Ginger Grey and Jessica Halliday
The annotated image shows a rocky coastline broken by a small inlet of water. A gray road has been drawn across the coastline and over the inlet gap as a bridge. Twenty-one icons of people either stand at various points on the road or, in a few cases, tumble over the bridge toward a life raft floating at the bottom of the inlet gap. The two left-most figures carry briefcases, bear the faces of the authors of this essay, and emit speech bubbles. The three right-most figures are larger than the rest and clutch diplomas in their right hands. In the bottom-right of the image an inflatable raft carries two recreational rafters. When the cursor hovers over the annotated image, circular icons appear over every person icon, the life raft, and the inflatable raft.
The figures on the left side with briefcases and bearing the authors’ faces serve as the introduction to the essay. The first annotation reads:
After attending DMAC, we embarked on a journey to make the jump to multimodal composition. What you see here is that experience: our students’ struggles and achievements, example assignments and student drafts, as well as some resources we found helpful along the way. Our piece is not meant to be read as a linear narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, we wanted to choose a mode that best reflected this experience (something we ask our students to do as they conceive their own projects). Further, we believe the conceit of the collage reflects the actual writing process, which is recursive rather than linear.
The second annotation is a video whose transcript reads:
[Title Screen: DMAC: One Year Later: Ginger Grey and Jessica Halliday]
[JH:] Hi, I’m Jessica Halliday.
[GG:] And I’m Ginger Grey.
[JH:] We teach composition at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. And we have been on quite an adventure the last year.
[GG:] So, I attended DMAC last summer, and…
[JH:] She learned a lot.
[GG:] …I learned a lot. And one piece of advice that I got at DMAC was to not try to implement all of this new information at once, so how that…
[JH:] Good advice.
[GG:] …so how that looked in our classroom in the summer I got back, um, I taught the audio essay, and then in the fall we taught the audio essay and the video essay, and in the spring we added the visual essay.
[JH:] So that might seem like it was a slow approach and it wasn’t taking on too much at once, but it was a lot for us as instructors, and so one of the things we’ve learned along the way is to be mindful of how much work it is for the students, how overwhelming it is for them as well, and how we really need to, um, share with them a spirit of adventure and willingness to fail, try new things, be experimental.
[GG:] So that’s one thing we were trying to get across in our [ThingLink] collage [for this collection]. What was the student experience of this, and acknowledging that, while it’s new for us to be teaching multimodal composition, um, it’s also new for them to be experiencing these texts in this kind of way and to be composing those type of texts. So, what we have laid out for you is this metaphor of the bridge, and…
[JH:] Getting to the other side.
[GG:] …getting to the other side. And I think we can say we’re on the other side now.
[JH:] Sort of.
[GG:] But really being willing to fail a lot has been helpful to get us to that other side and I think that the students had that same experience and they benefitted from our willingness to try things.
[JH:] If we had acted or presented ourselves as completely confident in everything we were doing I think the students’ participation would not have been anywhere near as authentic. It took longer, but, perhaps that’s something that should come from this collage for you is to take a lot of time, not to be in a rush to get through the semester or the assignments. And we did share with you our assignments in the collage.
[GG:] So, we hope you enjoy our project.
[JH:] Our problems [laughs].
The first figure on the bridge reveals a video interview with Caleb D.:
[Title: Caleb D. on composing the audio essay]
[CD:] When it’s just text, people can perceive whatever they want, but when you get to particularly choose, um, all the different constructions that go into it, they really get your ideas instead of just their perception of your idea, because they’re sensing it in the ways you crafted it, and so I think it gives that author a lot more responsibility to be thoughtful about how they’re developing their argument.
[Text: When crafting the audio essay, students can actually hear the effects of their rhetorical choices. As teachers, it’s exciting to see them make the connection between the choices and strength of argument.]
The second figure on the bridge reveals a text block:
“If you told me at the beginning of the year that I would be creating and completing an audio essay, a visual essay, and a video essay, I would probably get very nervous and want to switch out classes because I thought I would not be able to do it.” -Teresa D.
