DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Why Go Multimodal?



The use of multimodal literacies has expanded the ways we acquire information and understand concepts. Ever since the days of illustrated books and maps texts have included visual elements for the purpose of imparting information. The contemporary difference is the ease with which we can combine words, images, sound, color, animation, video, and styles of print in projects so that they are part of our everyday lives and, at least by our youngest generation, often taken for granted.  (NCTE Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies, 2005)

...the prospects for a strong multimodal literacy practice rests with the adoption of a theory that focuses on invention, is highly contextual, is deeply concerned with the hybridity of cultural and the intertextuality of semiotic or symbolic flows, and is explicitly self-conscious about its own contingencies.


Nicholas I. Cordova, "Invention, Ethos, and New Media in the Rhetoric Classroom" 


What we ask students to do is who we ask them to be. With this as a defining proposition, I make three claims: (1) print portfolios offer fundamentally different intellectual and affective opportunities than electronic portfolios do; (2) looking at some student portfolios in both media begins to tell us something about what intellectual work is possible within a portfolio; and (3) assuming that each portfolio is itself a composition, we need to consider which kind of portfolio-as- composition we want to invite from students, and why. 


Kathleen Blake Yancey, "Postmodernism, Palimpsest, and Portfolios: Theoretical Issues in the Representation of Student Work."  (2013)


The National College of Teachers of English (NCTE) has issued the following literacy goals for every learner in the 21st century.  Learners should be able to:


  1. Develop proficiency with the tools of technology

  2. Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally  

  3. Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.

  4. Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information

  5. Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts

  6. Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.


Disciplinary Position Statements:

Other Resource Sites:

  • Creating Multimodal Texts (Annemaree O'Brien, Australia) "This digital repository of practical ideas for multimodal authoring is designed as a resource for my colleagues and for my post-graduate students. My name is Annemaree O’Brien. I have a background in literacy and media education as a teacher, consultant, writer and project manager. I  am currently  completing my PhD researching student use of focalisation in creating multimodal 3D animation narratives, from a social semiotic perspective. My current research interests include multimodal literacy theory and pedagogy; literary and narrative theory; multimodal authoring; and social semiotic theory." 

Suggested Reading:

  • Athon, Amanda.  "Multimodal Composition as a Tool to Foster Language Diversity."  Computers and Composition Online (Winter 2013).

  • Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin.  Remediation:  Understanding New Media.  The authors introduce a play between immediacy and hypermediacy as the two primary forces behind the phenomenon of remediation. Every new medium takes older media as its content and focuses attention on it (hypermediacy) or strives to make the new media invisible (immediacy) in a variety of combinations.  This is why older media never goes away; it just gets subsumed into new media through hypermediation or simulated through an experience of immediacy that seeks to make new media transparent.

  • Cordova, Nathaniel I. ” Invention, Ethos, and New Media in the Rhetoric Classroom.”  Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres.  Chapter 6. 143-16.

  • DeVoss, Danielle Nicole, and Heidi McKee, eds.  Digital Writing: Assessment and Evaluation.  CCDigitalPress, 2013.  Web.  Fourteen separately-authored articles on a wide variety of critical issues in the teaching and assessment of digital and multimodal writing.

  •  Donath, Judith S. “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community.”  Communities in Cyberspace.  Ed. Marc A. Smith and Peter Kollock.  London/NY: Routledge, 1999.  29-59. This article discusses Internet deception through analysis of primarily verbal cues, borrowing from ethnography (assessment versus convention signals), and identity through voice and language. The examples are dated but of historical significance (i.e., Usenet groups). What’s particularly interesting is how one can see the evolution of certain current practices, such as Facebook’s blocking and likes, in the early practices of killfiles and agreement emails to control online sociality.

  • Hayles, N. Katherine.  How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics.   Hayles’ theoretical text describes and interrogates a revolution in the way that we view human nature and consciousness. This revolution is partly marked by a shift from grasping consciousness as presence (versus absence)  to pattern versus randomness (information versus noise). (The teleportation fantasies ofStar Trek and a host of other sci-fi ventures tries to straddle the two; The Fly is the nightmare version.)  This revolution also dramatically affects the way that we relate to texts, such as books.

