Fulwiler and Middleton, though, embrace this less-linear and more fluid process, one that is full of constant revision and where processes overlap and happen multiple at a time. “In order to be responsive to the emerging literacies and expectations of our students,” they write on page 42, “teachers need to reconsider not only the kinds of texts we teach, but also how we teach the new processes associated with new media texts.” This is particularly important because, as Flowers and Hayes have already explained, and as Fulwiler and Middleton reiterate on page 44, “discovery comes from problem solving.”
Thus, we should not only allow our students some freedom in the creation of their multimodal texts, but also teach and encourage a lot of the messiness that Fulwiler and Middleton say must be inherent in the process.
This, for me, is a struggle. If you know me, this may not come as any surprise.
Fulwiler and Middleton aren’t exactly asking us to “wing it,” though. The theme we’ve talked about in this class time and again about the process of multimodal composing being messy, of leaning into that messiness, of creating space for those messes to flourish—that is a concept I still struggle with.
In theory, I love the idea, and I agree with it 100%. In practice, though…
There are times and ways I’ve learned to love a little bit of ambiguity, discord, multi-directionality. When I’m leading my class in discussion, I’ve been known to let it go in directions that appear entirely off-topic, or let what some might call a verbal “fight” break out in class. Those, to me, are important learning moments for the students. How will they resolve this? What will they discover? But when I give students time in class to begin planning a project and one group tells me they’re just going to start—without a plan, an outline, a timeline, any apparent sense of direction—I can’t help but look at them skeptically (or downright incredulously) and compel them to come up with at least some notes to help guide them. But what if they’re right? What if it’s better to just dive in? To tackle each step as its needed, rather than planning ahead to the nth degree when 75% of that planning might be thrown out the window once the reality of the project strikes?
In Writer/Designer we get to see various ways that multimodal composition can be “tackled,” some of which involve less planning and more open-endedness, some of which are helped along by a clear vision, outline, and steps. In composing my own video for this class’s final project, I’m finding that there’s only so much I can do before planning becomes unproductive and I need to just dive in and start putting the video together. It’ll take shape as a create and revise, not as I plan and plan (and plan and plan and plan).
I know I can do better as a teacher in allowing my students that space for creativity and flexibility. It will be an added challenge and an equally important step to find ways of urging students into that improvisational and unstructured space.