Last Friday, I was invited to lead a “brown bag” session for my English department’s composition program. Titled “Multiliteracies in Composition,” we focused our pre-reading on an article about a second-year college composition course developed at Michigan Tech called “Revisions.” Details can be found in the following article:
Lynch, Dennis A., and Anne Frances Wysocki. “From First-Year Composition to Second-Year Multiliteracies: Integrating Instruction in Oral, Written, and Visual Communication at a Technological University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 26.3 (2003): 149-171.
We began by watching the Richard Miller’s presentation: The Future is Now. This presented us with a variety of challenging questions about how we might pursue such a vision of the “new humanities” at CMU, including discussions about professional development, our beliefs about the changing nature of literacy, and how, if at all, a shift in our curriculum would happen in the time frame that Lynch and Wysocki describe from their context.
We then continued in small groups with a jig saw reading, where groups posted 2-3 responses or question in their own page on my wiki. After a watching Wikis in Plain English, they understood the basics of posting and were able to see how using a wiki could allow for multiple groups to post their work and then quickly share it with the class. The conversation continued in a large group discussion, including some emerging questions:
- What do students need in terms of literacy in a changing world?
- How do multiliteracies relate to technology and communications?
- What does the multi-disciplinary approach do for departments? What about specialization?
- If everyone talks the same language, do we have our own specialties?
- What does this mean for us in terms of the course? Content? Writing?
- Faculty-only vs. Graduate Assistants–How is this possible or feasible at our University?
- What does this look like across the curriculum? Is it sustainable?
- What about assessment? Individual? Groups? Programmatic?
- Is there still a need for traditional comp courses? Don’t you still need a first year comp?
- How does the continuing focus in professional organizations on 21st century lliteracies contribute to this discussion (last week’s NCTE statement on the future of composition), both for college and life?
- What would the writing center need to/be expected to do?
- Does this perpetuate a two-tiered society, a Gutenberg in reverse?
- How do we support faculty in these collaborations?
- Is the resistance about learning to do old things with new technologies or really coming to understand a new paradigm that the new technologies allow?
We ended with Michael Wesch and his students’: A Vision of Students Today, and just in time for a sunny mid-winter drive home. All told, it was a timely and lively discussion for our department, and I appreciated having the opportunity to facilitate the session. Given the release of the 2008 Horizon Report, it seems as though we are constantly reminded that things continue to change. I hope that this session serves as a spark that continues into further conversations about multiliteracies in composition later this semester.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.