The third figure on the bridge reveals another text block:
“Finally I was able to take pride in my writing instead of just feeling like I threw together a project last minute.” -Sean P.
The fourth figure on the bridge reveals another text block:
“Before this class, I never cared for my audience. It didn’t dawn on me that they cared about my paper either.” – Megan H.
The fifth figure on the bridge reveals a video interview with Quincy T.:
[Title: Quincy T. on learning a new way to write]
[QT:] With audio essays, I don’t know, when I did my audio essay I felt like it was teaching me another way to write, like, with writing I felt like I was, like, a machine, just like, I felt like my writing was really boring and I would, like, fall asleep just reading my writing. So, I mean, I felt like when I was doing my audio essay, I kind of like, because what I did, I made a really detailed outline, I found out that my outline was kind of like my script, so, like, I found a new way, I felt like I found a new way to write.
[Text: Quincy was not alone in seeing the new process as “a new way to write.” Though we stressed the similarities in different modes of writing, students often say the differences—and found those differences exciting and valuable.]
The sixth figure on the bridge reveals a video interview with Britta P. and Karli H:
[Title:] Britta and Karli on peer feedback]
[BP:] Initially when given the assignment you think that this is going to be so much easier. But I would say for these styles of essays I relied a lot more heavily on, like, my peers than I would a written essay because a written essay, like, personally, like, I don’t like people reading my work, so I would just read it myself and edit it and make it clear to me but it really was important that it was clear to my audience in this case because, like, how, like, with reading I think everyone reads the same language, but listening or…
[KH:] The way one person saw it was often the way everybody else saw it too. They all saw the same flaws.
[BP:] Yeah, that’s why, like, the peer editing process was so interesting for both of these because I thought I was being so clear to me…
[speech bubbles appear above both interviewees’ heads, reading “that’s not what I meant…”]
[BP:] …but then, like, with Robbie [my peer editing partner] it was like “oh, I got this argument from your essay,” and I was like, wait, that was different from what I was saying, but it still works, it’s just that…
[KH:] Definitely a lot more editing…
[Text: Students relied on each other instead of assigning all authority to the instructor.]
The seventh figure on the bridge reveals a text block:
“I have learned to be more innovative in the way I present an argument, and I have learned how to translate aspects of writing I already know and implement them in new scenarios.” -Julia S.
The eighth figure on the bridge reveals a text block:
“The biggest thing I learned was how to write an essay without having a lot of fillers in it.” -Moxie O.
The ninth figure on the bridge reveals a text block:
“The visual essay really challenged me to be an abstract thinker not only with coming up with the titles but finding images that contained depth, layers, and absences.” -Emily S.
The tenth figure on the bridge reveals a video interview with Emma C.:
[Title: Emma C. on the challenges and potential of the visual essay]
[EC:] I think the hardest part was making it, sort of, the pictures transition. You want them to progress. You want them to tell an argument or story. It’s one thing to just show a repetitive picture eight times. People understand the issue you’re trying to convey. But to see it visually I think holds a lot of potential, um, in a way that words can never describe, or, even sounds, so, I think imagery has that ability.
[Text: It was until our students began crafting their own visual essays that they began to see the rhetorical potential of such texts.]
The eleventh figure on the bridge reveals a text block:
“Prior to my work in English Composition, I saw no specific point in writing other than to present your own knowledge to an audience of your teacher. However, with multi-modal, I realized that my final product should dance with the thoughts my audience already has. I realized a new purpose to my writing. I was able to either make people question what they already know, provoke new questions to be asked and even convince/persuade my audience.” – Quincy T.
The twelfth figure on the bridge reveals a video interview with Kevin K.:
[Title: Kevin K. on prewriting for the audio essay]
[KK:] At first I was a little confused and when I was making the audio essay, for example, there was a lot more, like, organization that I had to do and before I got the interviews. So I had to construct some sort of questions that I’d ask the guy, and how I would do with the responses that he gave me and organize that into an essay instead of actually writing down, word for word, what I want to accomplish.
[Text: Working with students in the drafting stage, we learned—along with them—how to adapt the “writing” process to the chosen medium.]
