Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Ania Rolinska’s talk, taken from my tweets.

As part of Ania’s Masters, she had to submit two online assignments, so decided to try to replicate this with students.
Gaining knowledge through visuals has gained a lot of power. Yet When we think about academia, we normally think about e.g. isolated writing in the library rather than video projects (except for art/film students!)
There is a fear that the internet is making us stupid (Nicholas Carr -2008), but Socrates said the same about writing 2500 years ago! The internet as a medium of learning puts us in a new relation to writing (Ulmer, 2003). Kress/van Leeuwen 2001 say that we can write with image, audio, video, layout – no modality is superior (nor text!). Ulmer suggests we should teach students how to be literate in many different modes, not just writing. e.g. lateral thinking.
In a multi-modal assignment, all modes have equal weight. They add new layers of information, separate/link domains. They can also juxtapose things to critique or explain. Writing and reading digital assignments is a process of designing – it has a different kind of complexity to an essay.
This is an example of a multi-modal assignment Ania did for her Masters. Layout equalises content.

The power relationship between reader/writer is different. It’s more equal as reader decides what to look at in what order. The assignment can be accessed through different sites e.g. start with prezi, move to youtube or vice-versa.
The genre question: not focussing so much on structure (intro, main body, conc), but on what assignment does.
Multimodal assignments are good because it looks at what it means to be literate (processes not skills), intellectual tension (what does it mean to produce academic work). Multi-modal assignments are engaging and enjoyable – you own the learning (more if there are no guides/restrictions). Ania felt she became more self-directed and autonomous as a result of the project. However, these can be problems:

The argument can lose it’s strength when it’s multimodal, meaning conclusions are not strong enough. We need to think about the target student: do you need to be an accomplished academic writer before you can work multimodally?
Assessment criteria included core criteria (eg knowledge of acadmaic referencing) plus student’s own criteria (Ania’s included layout, use of video and more).
Assessment of multimodal assignments includes a degree of subjectivity.

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