By Ruby, Nicole and Julie
An introduction of multimodal text:
Part 1. Summary of the article
In general, digital multimodal composing (DMC) refers to a textual practice in which people use digital tools to compose a textual production with various semiotic modes, including word, image, soundtrack, etc..
In this article, the author Liangjiang Jiang aimed to examine how DMC can stimulate English learning in EFL contexts and, meanwhile, raise the English teachers’ awareness of the instructional potential of it for specific learning purposes, with reference to the experiences and opinions of 5 teachers and 22 students who participated in a DMC project carried out in China.
It is found out that there are three main affordances that can be offered by DMC for English learning:
a. First, by using technological tools to transform English learning performance into various digital production of video or audio clips that recorded their speaking as voiceover and writing as subtitles, they commended that it could allow students to constantly replay and revise the production in a self-paced way. Especially for those who are shy in the conventional classroom, it could improve their confidence and engender a sense of having control, bringing about a new competent identity in the area that they used to be afraid of.
b. Second, being aware of the fact that their exhibitions would be posted online to a broader authentic audiences, they would maintain a much higher standard, trying harder and more earnestly.
c. Furthermore, DMC also allowed students to translate meanings across different modes, offering the opportunity to approach meaning-making beyond the limits of language and helping them relate the learning process with their one media world.
d. All of these made English learning a more comfortable experience and were conducive to re-engaging students with text-based reading and writing.
2. Educational affordances
a. On one hand, learning in the way of DMC provided the students with more opportunities to access information and learning materials that are lacked in the conventional curriculum. On the other hand, it also helped in increasing students’ classroom participation.
b.It could also create opportunities for students to use English in authentic contexts for interactive purposes, which they could barely experience learning in the conventional manner.
c.Some teachers highlighted that it could also nurture students’ creativity in expressing ideas.
3. Social affordances
DMC could also stimulate peer interactions and civic participation by providing them with the opportunity where they can use both authentic social and cultural resources in their community to express ideas that are of their own concerns.
The study has shown that DMC has made these three main affordances available for English learners, with multifaceted influence on them. However, it’s also indicated that only through the positive collaboration among teachers and students can these affordances work well. Teachers play a very important role in actualising these affordances.
Part 2. Evaluation
The study is of great value of the curriculum design for EFL learners in a socio-cultural and responsive multimodal context in the digital age. The study sheds a new light on the application of DMC in EFL learning, by looking further into the way in which such a learning approach facilitates L2 learning, which brings about profound and multifaceted insights into the essential role of multimodality and digital learning.
Furthermore, it comes up with numerous conducive implications for the use of DMC in L2 teaching and learning. To tackle the troubles brought up in the test-oriented educational context, teachers are suggested or recommended to accept the concept of DMC and then combine the textbook-based exams with the digital technology.
However, despite the achievements it has made, the study is not flawless, and there are some problems to address.
First, for several times, the study has mentioned DMC as a barrier in conventional literacy and high-stakes tests, but little practical and effective solutions have been offered to this matter.
Second, the study is conducted based on the educational context in China, which constraints its further implications to a certain education system.
The third one is more about the DMC effectiveness in L2 learning. In some cases, to save the expense and energy, students or learners are usually grouped up, and accomplish their task together. This collaborative learning may not cater for each individual’s learning needs, and they would not make much progress in the L2 learning. Technical problem should be attended to.
Additionally, there are still abundant researches and studies on this topic or relevant topic, and the outcomes are quite constructive and informative. Down below are some of them.
In Multimodal Composing in Classrooms by Miller and McVee (2012), they points out the importance of DMC in the 21st century literacy and the actions teacher should take to implement multimodal composing teaching.
Part 3. Example of digital multimodal composing: digital storytelling
Digital storytelling is a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their story. The media used may include the digital equivalent of film techniques (full-motion video with sound), stills, audio only, or any of the other forms of non-physical media which individuals can use to tell a story or present an idea.
Please take a look at the link below to enjoy a digital story.
If you are a language learner, isn’t it interesting to learn language in this way?
Oak Hill School has already put digital in their language teaching and achieved great success. When an interviewer ask what students’ favorite part of digital storytelling is, most of them says “all of it”. The reason why they say so is because digital storytelling provides language learners with a great amount of motivation and interests by adding personal relevant and meaningful purposes to language learning. Students write scripts and then produce a story by collaborating with others in which they finish specific tasks such as voice-recording, photo- editing and sound effects. Unlike conventional language class, digital multimodal composing offers students the opportunity to customize meaning-making beyond the limits of language, i.e. students combine speaking and writing with multiple sources into a digital video so that a relevance between language learning and their own media world is built.
In addition, digital storytelling enables students to learn beyond-textbook knowledge and social skills. When producing a story, students need to learn basic computer and film-editing skills before they could output a qualified video and the motivation behind encourages them to be autonomous in the process of learning. Because it is a team work, interaction with others is a must, then students can learn something to facilitate interpersonal relationship. And the success of video production helps them to overcome fear and shape a competent identity in the process of learning.
Here is the case of Oak Hill School.
Questions:(choose one or two from the following questions)
- Do you have any experience of using DMC as a method of English learning or teaching? If you have, can you share your perception of it?
- What is your opinion towards the benefits of DMC? And what about the drawbacks?
- What is the role of teacher in applying DMC? (As a teacher, what should be done to maximise the positive influence of DMC?)