[Text: The Visual Essay presented another obstacle: helping students see images as evidence for their arguments.]
[KK:] For the visual essay, um, it was a little weird because I had to come up with pictures to describe what I wanted to say, instead of words, which I’m used to normally doing. So, um, it was harder for me to find pictures, but once I found the right pictures I was able to get them into an order which seemed to make a story on its own.
[Text: As the students grew more comfortable with using non-alphabetic texts, they become more discerning about what constituted strong evidence.]
Under the Bridge
Under the bridge, four figures fall towards a life raft resting on the water. The first figure reveals a video interview with Julia S.:
[Title: Julia S. on taking risks]
[JS:] I think the main challenge of, like, not using writing was just that you had to be more creative. It’s really safe to write down your emotional testimonies or logical testimonies or statistics but when you have to present them in pictures or in just your sounds like how, how are you going to create that, um, just like believability and credibility and you have to be more creative with, like, what you’re using and make better decisions. And I think it just pushes you to step outside your comfort zone.
[Text: Our students struggled to find a way into these projects. Interactive Dialogic brainstorming was really useful for them.]
The second figure reveals a video interview with brittany J.:
[Title: Brittany J. on challenges]
[BJ:] Okay. For my audio essay I thought less about what I was actually arguing because I was focusing so much on learning how to use the program and I spent most of my time editing and perfecting sounds instead of actually defending my argument, which is part of why I got, um, a lower grade, because my argument didn’t have much of a defense. I just focused more on the creative sound aspect of it, and I feel like I lost track of what I was trying to say with my project and how I was trying to show it.
[Text: Brittany’s struggle was a common one: it’s easy to get distracted and seduced by the technology. We found ourselves guilty of the same mistake, and it’s one we now talk about explicitly in class. As we forge ahead, we want to keep the spirit of adventure and exploration in the classroom, but keep our focus within the scope of a composition class.]
The third figure reveals a text block:
“In the visual essay I had to be aware of the fact that the photographs I chose should be providing different pieces of support for my argument, which proved more difficult with pictures.” – Kevin K.
The fourth figure reveals a video interview with Andy B.:
[Title: Andy B. on starting over from scratch (again and again).]
[AB:] The biggest challenges I faced is that every time, [with] every new project I have to start over from scratch because it’s something I haven’t done before so as far as a finished product it’s harder to kind of feel confident in my product because [it’s] something I’ve never done [nor] heard of before.
[Text: Teaching multimodal composition is new for us. It’s good to remember that so much of this work is new to the students, too. DMAC encouraged us to embrace that uncertainty, and we try to bring that spirit of adventure into the classroom with us.]
The life raft below the falling figures reveals a text block:
While you may be tempted to “save” your falling students, our students learned best when we allowed them to flounder. Failure is part of the revision process.
After the Bridge
After the bridge, three larger figures stand, each holding a diploma in the right hand. The first figure reveals Caleb D.’s audio essay:
[meditative string music begins playing]
[Caleb:] If I asked you, “who are you?” how would you describe yourself? Perhaps like me, proud moments and accomplishments come to mind, and you’d boil them down to certain strengths you possess, like a good work ethic, or being compassionate. However you go about describing yourself, I’m sure that you don’t want to be defined by what’s wrong about you. Nonetheless, our society uses language that describes others in this harmful and inconsiderate way, often in manners that disregard a person’s human dignity. If we truly believe in treating others how we want to be treated, it is crucial that we all adopt people-first language, because all people should be viewed as people above and before anything else.
[string music begins to merge into slow-paced, meditative electronic background music]
Lydia is an accessible example of this. She lives in Federal Way, Washington, with a physical disability. Lydia is my mom, and as an infant she lost both legs in a fire and uses prosthetics to get around. She’s concerned of how people view her when she is referred to as a disabled woman.
[Lydia:] When someone speaks about me and says, “Lydia is a disabled woman,” it gives the person the wrong perception of me. It gives this picture of a person being disabled from head to toe, and that it, it minimizes, undermines that person. So, all of a sudden you’re not smart anymore, you can’t take care of yourself anymore, or you have all these other barriers that come along with the word “disabled.”
