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His Eyes Were Watching Multi-modality

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His Eyes were Watching Multimodality

When the semester began, the idea of what a text was seemed cut and dry.  Essays were simply textual constructions on paper to read by the professor.  In a short span of time, that representation has become problematized. Reading the blog posts of my colleges helped that process along immensely.  I learned a great deal from each of the texts these eyes swept over.

Some of my observations were:

  • That it can be hard to change how we think about what academic texts look like. Some of us are so indoctrinated in a system that has been proclaiming that there is one model of textuality that everyone should follow.
  • That different writer’s bring different talents to the papers that they produce. Some people were quick to incorporate pictures, or links, while others wrote in highly personal and engaging, but more standard print ways.
  • That commenting on papers is time consuming.  I took at least an hour with each blog post I read over.  I would read the post and then reread Richardson’s blog post to see exactly where the author was trying to connect.  From there I would read sentence by sentence on a subject level to determine what they were saying and how I could help clear it up.
  • That some students find it difficult to respond to an assignment on a personal level.  Many posts read like forced responses to a teacher’s directive.

The reason that this process seemed to eat up time is that I would comment on the sentence content first.  After I felt positive that the comments could help the author, I would turn to the title.  There is no sense addressing the title before you read the post.  When you have an understanding of the point of view of the author, you can attempt to find the right title.  A good title should be eye catching to attract a reader’s eye.  I attempted to give the author suggestions with titles that they could use.

After I settled on titles I would begin to search the Internet for pictures that would spice up the blog.  I would take a few of the main ideas in the post and try to find pictures that could compliment them.  I usually tried to find representations that played off the words or the ideas rather than direct pictorial representations.  These pictures could be playful, metaphorical, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

When I settled on a few pictures, I would turn to the links in the blog post.  A good blog post will incorporate links in the same way that traditional papers cite sources.  Links are used to provide authority to the author’s work, as well as additional resources.  That is a great affordance of composing digitally. You can present an unlimited amount of links within the body of the texts.

So whereas with traditional texts you would go over the paper for content, grammar, punctuation, and proper format, multimodal texts add more pieces to the process.  I never even looked at the posts for grammar, so the time I would spend on the writing of my own students could potentially expand.

Reading these posts an looking at the conventions that class determined that good blog post were supposed helped me develop a better understanding about what exactly they should look like.  Since digital texts are relying more and more on visual representations to draw in readers, an essay needs to consider aesthetics as part of its form.  In the past an essay could be creative, by visually they all looked the same.  While it is true that a good blog post should be divided up into smaller chunks rather than bulky paragraphs, which is similar to the essay, digital writing can take into account the font type, size, color, pictures, links, background of the blogs, and attempt to connect on a personal level with the author and reader alike.

When I began writing the blogs, I knew that this class would attempt to change how I thought about academic writing.  I felt resistant to change and my first blog posts resembled that.  I am nearly 40 and we all know that you cannot teach an old dog, new tricks.  Yet after reading 20ish papers (not everyone sent me one) I found that my own ideas about writing were changing.  I found that I did not need to cling to the checklist of what a good blog looked like.  Instead, I found myself being immediately drawn to the multimodal aspect and blown away at how some of these fabulous writers could manipulate me with pictures or links.  I found myself experiencing a sense of awe with the kind of talent in which my classmates composed.  It slowly began to show up in my writing.

At first, the thought of having to respond to 20 papers frustrated me.  I am taking five classes, work, and have three wonderful children that need attention.With my limited time, I did not see how I could do it, but I did not complain.  Mrs. Sarver provided me with a wonderful opportunity by opening up this section for me and I pay off my debts.  After the first couple of responses, I built time into my schedule for the blogs.  I looked forward to reading them.  I felt compelled to give sincere and helpful feedback.  This experience reiterated what I thought I knew.  I want to be a teacher and I enjoy a teacher’s workload.

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