Out of School Blogging: Lesson One Introducing Multimodality
by Sarah Macie Skipwith & Anthony Miranda
Integrating multimodality into a personal blog is not only a key component to individualizing blogs, but it also introduces students to the diversity of expression. At first glance multimodality might seem simple (just embed a video or cool series of photos, right?). Not quite. The challenge is to support students as they think about how videos, photos or sound clips would benefit the topic they are writing about. Simply talking about how these videos, photos and sound clips work inside a piece of text with the students models the idea that multimodality is not just flair for their blog post. In fact, they may begin to see that these videos, photos and sound clips are working to drive their argument or topic forward so their audience can fully understand what the author is writing about. Integrating multiple modes into a blog is also introducing students to the importance of including other sources into their writing, which supports students' understanding that all topics are a part of a larger discussion.
When working with a student, we first look through example blogs from other kids who have been included in the list of “Top kids blogs on Edublogs” to introduce multimodality. While perusing these blogs, we start simple and just point out the kinds of things we saw that made these blogs special to the author. We notice font color (maybe each paragraph is a color of the rainbow), font alignment (the centered sentences seem to be important/dramatic), some words are bolded or italicized (did the author want us to pick up on some kind of emphasis on that word?) Some authors narrate through photos and some even post videos of themselves speaking rather than writing. After going through and finding all the varieties of these blogs we have a debrief discussing why the author chose to type in different colors or bold specific words. Was it because the author is having fun with both their language in their text as well as how it is visualized? Do you think the addition of photos helps the audience understand the subject the author is talking about? And do videos make subject matter more interesting because you actually see the person talking?
After engaging in a conversation about these questions we (the writing mentors) also make sure to create a model of how blogs look with multimodal features. In one instance, I decided to do a vlog (a video blog) so we could expand on the multimodality knowledge that we accumulated from the earlier blog models. The best part of being able to model my vlog was the fact that I am new to vloging and because of this we were able to not only discuss why a vlog was more appropriate for the subject matter I was covering, but we were also able to talk about the steps in creating a vlog. Together, we create steps to creating a vlog: brainstorming, outlining, recording, editing and then posting. Finally, we discuss how some people are more comfortable with blogs while others may feel more awkward about posting a video, but none the less, we finish our break out lesson with an understanding that blogs have the capability and affordance of being multimodal.