[Caleb:] People with disabilities comprise the largest minority in the U.S.: about one out of every five Americans. Here are some examples of the harmful labels that we use to define this minority: the handicapped, the disabled, “he’s mentally retarded”…
[Female Voice 1:] …”she’s autistic,” “she is confined to a wheelchair.”
[Caleb:] Despite whether or not these phrases seem appropriate or normal to you, the common thread and issue with this is that emphasizes their disability above their humanity. It presents that people are their disability. Interestingly, we know how to be considerate in speaking of some people, with some living conditions. We say that “he is a person that wears glasses,” not that “he’s a myopic person.” We say that a person has cancer, and not that someone is a cancerous person. Although some unwanted things may describe our situation, no one should be defined by these, “from head to toe,” as my mom had shared. By expressing that these aspects do not define our existence, but are merely a part of it, we promote respect for all people. Consider this.
[Male Voice 1:] Instead of saying “handicapped” or “the disabled,” let’s say “people with disabilities.”
[Male Voice 2:] Instead of saying, “he is mentally retarded,” let’s say, “Paul has a cognitive disability.”
[Female Voice 1:] Instead of saying, “she’s autistic,” let’s say, “Kate has autism.”
[Female Voice 2:] Instead of saying, “she is confined to a wheelchair,” let’s say, “Maria uses a wheelchair.”
[Caleb:] I love people-first language, because it can be used to liberate and uplift people in challenging situations. Lindsay Han’s brother Cody has Down syndrome, and she is concerned that stigmas about disability limit who he is.
[Lindsay:] I think one of the biggest concerns or frustrations I have is when people use the word “retarded” to describe people who have any form of a disability. When they use that and connect it with my brother, that’s really hard, because once again that’s putting him in a box.
[Caleb:] Lydia and Lindsay both express that using people-first language can improve the perceptions and interactions of people with disabilities.
[Lydia:] If you said, “Lydia, with a disability,” that then minimizes that perception. And all of a sudden I’m not this person, a loser head to toe, and it’s clearly stated that I have a disability, but I’m not a disabled person. So it’s just how people hear it and receive it.
[Lindsay:] Shifting the language can subconsciously help people shift the way they view him, which would just make them more accepting and not so quick to judge him and put him in a box.
[Caleb:] So what are we waiting for? People-first language is a commitment to using words to be considerate, to liberate, to acknowledge the human dignity deserved by all people. It allows us to relate to more people on a plane of respect and explore differences with compassion. Let’s describe who others are as people first.
[Caleb:] A special thanks to the artist Blackmill, author of “Home,” interviewees Lydia Dawson and Lindsay Han, as well as the author of Disability is Natural, Kathie Snow.
The second figure reveals Bree F.’s audio essay:
[repetitive, somber electric guitar picking]
[Bree:] Close your eyes and picture this. It seems like a normal Friday morning. You get your regular coffee, or maybe a small breakfast, and start your trek to the first class of the day.
[sound of footsteps on grass and leaves]
[Bree:] It’s a bit windy, but still sunny, and the birds are apparent.
[sound of birds chirping]
[growing distortion sound]
[Bree:] Suddenly, you’re stopped in your tracks when you see one of your classmates punch another classmate of yours.
Soon, it is an all-out fight. Who and what do you see?
[Male Voice 1:] Um, I see, uh, one guy walk up to another guy…
[Male Voice 2:] I’m picturing two guys fighting.
[Male Voice 3:] I see two boys, and they’re getting very angry with each other, and then one of them decides to hit the other one…
[Female Voice 1, overlapping slightly with male voice 3:] I see one guy go up to another guy and punch him in the face.
[Bree:] When you ask people to imagine a physical fight breaking out between two people, they all say in some way that the two people involved in the fight are both males. It seems almost everyday we turn on the news and hear a new story of a crime or act of violence. In most of these cases, the offender is a male.
