This spring, I am teaching an online professional writing course
for Appalachian State University. The goal of the course is for students to study the rhetorical principles and writing practices necessary for producing effective professional documents such as letters, memos, proposals, and collaborative projects in web- and print-based environments. Another major emphasis of the course is exploring issues related to underrepresented groups in the workplace.
As I begin the journey of teaching this online course, I’m trying on a few new “teacherly hats.” I’m pushing myself, for instance, to commit more thoroughly to what I call multimodal teaching, which is rooted in teaching using multiple modalities. To accomplish this, I’ll be using a combination of synchronized virtual meetings, instructional videos, and web-based materials such as digital posters and audio recordings. By presenting course concepts and materials in a variety of modes, I hope to support diverse learning styles and foster dynamic learning experiences. I also want to model for my students the types of compositions I want them to produce.
Moreover, I’ll be pushing my students to engage in multimodal composing by creating compositions which blend traditional text-based elements with multimedia ones. I’m asking students, for example, to build Google worksites so they can generate and share professional communication documents (such as memos and emails) in digital spaces, learn new technological skills and tools, and understand ways in which the web can be an important space for developing and distributing information and ideas.
Although my commitment to multimodal teaching and composing is steadfast, I still have a few nagging concerns about this teaching approach that I’m hoping folks in the HASTAC community can help me work through: What if this approach creates positive learning experiences for only a handful of my students? How much attention should we (as a class) pay to the “invisible” ways in which digital communication technologies both positively and negatively shape social issues, particularly for underrepresented groups? What types of new technologies should my students learn and which tech-skills will be most helpful to them in the professional arena?
The questions I pose here are not statements I’ve simply repackaged into inquiries for rhetorical purposes. I am sincere about wanting to know how others approach these questions/issues and, just as importantly, what others’ concerns are about multimodal teaching and composing. So please...throw your ideas my way.