Sparking Interest with Multimodal Assignments in Integrated Reading and Writing

Amber&Carolyn

Amber Sarker and Carolyn Caudle

Amber Sarker is beginning her third year of doctoral coursework with Texas State University, pursuing a PhD in Developmental Education with a focus on literacy. Amber has worked in a variety of educational settings, including elementary school, undergraduate courses, online environments, museum programming, and teaching adult second language learners. She has been a member of The Education Institute for two years, which has provided opportunities to co-create professional development, revise curriculum standards, and co-author grant proposals. Amber’s research interests are campus climate, postsecondary literacies, solidarity with students, and educational allyship with LGBTQ+ populations.

Carolyn Caudle is pursuing a Master’s degree in Developmental Education with a focus in literacy from Texas State University. Carolyn began her career teaching kindergarten and fell in love with literacy education after watching children swell with pride when reading their first word. After taking a few years off work while her children were young, Carolyn decided to go back to college and shift her focus to literacy at the post secondary level. She has special interest in improving students’ self-efficacy and boosting confidence within reading and writing.

Integrated Reading and Writing (IRW) has become an increasingly popular option for Developmental Education literacy courses. While reading and writing should continuously be the focus of each assignment and text (Holschuh & Paulson, 2013), embracing students’ digital literacies is an additional relevant and needed component of IRW instruction. The need for instructors to acknowledge and build on students’ digital skills is a result of academia’s shift from students being assigned static texts to complex hybrid texts (Lea and Jones, 2011). Moreover, multimodal meaning making, or comprehending a message using a variety of modes, occurs in a variety of cultural practices, and as a result, emphasizing this in the IRW classroom would benefit students greatly (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009). In order to provide context for this aforementioned research, this article briefly describes how an IRW course can use Adobe Spark to showcase connections students make in their personal lives in comparison to a novel read in class.

Cope and Kalantzis (2009) stated that embracing multiliteracies allows students to not simply restate ideas, but become “transformers of meaning” (p. 115). The ability of students to transform meaning using digital literacies is the central focus of the IRW lesson we are proposing. Our suggested assigned novel for an IRW course is Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist. This novel is about a high school student, Will, who has been attending schools for the visually impaired his entire academic career, but decides to transfer to a mainstream high school. The text details his struggles and triumphs in this new environment. After reading the novel, students would identify a time in their own life when they were challenged with an unfamiliar environment and were required to navigate using a new literacy. They would then be asked to chronicle their own “fish out of water” experience using the free application Adobe Spark. Using this digital program, students could share their story using images, sound, and text to create a professional multimodal presentation.

College students are adept at navigating multimodal texts and resources. Unfortunately, this integration of technology often does not transfer to the classroom. To further prepare our students, embracing multimodal technology and making it the cornerstone of our instruction is paramount (Yu, 2014). Our suggested Adobe Spark storytelling project stresses the importance of New Literacies in an IRW course and suggests a method utilizing visual and auditory modes that can be used to augment instruction.

Cope and Kalantzis (2009) explained, “Experiencing the known involves reflecting on our own experiences, interests, perspectives, familiar forms of expression and ways of representing the world in one’s own understanding” (p. 125). By using Adobe Spark to connect a text to their own lives, students are able to digitally represent their world to their peers. The intersection of students’ experiences and the experiences of characters allows for an opportunity to understand varied perspectives and representations of ideas. Additionally, using Adobe Spark allows students to pre-record their presentation, allowing for a chance to revise the message intended for the viewer.

By creating experiences where students can use digital literacies to convey information, educators provide opportunities for students to “critique, resist, challenge, and change discourses” (Leander & Bolt, 2012, p. 33).  Moreover, by using multimodal presentations, students are able to interact and communicate with peers in an engaging way (Jewitt, 2014). In addition, using a platform such as Adobe Spark allows students to interact with an engaging tool in order to connect the meaning made from the text to a larger audience. Implementing varied uses of technology in an IRW course allows students to better understand the intersection of discourses and digital literacies.

References

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009). “Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning. Pedagogies, 4(3), 164-195. doi:10.1080/15544800903076044

Holschuh, J. L., & Paulson, E. J. (2013). The terrain of college reading. College Reading and Learning Association.  Retrieved from http://www.crla.net/index.php/publications/crla-white-papers

Jewitt, C. (2014). Different approaches to multimodality. In Author (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis (2nd ed., pp. 31-43). London, GBR: Routledge.

Lea, M. R., & Jones, S. (2011). Digital literacies in higher education: Exploring textual and technological practice. Studies in Higher Education, 36(4), 377-393.