  • Light, Tracy Penny, Helen L. Chen, and John C. Ittelson.  Documenting Learning With ePortfolios:  A Guide for College Instructors.  Jossey-Bass: 2011.  Print.  
    "Provides higher education instructors with a theory-to-practice approach to understanding the pedagogy behind ePortfolios and to helping students use them to record and reflect on their learning in multiple contexts. The authors outline a framework of six critical iterative tasks to undertake when implementing ePortfolios for student success. Filled with real-life models of successful ePortfolio projects, the book also includes guidance for faculty development to support the use of ePortfolios and covers the place of ePortfolios in institutional assessment efforts. Finally, the authors offer considerations for deciding on which technological tools to deploy in implementing a successful ePortfolio initiative." (Back cover)

  • Nelson, Mark Evan, and Glynda A. Hull.  "Self-presentation through multimedia: a Bahktinian perspective on digital storytelling." Mediatized Stories: Self-Representations in New Media, ed. Knut Lundby, 177-94.Digital Formations 52. New York: Peter Lang, 2008. (.pdf)

  • Nyboe, Lotte, and Kirsten Drotner.  "Identity, aesthetics, and digital narration." Mediatized Stories: Self-Representations in New Media, ed. Knut Lundby, 161-176. Digital Formations 52. New York: Peter Lang, 2008. 

  • Reid, Alex.  The Two Virtuals. Parlor Press: 2007.  From the Parlor Press website: "In The Two Virtuals, Alex Reid shows that to understand the relationship between our traditional, humanistic realm of thought, subjectivity, and writing and the emerging virtual space of networked media, we need to recognize the common material space they share. The book investigates this shared space through a study of two, related conceptions of the virtual. The first virtual is quite familiar; it is the virtual reality produced by modern computing and networks. The second, less familiar, virtual comes from philosophy. It lies in the periphery of more familiar postmodern concepts, such as deconstruction, the rhizome, and simulation. In drawing the connection between the two virtuals of philosophy and networked media, Reid draws upon research in computers and writing, rhetoric and composition, new media studies, postmodern and critical theory, psychology, economics, anthropology, and robotics."  Reid also discusses how virtuality may affect the future of composition instruction.

  • Reiss, Donna, and Art Young.  “Multimodal Composing, Appropriation, Remediation, and Reflection:  Writing, Literature, and Media.”  Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres.  Chapter 7. 164-182.

  • ePortfolio Performance Support Systems: Constructing, Presenting, and Assessing Portfolios.  Eds. Rich, Rich, and Katherine V. Wills. WAC Clearinghouse: 2012.  Web. 
    "ePortfolio Performance Support Systems: Constructing, Presenting, and Assessing Portfoliosaddresses theories and practices advanced by some of the most innovative and active proponents of ePortfolios. Editors Katherine V. Wills and Rich Rice interweave twelve essays that address the ways in which ePortfolios can facilitate sustainable and measureable writing-related student development, assessment and accountability, learning and knowledge transfer, and principles related to universal design for learning, just-in-time support, interaction design, and usability testing." 

  • Selber, Stuart.  Multiliteracies for a Digital Age.  Selber lays out a plan for teaching literacy in the computer age:  functional, critical, and rhetorical.  His claim is that much “computer literacy” has focused on the first (functional computer literacy) at the expense of critique and deliberative reflection involving computer technologies.  In Selber’s view, a multiliterate person assesses the design of programs and interfaces (what practices are encouraged or repressed by them) as well as content.  

  • Selfe, Cynthia, and Pamela Takayoshi.  "Thinking About Multimodality."
  • Shipka, Jody.  “Including, but Not Limited to, the Digital:  Composing Multimodal Texts.”  Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres.  Chapter 3. 73-89.

Photo credit:  the flight of knowledge License Some rights reserved by jaci XIII

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.