In Sessions on September 17, 2015 at 8:02 pm



  • Q & A with special guest Jason Palmeri
  • Discussion of readings of multimodality
  • demonstrations of text visualization lesson plans (Corey, Joe, & Sarah)

Reading for Next Week:

Assignments for Next Week:

  • Nathaniel, Joe, Dustin, Adina, Deanna, Chris: generate a question to ask James J. Brown, Jr
  • Ruth: create a lesson plan/assignment around Palmeri’s “creative translation” topoi
  • Val: create a lesson plan around Palmeri’s “composing voices” topoi
  • Sean: create a lesson plan around Palmeri’s “zooming out” topoi
  • Jon, Corey, Sarah, Tori, Chris: write a 300-500 word response to the above reading and bring a hard copy with you to class
  1. Pursuant to our conversation on vernacular, AAVE, and standard English in teaching composition:

    “Jamila Lyiscott: 3 ways to speak English”

  2. I’m posting my write up on possible lessons with Vocab Grabber here…

    The Vocab Grabber:
    What happened when I tried to write a lesson plan using this tool.

    First of all, if you use this application in class, I would suggest calling it the “Visual Thesaurus” because the name “Vocab Grabber” sounds like the Hamburgler’s sidekick. Besides, Visual Thesaurus seems more accurate since the more useful actions of the tool are a lot more like visual thesaurus-izing than grabbing words.

    The online video about the Visual Thesaurus describes it as a tool for exploring language using maps. They suggest that entering word like “chip” that has very different meanings depending on the part of speech. When I failed to properly follow directions and entered the word “book,” the map showed a number of synonyms, and the list below it contained a bunch of different definitions. I think it could be interesting to consider how the definitions resonate with each other. For example, one definition is a “compilation of known facts” while others refer to sacred texts. This is interesting to consider in connection with other synonyms on the map like “reserve” and “account.” (Writing that is made for a digital platform is more like a web while books are finite? How are digital books more or less useful than paper?) When I did follow directions and entered “chip,” I found that they listed all kinds of synonyms again but few were related in a way that seemed interesting. For example, potato chip … poker chip … flake. The video talked a lot about how the tool would give you a “ring of cognates” for every word. The amount of interesting seems to depend on the word you choose.
    I think there are a few ways that the Visual Thesaurus could in useful when students are analyzing texts from a reader’s perspective or when students are in the invention or revision states of writing.

    1. A tool for readers
    Students choose a long text that they plan to analyze or describe for a project. First, students should make a list of words they think would be important and frequently used in the text. They might need to preview it a bit. Copy-paste the text into the box, and use the word cloud to see what is most frequent. Student could then reflect on the largest words in the cloud: which ones were expected? Unexpected? Which made you think differently about the topic or text you are writing about? Click on the unexpected words and thought-changing words to see the associated words in the map. If a huge list of words appears, students can deselect the less commonly used words (1s, 2s, 3s) until the list is manageable.

    Example: I did this with the NCTE Standards for English Language Arts I predicted that “students” and “writing” would be major terms but found it interesting that “print,” “variety,” and “strategy” also showed up as fairly major. When you click “variety,” it shows you the six different sentences that contain the term. Scanning through shows that the word is being applied to many different topics: audience, purpose, technology, communities. If I were going to write a paper about this document, I might consider focusing on one or more of those ideas.

    2. Invention tool
    Palmeri suggests using databases to create cluster maps for “imagistic freecomposing” (45). The Visual Thesaurus would not help with images, but it could help students build a cluster of related words.

    Example: In my MA program, I wrote a paper that traced the term “transfer” through composition scholarship. Most of my paper focused on learning transfer, but I also got stuck on the idea that “transfer” in technology (as in transferring data or code) is a straightforward process that can be taught while learning transfer is a complex and somewhat mysterious process. The Visual Thesaurus maps a diverse set of meanings for the term.

    3. Revision Tool, Organization Tool?
    It students copy-paste their own writing into the tool, say one paragraph at a time, the Visual Thesaurus could be an easy way to think through word choice revisions. Students can click on a word in the cloud to get a set of synonyms and cognates and even see a definition of the word if they are unsure. The tool provides a lot of information with few clicks, plus it does not make it easy to replace synonym in a student’s writing like the thesaurus in MS Word.

    Example: Instead of choosing paragraph, I copy-pasted a list of notes from a paper that I wrote a few years ago. In this case, I’d made a long list of notes about different social media platforms and my reactions to using them. When I wrote the paper, I’d hoped I would see some connections that could be used to organize the paper, but I eventually just organized it by describing each platform in a separate paragraph. If I’d had the Visual Thesaurus back then, I could have noticed that two of the major terms in the word cloud were “engage” and “continue.” Perhaps I could have organized my paper around how engaging (or not) each was or whether I planned to continue using them (or not).

    The Visual Thesaurus could also be a useful reference. It will find synonyms and related words, and students only need to click on a word to reset their window to give detailed definitions of a word and hear the pronunciation.

