(0:00) Student multimodal texts contain the often complex layering of various meaning making systems including the visual, textual, aural, spatial and gestural. These texts can be difficult to characterize in a traditional scholarly article. For example, how can we write only in text about the purposeful collision of topic, tone of voice, music, and image – all of which combine to create a sarcastic comment on the micro-blogging service Tumblr in this student video project. (00:39) [Sound from student video clip.] (00:53) Equally complex is the teacher’s process of responding to these student multimodal texts. Attempting to capture this process through words in this scholarly project is possible, but difficult. It also seems contradictory at its core to rely on one mode – text – to capture a process that is multimodal in and of itself. As Cheryl Ball writes in her 2004 article in Computers and Composition titled “Show, Not Tell: The Value of New Media Scholarship,” when it comes to writing about new media or multimodality in our publications, it may be time to start composing more new media texts.

(1:36) In this video, I read and respond to one of my student’s oral essay projects in an effort to show you what teachers’ multimodal assessment practices look like and what the categories unique to this corpus look like in practice. I want to emphasize that this is my student’s work and this was created after the fact, after this research was completed. And the reason for this is because the original videos that I had used to collect data from have been lost and all that remains are the print transcripts. So rather than just tell you about these transcripts in the print portion of this article, I did want to take the opportunity to actually show you what those assessment practices look like.

(2:31) What follows is just sort of my reactions, responses to an audio essay that was produced by one of my students in a course called Basic Composition. The assignment was that students produced a literacy narrative about a significant experience or experiences in their literacy history. They had originally written this as a print essay for the first project, and then in this project they translated it or remixed it into an audio essay.

(3:05) There were six different evaluative types that were unique to the multimodal corpus and in what follows, I will extract each one of those six and show you examples from my response process to illustrate what they look like in practice. (3:22) [Clip from student audio essay plays.] (3:33) It’s beginning to make sense to me now why in her introduction she had the quotation and it was read by someone else and the person is clearly an international student – it sounds like maybe she’s Irish. And so that makes sense to me now, you know, understanding the main idea has something to do with being somewhere in an unfamiliar place and the difficulties inherent in communication in a strange place. So I thought that was creative how she brought in another voice to reinforce that idea of strangeness or awkwardness. So as you can see, comments that concern creative address creative or inventive approaches to an assignment, often remarking about things like choice and originality and the thought that was put into a project. And in this example I was sort of reacting to the student’s choice of bringing in this second voice to reinforce the idea of being a person in a foreign place. I thought that was really creative to bring in another person.

(4:34) [Student audio plays.] (4:44) Okay so one thing I notice is “affront” would be another word choice that’s a little bit of an awkward English construction. It doesn’t quite make sense. Even though looking up the definition it would seem like an okay word to put there, it’s just not how we would typically construct a sentence using that word. Grammar comments deal with grammatical issues on a small level, so not sentence or paragraph structure level but smaller than that. The word level. Spelling, capitalization or, as in this example, a student’s word choice.

(5:20) [Student audio plays.] (5:44) Okay so one thing I definitely notice she’s – when she’s talking about her home experiences, she’s got some very specific stories to tell, and here she’s being pretty general. Just saying, “I have done a lot of work and it’s been really hard.” But she’s not telling a specific story here. And that’s one thing we really worked on, specificity and showing not telling when you’re writing a narrative piece and using examples. So this would be a place where I’d really push her to develop those ideas. So what was an example of a difficult project? So she’s saying the project is hard. She could have talked more about that. Like what was difficult, what she actually did. I know from conversations with her that she recorded this many many many times. Had a lot of struggles with pronunciation and was up until the wee hours completing it. So that could have been something she could have talked about in more detail. As you can see from this example, idea development comments tend to concern the logic or development of students’ ideas in a text. Often include suggestions for revision, as was the case in this example, and sometimes notes about the quality or lack of ideas in a text.

(6:55) [Student audio plays.] (7:08) So far I’m not quite understanding the connection between the main idea, which has something to do with communication and being in a foreign place and now she’s kind of talking about her country and the things she misses. So that connection is not entirely clear to me just yet. Comments that deal with movement concern the pacing, speed, or progression of ideas or concepts in a text. So in this comment I was commenting on how the student had moved very quickly from one concept to a new set of concepts or ideas that the link between them wasn’t immediately clear. So that was much too quick of a movement for me with not enough scaffolding.

(7:55) Another thing I’m noticing in the background is the terribly depressing funeral dirge type music which so far has set up a pretty big contrast to the music that was playing before. So when she was talking about her home country and the things that she missed, the sounds were all very fast and exciting and upbeat and sort of fun sounding, like the Shakira song. And then here she’s shifting to talking about where she is right now in this foreign place and we have very slow, sad, classical no words music – no English words being spoken there, just music. As you can see from this example, comments that deal with multimodality tend to address the relationship between two or more modalities – sometimes between multiple kinds of the same mode like two images or two sounds or something like that. In this example the thing that I was addressing was the relationship between the text that was being presented and the music. So we have the verbal and the aural modes being brought together, and the relationship between the two and how they come together to convey meaning and to convey a particular tone in this multimodal text.

(9:16) [Student audio plays.] (9:24) Ok so right here the volume goes way, way up. Which, again, is not interruptive necessarily but I have to stop and turn things down so my speakers don’t get blown. In this sixth and final category technical execution, comments concern the quality of the technical execution of a project, often involving a student’s use of hardware or software to create a project. So that might include things like embedding links that work or in this case, creating a project with consistent sound where you don’t have to be adjusting the volume all the time and you can actually understand what people are saying, and so on.