especially imaging students using stickies and markers and the like as a lead-in to Novamind-type mind map that they then might submit when proposing a project.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how people have successfully incorporated mind maps into teaching (or for their own writing). I’m also interested to hear how mind maps can go beyond a warm-up exercise (which would be valuable, of course), but be actively incorporated into the drafting and revision process.

  3. I second Sarah’s eagerness to hear how folks have incorporated successfully incorporated mind maps into teaching. I now realize that many of the visuals I “draw” on boards in class more or less fall into this category so I can certainly see how they are effective generative or illustrative exercises, but am not sure exactly how I would respond to the maps as formal components of a revision process, for example.

    I am also intrigued by how the interactive gaming might work as a form of feedback.

    • I was intrigued by Delagrange’s idea of revision as redesign in her webtext (for lack of a better term), and so I would suggest that mind maps could be integrated into the revision process. In what ways? I still need to figure that out and I’d be interested to find out what others have to say.

  4. I like the idea of mind-mapping, especially as a way to help students engage personally with the course topics. Like Katy Crowther, I enjoy building my course assignment sequences around an open-ended, open-topic major project. I think mind-mapping can potentially be very useful for students as they explore their personal interests in and connections to “texts” or topics we explore in the course, and this seminar came at a great time for me to be able to incorporate this sort of exercise into my students’ idea development processes, as they are currently exploring potential guiding questions and topics for their major projects more actively than they have to date in the course.

  5. I actually sat down and played The Dreamhold for about 25 minutes to half an hour. It was labyrinthine to maneuver through, and while I had fun playing around with the various command elements and trying to break the game (I swear, I must have been a professional tester in another life) it soon became vexing. There seemed to be no clear goal to the game, and I was left wandering endlessly to no seeming purpose or constructive outcome. I collected two masks, but beyond that, I have no idea what I was doing or to what end. It might have helped things, granted, if I had drawn a game map while I was playing, to keep track of my ‘progress’ through the dream hold, and also to note where interesting descriptions of rooms could again be found. While game mechanics allow for amazing and unique writing/revising possibilities for creators and players alike, I wonder if there isn’t some antagonism with traditional game goals and values (rescue the princess or escape the dungeon paired with collect coins or time limit torches that must be endlessly renewed) and the goals of writing, composing, and communicating via these various mechanics. With no ‘princess’ to rescue, what is my motivation to play the game through to the end? Likewise, writing without a clear purpose feels like busy-work to the students, doesn’t it? A different kind of ‘scoring system’ but one to which they still cling desperately. I acknowledge that this was example for possibility rather than model for the system, but I wonder what student examples must look like and how they will relate to a text-based adventure game like the Dreamhold (good and bad accounted).

  6. Pingback: Teaching Composition with Interactive Fiction - TECHStyle

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