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RE-Vision & the Return of the Jack-of-All-Trades

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Ivan Lerner

on 22 October 2014

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Transcript of RE-Vision & the Return of the Jack-of-All-Trades

& the Return of the Jack of All Trades
Before I get all serious, here’s probably my favorite mash-up/remix
It never doesn’t amuse me. (Feel free to zoom in for a better look…)

Somehow it makes sense that it’s Linus feeling this way…
Miss Othmar isn’t teaching multimodal, and Linus is frustrated…
Recently, I rediscovered
the following quote—
I think it is apropos to the
situation of how
students are treated by
many teachers and
administrators (and it
certainly indicates how
some teachers I met
acted toward their kids:
like the Great White God
sent to save the
ignorant locals…)
“…to manipulate men, to propel them towards goals which you – the social reformer – see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them… in effect, to treat them as subhuman.”
—Isaiah Berlin,
“Two Concepts of Liberty” (1958) (p11)
That statement is,
for me, the kissing-
cousin of Shipka’s
“…assignments that
goals and narrowly
limit the materials,
methodologies, and
technologies that
students employ…
while ignoring the
‘complex delivery
systems through which
writing circulates,’
perpetuate arhetorical,
mechanical, one-sided
views of
production.” (p285)
And that statement is the next-door neighbor to Takayoshi and Selfe’s (T&S) “students are producing essays that look much the same as those produced by their parents and grandparents.” (p2)
Are kids being held back/denied because “we” know better?
(Or at least not being given the opportunity to shine in fields that have more relevance to them:
“Students often bring to the classroom a great deal of implicit,
perhaps previously unarticulated,
knowledge about what is involved in composing multimodal texts,
and they commonly respond to multimodal assignments with excitement.”
(T&S; p4))
In this week’s reading, there was often the underlying sense of AUTONOMY, thankfully—
T&S hint at this when they state early on that “time marches on outside of U.S. secondary and college classrooms…[and] people on the Internet are exchanging texts composed of still and moving images, animations, sounds, graphics, words, and colors.” (p2)
The “kids” don’t need
educators permission
to take the tech and RUN with it/
T&S: “…teachers…have watched students become so engaged in their compositions that they push themselves beyond the boundaries of the assignments and demonstrate learning that goes well beyond teachers' expectations as they begin to understand how multimodal texts look, act, and function.” (p4)
Shipka (X2):
“Students approach this objective by contextualizing it in ways that are of interest or importance to them.” (p286)

“A multimodal task-based framework not only requires that students work hard, but…differently.” (p290)

This autonomy goes hand in hand with what Shipka refers to as “goal-oriented activity” (think of a salesman working on commission as opposed to having to punch a clock…).

“I look to theories of goal-oriented activity as a way of reconceptualizing production, delivery and reception in the composition classroom.” (p283)

“When students are called upon to set their own goals and to explore the variety of ways those goals might be accomplished, the work they produce tends to defy any easy attempt to categorize by quality or kind.” (p293)
In other words,
Give ’em enough rope…
and they might make an incredible rope sculpture!
Not that this is
going to be Easy Street—
Shipka comments on this a few times:
“…just because one is given permission to take up a variety of media does not necessarily make a task any easier.” (p296)

“This way of working can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially when the students discover potentials for enriching their work that may require them to set aside the work they have already begun and return to an earlier stage in the production process…
“Rather, revision has become
: A demanding process that involves both the potential and the willingness to reimagine the goals, contexts, and consequences associated with their work.” (p291)
In fact, so much freedom of choice can be crippling:
“The increase in media often makes the business of composing…that much more challenging, as there is often, quite literally, infinitely more stuff for students to handle.” (p296)
Multimodal compositions, though, do not always have to be digital—
Citing Wysocki's definition of new-media texts, Shipka writes, “The complex work students produce…need not be digital but might be…purposefully engineered out of anything…[including] print texts, digital media, live or videotaped performances, old photographs, ‘intact’ objects, repurposed objects,” and so on.
So while there may be “infinitely more stuff for students to handle,”
T&S point out that “students[’]…rhetorically-based use of video, still images, animations, and sound can actually help them better understand…written language…[providing] students additional and instructive strategies for communicating in writing.” (p9)
While we can sprain our arms patting ourselves on the back for getting the “kids” onboard, we still have to convince the
Board of Edumakashun…
Luckily, with The Five Reasons,
T&S present how an educator can rationalize/explain to others about multimodal compositions (or at least have effective soundbytes—and I do not mean that disparagingly—I intend to regurgitate and repeat The Five Reasons myself going forward)
(While notable, the FIVE KEY QUESTIONS struck me as an attempt to convince any pedagogists who were sitting on the fence…)
In an increasingly technological world, students need to be experienced and skilled not only in reading (consuming) texts employing multiple modalities, but also in composing in multiple modalities, if they hope to communicate successfully within the digital communication networks that characterize workplaces, schools, civic life, and span traditional cultural, national, and geopolitical borders.
In other words:
When in Rome…
If composition instruction is to remain relevant, the definition of "composition" and "texts" needs to grow and change to reflect peoples' literacy practices in new digital communication environments.
It’s like what Heraclitus said, “You can’t step in the same river twice.”
The authoring of compositions that include still images, animations,
and audio—although intellectually demanding and time consuming—is also
Translation: Dude, I was in the Zone! It was awesome!
Audio and
composing requires
attention to rhetorical principles of communication.
Which means…
While the definition of "composition" and "texts" will grow and change, you will still be dealing with “composition” and “texts.” Luckily, say T&S, “the time spent on multimodal composition, far from being a distraction, will enrich the teaching of composition in general.” (p5)
multimodality is one pathway to accomplishing long-valued pedagogical goals.

The end justifies the means.
Thankfully, “For students, such instruction is often refreshing (because it's different from the many other composing instruction experiences they've had), meaningful (because the production of multimodal texts in class resemble many of the real-life texts students encounter in digital spaces), and relevant (students often sense that multimodal approaches to composing will matter in their lives outside the classroom).” (T&S; p4)
Returning to Shipka,
“While the framework still requires that students produce a substantial amount of writing for the course, the fact that they are drawing upon multiple semiotic resources…suggests that students are doing something that is at once more and other than writing. I would argue that students who…order, align, and/or transform the various resources they find at hand tend to work in ways that more closely resemble the ways choreographers or engineers do.” (p300)
Multiple hats for a multi-modalist!
I think it is a good thing to have diverse talents (being a Jack-of-all-trades, sort of) to draw upon. Some economists feel that specialization makes people more productive and efficient—but it can also make people more myopic, hidebound and resistant to change.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects
-Robert A. Heinlein

In closing…
In last week’s reading, Johndan Johnson-Eilola (p218) wrote that hypertext is closer to how we
than linear text.
That, and all this talk of multimodal composition has made
in thought
to what might be the next step:
The transmission of a whole idea—a gestalt—
But how do we decipher it?
What training is needed?
How is the whole idea transmitted?
If we can create a mental image/construct of a hypertext—could we concentrate it into one “thought bubble” that could be “plopped” into other people’s heads?
It may behoove our future selves to maximize the education of multimodal delivery systems so that
there can be a
template for
telepathic transmissions.
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