Article: Rethinking Composing in a Digital Age: Authoring Literate Identities Through Multimodal Storytelling
Authors: Lalitha Vasudevan, Katherine Schultz, and Jennifer Bateman
Journal: Written Communication (2010) 27(4), 442-468.
This is an ethnographic study of a multimodal storytelling project in a fifth-grade urban public school classroom in a multiracial and multinational school. It is a collaborative effort of two researchers, a community artist, Ms. Bateman, and a classroom teacher, Amelia Coleman. The study used a series of interrelated projects during the school year to fold together the teacher’s curricular plan, the district curriculum, and a growing variety of modalities for gathering visual and audio artifacts from the community. Audio and video recorders were used along with iMovie video editing software to participate in a multimodal storytelling project.
The study authors used interpretive methods to gather data and then analyzed this data to bring out patterns and themes. From this analysis, case studies of the composing processes of two students were highlighted in this article. These case studies expand on two different authorial stances. The first key point in this article is that by learning new ways of composing, students take on new literate identities, or authorial stances, in their classroom community.
In the first case study, Michael takes his small group on a neighborhood walk which includes a tour of his apartment. He photographs his room, basketball trophies, front steps and parents to use later in his iMovie. Most of the photos for Michael’s culminating video are gathered from outside school. They come from his funds of knowledge outside of the school walls. This video project allows him to make a connection between home and school in a positive and engaged way. NETS*S 1a. & b. Creativity and Innovation – Michael creates an original video to express a home and school connection. 2b. – He is communicating using a variety of formats. 4b. He is planning his activities to complete a project. 5b. The technology specifically encourages a positive attitude, which he has not always had towards school work. 6. Technology Operations – he has to place photos and audio into the software platform of iMovie.
In the second case study, the authors highlight how, Saima, a shy recent immigrant from Bangladesh completed written assignments often in a compliant, but disconnected way. However, when she worked on the “Buildings Speak” project and later projects using multiple modalities she was able to tell a more personal story and have a louder voice in the classroom community. With each project, she added details, including her voice and traditional Bengali music. NETS*S 1a. & b. Saima uses her existing knowledge of her home country to create an original work of self-expression complete with narration and music. 2b. She is able to appeal to a wider audience with text, pictures, narration and the video format. 4b. She plans, manages and completes her project to share with the class. 5b. She has a good attitude towards technology, and 6a. understands and uses iMovie.
Michael’s authorial stance became one of an engaged learner who could bring important aspects of his home life into his school writing. He became less recognized for restlessness and resistance and more for learning software quickly and helping others to learn. Saima shared a larger voice with her classmates than she previously had on paper.
The second key point made in the article is that of circulating literacy practices and increased modes of participation and engagement. In a nutshell, students should be able to use technology in the classroom that they often use at home. The authors make the point that classroom literacy can be narrowed due to the constraints of high stakes testing and mandated curriculum. However, multimodal projects including the making of personal narrative videos bring new voice and authorial stance to every learner. This makes a further connection between home and school life.
I found this article to be interesting and relevant to me, because students are often asked to write personal narratives. I have seen written works, artifacts from home, parent and child completed timelines with photos. This article presented some expanded ways of making a personal narrative. I think it would be very motivating for students to make a video which includes photos of things from their home that they may not be able to bring to school. Also, the addition of their voice lends a personal quality to their story. I think this type of project would allow students to share themselves with their classmates in positive and personal way, thus expanding their role in their classroom community.