[montage of reporters speaking of men who had committed violent crimes]
[Male Voice 4:] Over 85 percent of the people who commit murder are men. Ninety percent of the people who commit violent physical assault are men. Studies have found that men are responsible for between 85 and 95 percent of child sexual abuse, and 99.8 percent of people in prison convicted of rape are men.
[Bree:] We all know that violent acts are carried out more by men than they are by women. It’s rare to see women physically hurt one another. But why is that not the case for men?
[Male Voice 5:] Testosterone makes men naturally aggressive.
[Bree:] Some believe that boys are born violent.
[sound of baby crying]
[Bree:] Their reasoning? Testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone prominently in men that plays a primary role in the development of male reproductive tissues, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle, bone mass, and the growth of body hair. However, boys actually have the same testosterone levels as girls…
[sound of children playing]
[Bree:] …until they are about eight years old. This gives evidence to support the idea that violence is indeed influenced by the society in which we live in. If you are a member of the United States’ society, then this matter involves you. What kind of toys were you given as a child?
[Female Voice 2:] Um, I was given lots of Barbie dolls.
[Male Voice 6:] Alright. As a kid, I…my parents gave lots of little army guys. I played with those constantly, all the time, had little fights in between them, very entertaining.
[Female Voice 3:] I was given Bratz dolls, Polly Pockets, [laughs] and Barbies.
[sound of children playing]
[Bree:] As young children, boys and girls are raised and treated differently throughout their growing lives. While boys are excused for their rambunctious behavior, girls are being told to act more ladylike. And as girls are given more Barbie and baby dolls to play with, boys are given descructive trucks [distorted toy noise], planes, and trains [train whistle blows]. This is not the case for all, but it is certainly the case for many. Jackson Katz, who is an American educator, filmmaker, and author, states that:
[Jackson Katz recording:] So-called “real men” need to be tough [sound of dog growling], strong, independent, respected, which means fitting into this narrow box that defines manhood. The terms that are the opposite of that are insults that are used to keep boys boxed in. One of the major consequences of all of this is that there’s been a growing connection made in our society between being a man and being violent.
[music plays more prominently, with acoustic guitar and xylophone gently accompanying]
[Bree:] Violence is most commonly correlated with men. Men are the cause of most violence in this country. But this issue among males is a societal problem. Everyone within our society plays a role in this issue: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and even strangers influence violence in men. From babies to adults, we, as a society, treat boys like they should be tough and strong. What would happen if we stopped treating boys like this? Would violence still be an issue? The truth is, we may never know.
[Bree:] Special thanks to zerolagtime, Robinhood76, freemaster2, thecluegeek, Tim Gormley, clava, bucow, Travis Morgon, and Rob Simonson for their sounds and music.
The third figure reveals a link to Emma C.’s visual essay (a PowerPoint presentation).
On the Water
On the water, two rafters paddle towards the inlet gap. The raft reveals four annotations, the first of which reveals a link to the Amazon page for Cynthia Selfe’s book Multimodal Composition (2007), along with a text block:
Our audio essay assignment borrows heavily from Cynthia Selfe’s wonderful book on Multimodal Composition.
The second annotation reveals a link to Scott DeWitt’s faculty profile on the Ohio State University’s Department of English website, along with a text block:
Our video essay assignment borrows heavily from Scott Lloyd DeWitt’s work.
The third annotation reveals a link to Kerry Dirk’s essay “Navigating Genres,” along with a text block:
We used this essay to introduce the Audio Unit.
The fourth annotation reveals a link to Steven Lessner and Collin Craig’s essay “Finding Your Way In: Invention as Inquiry Based Learning in First Year Writing,” along with a text block:
Students found the invention strategies discussed in this article especially helpful.
Ginger Grey received her MFA from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers and teaches English at Gonzaga University.
Jessica Halliday holds an MFA with a focus in fiction writing from Eastern Washington University. Her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in The Sun, Copper Nickel, Weber Studies, Knockout Literary Journal, and other periodicals. She has worked as a freelance journalist and commercial writer, and she currently teaches composition, creative writing, digital writing, and literature at Gonzaga University.