  3. Tori Reeder

    Cybernetics , Multimodality, and Composition Pedagogy.

    On one hand we have a text that examines engagement with new media with an emphasis on “rhetorical capabilities of textuality” (Alexander & Rhodes 30), while the other text, “Remixing Composition, A History Of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy’, emphasizes intergrading the audio form into conventional pedagogical practices. “The authors ask us to consider why we view multimedia and multimodal compositions through the lens of literacy, particularly since these multimedia and multimodal formats engage visual and aural practices that traditional understandings of literacy may not be able to encompass” (Alexander & Rhodes 41).I find this question interesting in that it hints at the idea that cybernetic pedagogy is becoming an invaluable innovation within the digital humanities. Almost as if we need to gesture back to cybernetics as a field and reform it to better suit current issues in the digital humanities. To have an emerging genre of “new cybernetics”. On the surface, we have to address literacy, especially digital literacy, in order to fully engage students and instructors. However, the current paradigms in compositional studies seem to be stuck on that singular notion. When we focus building pedagogical frameworks around digital literacy, we hinder composition classrooms from being able to move beyond questions such as: what effects does electronic technology have on the traditional essay? In the text “On multimodality New Media In Composition studies”, Alexander and Rhodes argue, “we can continue to teach the standard composition essay, but we can also broaden our understanding of what the essay is to accommodate a variety of forms, media modalities, and emerging literacy practices” (Alexander & Rhodes 37). Here I think this is a call to the use of cybernetics, mostly because as an emerging discipline, cybernetics vindicates the learning process. If we can move into viewing traditional composition pedagogies through the frame of cybernetics, this would this broaden the function and scope of the traditional essay. Furthermore, my question here is if we utilize Ascott’s, Glaserfield’s and Beer’s definitions of ‘cybernetics’: “Cybernetics is interaction in dynamic networks” (Ascott), “The art of effective organization.” (Beer), “The art of creating equilibrium in a world of constraints and possibilities.” (Von Glaserfield), would we be able to further view composition pedagogies through this scope, would that allow the essay to provide accommodations for multimodal forms? Moreover, with these questions we have to think about the ways in which we evaluate current multimodal pedagogies. It is based on an older system, to my understating, a system that is not designed to assess the cybernetic qualities of a pedagogical framework. That is to say, “effective assessment of multimodal compositions cannot rely on older forms and genres” (Alexander & Rhodes 52).Through an innovative pedagogy will we be able to more accurately assess current multimodal composition? Is this relationship between assessment and practice more cyclical or casual? If we change one will the other follow; in other words, if we change the assessment tools and standards, will pedagogical frameworks change with that, or because of it, and vice versa?

  4. Both readings for this week inspired some of the same questions for me. I must forewarn that I am skeptically viewing the readings as a High School English teacher at an alternative education facility.

    From the Alexander piece, “…Schroeder recognizes our field’s competing attention to the need to ‘certify’ students capable of certain kinds of academic writing skills and the desire to pay attention to and honor students’ diverse, nonstandard literacy practices” (38-39).

    I feel it is my duty to prepare students for the real world, regardless of their post-high school plans. My students don’t need help practicing their diverse nonstandard literacy practices. It seems that the collegiate and high school realm of English seem to be drifting farther and farther away from one another. High schools are worried about the ACT, MME, Smarter Balance, NWEA and SAT scores, while colleges truly seem to be interested in expanding minds and pushing the envelope. Colleges seem to do amazing things with technology because they have the funding and support from administrators to do this. How do we close this gap? Is there even a logical and feasible way to close this gap?

    At one point in the Palmeri reading, he begins to talk about dialect and he jumps right into the discussion of African American Vernacular English. “Resisting the common belief that English teachers’ notions of correctness are universal and natural, Smitherman powerfully demonstrates that the concept of ‘Standard English’ is ultimately an ideological construct that works to reinforce material racial heirarchies” (72).

    I teach a lot of students who do not use “Standard English”. I wholeheartedly believe that by teaching my students to conform to “Standard English” that I am preparing them for the real world. The business world uses “Standard English” and in order to be viewed on an equal playing field, young people need to be taught to conform to and use “Standard English” in certain situations. Why must a discussion on dialect always turn into a socioeconomic discussion? Why must it always devolve into a heated race debate?

