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Multimodal Literacy Profile

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Andrew Pecora

on 13 October 2015

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Transcript of Multimodal Literacy Profile

Multimodal Literacy Profile: Dave Bianchi
Image 1: Dave Begins His Homework
Sometime around the early afternoon, Dave Bianchi began his homework for his Computer Science classes. His task was to have his program be able to complete a certain function given to him by his instructor. This was a backwards problem Dave had to deal with. Having been given an answer, he had to find a way to have his program work out the correct answer. This is a skill that is not always presented in my realm of liberal arts. There are no correct answers, we are always told, and when we do come to answers, it is through inductive reasoning, not the deductive reasoning Dave might be using in this problem.
Image 2: Understanding His Literacy
Part of Dave's process included looking up directions to complete his program. In this instance, what we are seeing is two different languages, one that people understand and one that computers understand. Unlike the language classes I take, there is an entirely different syntax and structure that computer languages take. In essence, Dave knows more than one language.
Introducing the Profile
For this particular Multimodal Literacy Profile, I have decided to focus on a Computer Science major. As an aspiring liberal arts teacher, the subject of Computer Science has always appeared fascinating to me. With the world shifting from text-based literacy into an online, cyber-based literacy, those who understand how computers work have a great source of power. Thus, this profile will examine what a Computer Science major does to make sense of his world, how he addresses problems, and how his studies will affect his social capital in the real world.

This presentation looks at Dave Bianchi,a senior MSU student from Buffalo, New York. His background and his interests make him a particularly interesting case-study given that his interests are always in connection with what he is studying at Michigan State. The following images were captured during a three hour span on a typical Saturday afternoon.
Image 4: Medium of Expression
Pictured here is Dave's program window, where he types instructions for his program. As one can see, it is quite different than the way English majors write and express their thought. The program framework is also a great example of how audience, the computer, matters since Dave can't write the same way he can write to a person. It may look complex, but Dave describes writing as a very logical process. He is telling where the computer must look to find a certain piece of information and then what the computer must do with that action. In simpler terms, Dave is writing an instruction manual for the computer.
Image 3: Roadblock
A common tactic for gathering information, Dave consulted an online search engine when he was unable to figure out why his program wasn't producing the correct answer. When asked about why, Dave replied that he had not bought the textbook for the class. What the research engine could provide, which the textbook was unlikely to, was options. Different websites had the possibility of presenting information in different ways, allowing Dave to find one that fits his personal literacy
Image 5: Visual Learning
Instructions can be difficult to understand if there is no blueprint. In order to make sense of what Dave is trying to tell the computer to do, he draws out the function he wants the computer to do. Dave is processing a great deal of information at this point during his homework, and it is obvious that the text and cyber resources he has are not completely explaining what is being asked of him. Therefore he opts to use another mode of learning: visualization.
Image 6: Acquiring Background Information
The problem that Dave had to figure out was the Josephus problem. The story goes that Josephus and his friends were besieged and were facing imminent death. He and his friends decided it would be better to commit serial suicide instead of being slaughtered at the hands of the besiegers. The men gathered in a circle and the men began counting, starting at a specific place in the circle. Once a specified number of people were skipped, the person next to him was executed. Josephus however devised a way where he would end up being the last man standing and could then make his escape from the beseigers. In explaining this story to me, Dave was amazed that one man could plan this sort of calculation on his own, without the help of computers or calculators. Having been immersed in the perspective of a computer scientist, Dave had found it hard to imagine solving this problem without knowledge in a certain literacy.
Image 7: A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
In another of Dave's assignments, he had to construct a replica of Michigan State University's campus. What was incredibly interesting about our conversation on this topic was how there is a detailed language behind all these images. A certain program has to be working with a particular command structure which must use a specific language. Computer Science, I gathered, is not just the science of understanding one language. It is recognizing the different mediums that different programs use and when to use a certain language for a given program. Much like how foreign language teachers know when to switch between languages, computer scientists do the same.
Image 8: Learning
Here we see how Dave attends class. His classes are online, and his instructor can incorporate a project into the lecture. This offers a unique way of learning. There is direct feedback on projects, and online lectures allow students to revisit subjects they did not understand. The approach to learning very much depends on the students, putting them in control of their education.
Image 9: Taking A Break
During his studies, Dave decided to take a break and call his grandmother, who lives in New York. He contacted her on his cell phone. Something that is interesting to note here is that Dave and his grandmother connect in a more traditional setting of telephoning each other. Understanding that his grandmother may not have the same diversity in literacy as Dave has, Dave communicates to her in a way that she will be able to.
Image 10: Multiple Literacies
As Dave continues to work on his program, he continues to write on paper to help his mental modeling. Dave incorporates two literacies: prose and arithmetic. He appears to fluctuate between the two to fill in the gaps of his own understanding.
Image 11: Free Time
Shifting between computer science code, logarithms, and textual instructions, Dave felt it was a time to take a break and divert his attention. When he did, Dave decided to look up online sports articles. These articles combine video and text to make the article much more intricate and engaging. With a website, one has more articles to access and thus gain more information.
Image 12: Music
Continuing his break from his studies, Dave visits YouTube to listen to a song. While YouTube may initially be seen as a place for videos, Dave uses the website for that and music, especially music he was unable to purchase. This is a perfect example of multimodality, where video sites are used to access music.
Image 13: Cellular Phone Usage
Dave has programmed his phone to use Spanish. Dave is not a foreign student, but he has made several friends from around the world. He knows Spanish quite well and as a way of keeping up with the language, he set his phone to be in Spanish. It is interesting to note that his primary communication tool is in Spanish and not others, which suggests a link between his literacy in a language and his communication skills.
Image 14: Layering
Dave resumes his work and after figuring out his mistakes, he is putting the finishing touches on his project. This is what, he explained, goes behind all the images one sees and the things one does on the computer. Computer Science is a very intricate study. There are multiple layers of text and language that goes into what we see as computer users. A simple animation can mean a great deal more to a computer designer than to a student.
Image 15: The Final Product
This is the solution to Dave's problem. Having been given the answer, Dave's task was to come up with this function. As these images have shown, it is not as simple as working backwards from the answer. Dave had to communicate to the computer what he wanted it to do, and by putting it into terms the computer understood, with many different layers of computer languages and codes, Dave created a solution. By understanding his audience and utilizing multiple mediums of understanding, Dave completed his assignment.
Conclusion
During the three hours of observing Dave go about his daily life, I have found that Dave, in today's terms, is a very literate man. He is able to process huge amounts of data through various mediums. Dave uses maps, images, videos, speech, and text to understand the world around him. It is understandable however, given his major, which is a very demanding but highly valued skill int today's world. Dave is able to accomplish a wide variety of skills because his area of study encourages and maybe even requires him to tackle different perspectives in order to produce a finished product. These computer science skills then have made him very successful in his world. Knowing what to do and when to do it is powerful in a society where different audiences demand different responses. In order to succeed, that is give those audiences what they want, one must understand power that comes from being diverse and having a broad views of understanding, something that Dave and the most successful computer scientists know.
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