Leander, K., & Boldt, G. (2013). Rereading “A pedagogy of multiliteracies”: Bodies, texts, and emergence. Journal of Literacy Research, 45(1), 22-46.

Yu, E. (2014). Let developmental students shine: Digital writing. RTDE 3(2), 99-110.

 

 

Implementing Contextualization Into the IRW Classroom: Making IRW “Worth It”

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Jessica Slentz Reynolds

Jessica Slentz Reynolds is a third-year doctoral student in developmental education with a focus on developmental literacy at Texas State University. She earned a M.A. in English from Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi, where she also taught Composition and Developmental Writing as an adjunct instructor.  She has been a Writing Consultant for the CASA Writing Center since 2011 and continues to tutor students online. Her research interests involve postsecondary literacies, integrated reading and writing, diversity in developmental education classrooms, and writing centers.

Last fall, I was inspired by The Education Institute’s (TEI) Self-Change Power Project to integrate contextualization into my Integrated Reading and Writing (IRW) course. Contextualization, in short, is the teaching of basic skills within a disciplinary topic (Perin, 2011). According to Perin (2011), contextualization can increase students’ intrinsic motivation and level of engagement in the classroom because it allows the subject to be deemed useful and interesting to learners. After reading Perin, I was reminded of the seminal work on IRW by Bartholomae and Petrosky (1986) where they argued that IRW courses should not be a study skills course consisting of workbooks and diagramming sentences, but IRW should help students acquire the necessary literacies to be successful in both academic and workplace discourses.

After making the connection between Perin’s (2011) work on contextualization and Bartholomae and Petrosky’s (1986) theory on IRW, I decided to modify the Self-Change Power Project to help students achieve the learning objectives for the expository unit of the semester: the Discourse Community Analysis (DCA). It is common for IRW instructors to assign an expository unit centered around the students’ future careers; however, I like to provide an opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with their future careers in a way that transcends a basic description of their potential professions. Since IRW is a reading and writing course, I use the expository unit to help students understand the various literacies in their chosen fields of study. The students complete a 6-week DCA project, where they not only research the many facets of communication within their potential careers, but they also observe and participate within these communities. The students must present—through either traditional essay format or by a formal presentation to the class—the goals, types of communication, language, membership, and the significance of literacy within their selected communities (Wardle & Downs, 2011).

These questions guided the expository unit to make IRW “worth it:”

  • Does assigning a DCA on students’ future careers lead to students having a stronger understanding of academic and workplace literacies?
  • Does implementing a comprehensive project that focuses on students’ individual goals increase motivation for students to complete the IRW course?
  • Could an alternative version of the Self-Change Power Project accomplish these goals?

The following is a brief timeline of activities leading up to the final product for the DCA project. These components are a direct reflection of the Self-Change Power Project guidelines.

  • Students brainstorm and research types of communication, language, behaviors, and various literacies of their future careers.
  • Students decide what types of communication, language, behaviors, and various literacies of their future careers they want to observe, participate in, and monitor for 4-5 weeks.
  • Students participate in their selected communities and keep a journal about their experiences. They are prompted to write about what they observed, how they participated within the community, and how literacy is an integral aspect of their community.
  • In the last week of the unit, students showcase through writing, class discussion, and photographic evidence their processes and experiences participating in their chosen discourse communities.
  • Students submit their completed DCA project for a grade via essay or in-class presentation.

This DCA project aligns with what Goen and Gillotte-Tropp (2003) referred to as the six principles of an IRW program: integration, time, development, academic membership, sophistication, and purposeful communication. Based on feedback from two IRW sections, I received an overwhelming amount of positive responses from students who completed this project. Students stated that the project helped them decide if their selected major was the right path for them; the act of observing, understanding, and researching their communities forced students to use a variety of skills and resources they had not yet used in college; and, finally, students reported that it made them see the benefits to taking an IRW course.

 References

Bartholomae, D., & Petrosky, A.R. (1986). Facts, artifacts and counterfacts: Theory and method for a reading and writing course. Upper Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook.

Goen, S., & Gillotte-Tropp, H. (2003). Integrating reading and writing: A response to the basic writing “crisis”. Journal of Basic Writing, (22)2, 90-113.

Perin, D. (2011). Facilitating student learning through contextualization: A review of evidence.  Community College Review, 39(3), 268-295. doi: 10.1177/0091552111416227

The Education Institute. (2016). The Education Institute. Retrieved from http://www.tei.education.txstate.edu/

Wardle, E., & Downs, D. (2011). Writing about writing. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.