  5. This week’s readings reminded me of my past experiences of trying to teach multimodal projects in writing classrooms. I always thought that these projects helped students who learned in different ways, but I never really considered how these things were examples of how rhetorical delivery has changed—not only for the students, but also for me as their teacher. This really hit home for me when I read Palmeri’s account of using cassette tapes for teaching alphabetic citation. While cassette tapes may seem like old technology now, I am reminded of how I had students create a presentation that was only pictures and sound—but not their own speech—to talk about home literacies. The ways that the students delivered their messages to me were very different, but more interestingly, the way that I had to deliver the assignment to the students was different. The technology I used made the delivery different. Technology even allowed my students and me to focus more on delivery, which is something that weighed heavily in our collaborative rubrics.
    Collaboration was also something I considered this week. I was interested in the collaboration between disciplines, not only the arts and media disciplines, but also all other disciplines. However, I was more interested in the collaboration between students. Technology allows for a collaborative mode of publication that was previously very limited. Students can use the internet to collaborate with each other outside of the classroom, or even across the country—like in online courses, or open publications. However, I was struck by how collaboration would be made difficult in areas that do not have the socioeconomic status to support technology—like my experiences teaching in Houston showed. The most compelling aspect of collaboration, however, is that students can construct a space that they can watch be added to or changed by others. Collaboration even allows students to remix each other’s compositions. For instance, I would be interested in students taking on each other’s text based work and presenting it in a multimodal way.

  6. Writing Technologies: Wordle Teaching Demonstration

    Support/Learning Outcome:


    • Use reading strategies in order to identify, analyze, evaluate, and respond to arguments, rhetorical elements, and genre conventions in college-level texts and other media.

    To get students to see patterns, similarities, differences, specific recurrences of words or phrases in texts for the purpose of rhetorical analysis (multimodal strategies for invention).

    Repetition is a rhetorical element (device).

    I often use pan, track, and zoom activities to assist students with invention and brainstorming and to come up with ideas for their rhetorical analysis (Palmeri 150 (even though he wants a move away from “word-based planning activities” 34)).

    New media provide other opportunities to help students “see” repetition and thus analyze why perhaps those particular words or phrases occurred more than others.


    Pull Up Wordle

    Favorite song: locate the lyrics to their chosen song online (or from wherever)

    Copy and Paste the lyrics into the text box and hit go

    As Palmeri pointed out in his introduction, new media can help our students write their “alphabetic” essay, especially in the invention process of writing.

    Wordle assembles the words that are repeated mostly and reveals patterns, etc. about the emphasis of a particular song, aside from its musical counterpart (accompaniment).

    The resultant graphic displays the words most repeated (in larger text) reducing in size to the least repeated words (in the smallest text). The words are also arranged, and can be customized by the student, to display in differing color patterns and schemas.

    Students are then challenged to ask the all important question as to why those words were repeated and why other words were perhaps omitted.

    Obviously, other applications for rhetorical analysis can be applied here as well: Do the repeated words support the rhetorical appeal of pathos, logos, or ethos, establish a context, purpose, supply evidence for the participants, evince constraints, or support a particular style of argumentation?

    The idea is to get students to approach and “look” at the text differently: in a specific linguistic part rather than in its musical totality.

    Other uses

    I have had students copy the text/script of an advertisement in to the text box; this not only makes sure that know each word of the advertisement but also helps them to pin point repetition.

    Have students copy and paste an article that they are rhetorically analyzing into the text box.

    Copy and paste the assignment prompt (cf. Palmeri 45: “keywords of the assignment”).

    Look for patterns and repeated words or combination of words.

  7. As a film and media studies student, Palmeri’s immediately made my ears perk up. I saw numerous opportunities to, and benefits of, incorporating multimodal composition in my basic writing classes. However, my concern throughout was “how can I sell neoliberal administrators on the value of teaching multimodal composition?” While Palmeri does well to endorse rhetoricians and compositionists like Freire, “who [seeks] to teach students how to read and write print texts, [but is] very careful not to set up a hierarchy that privileges print forms of knowledge over aural,” administrators believe (perhaps with some merit) that our sole job is to prepare students to write alphabetical essays in genres that are used in academia. So, while I am fired up when Palmeri states that by studying filmmaking in a composition class, and comparing the process of filmmaking to essay writing, “students and teachers might be able to develop a richer understanding of both arts,” I worry that administrators don’t care if my students learn both and only care about multimodality if it functions as a means to an end, with alphabetic texts being that end. Administrators, if they are interested in multimodality at all, are far more likely to endorse Costanzo’s use of documentaries, which “tend to be composed in ways that are similar to research-based, academic essays.” Which is to say, Costanzo seems to be one of those compositionists who privilege the alphabetic texts. “Look at documentaries so that you can better compose an essay.” he might be saying. I, however, (and I think Palmeri is with me on this) want to have my students think less hierarchically and say to them, “Look at how academic essays can help you understand documentaries, can help you understand music videos, can help you understand Vines, can help you understand academic essays.” This is a pedagogy that doesn’t put the alphabetic academic essay on a pedestal over other discourses, which is valuable to me for practical and political reasons.

    Practically, because my students are going to be engaging, in the course of their lives, far more in discourses of social media, film and video, and short-form messaging (i.e. texting and Twitter) than long-form academic essays and those are the discourses that they need to best be able to navigate. For political reasons, my Basic Writing students have had it hammered into them that their discourses are inferior, leading to huge insecurities when they enter into a college English class, but their discourses aren’t lesser-than and Palmeri sets an example for how to strip some of the elitism that turns many marginalized students away from the composition classroom.

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