Radical Revision

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Zack’s Radical Revision of his mini-ethnography of a coffee shop

Radically Revising the Composition Classroom – Multimodal Hacks

I have been thinking quite a bit about my amazing colleague, mentor, teacher, friend – Wendy Bishop.  Although Wendy is no longer with us, her voice still ripples  through composition studies and whispers in my head as I carry on the many lessons she taught me (and a slew of others) in her short, prolific life.   Wendy’s impact on composition studies is vast and she authored many books and articles, but she is well known for the ways she blended and blurred the boundaries between creative and critical writing.  Way back in 1995 she introduced me to the term, Radical Revision that she defined as an act of revision in which writers re-see their ideas through new perspectives.  The idea of radical revision encouraged students to use ideas generated in an essay or writing project and recast them in a different format, genre or perspective.

Today, the concept of  radical revision is easily reframed through multimodal lenses as new digital forms and audiences are central to the concept of multimodal composition.  These ideas are no longer lurking behind the curtain and considered “radical” but are essential to current composition pedagogy.   This is an exciting time for those of us who teach writing and ask students to regularly blend creative and critical expression as they explore the relationships and rhetorical connections between the textual, visual and other digital content and forms.

Today, as I talk about radical revision, I am called back to re-see many things in my own teaching history.  I realize and have always considered the act of teaching and writing themselves as continuous acts of revision.  I would like to suggest that the term Radical Revision is important for teachers of writing today looking to bring multimodal composition into their writing classes.  We radically revise our writing classrooms and assignments in new ways and through new perspectives on digital culture and through the integration of digital writing projects.  As some teachers fear, this does not necessarily mean throwing out tried and true assignments and classroom activities in favor of new replacements.  Instead it involves going back to these assignments and seeing the ways we can radically revise them and still maintain the important composition theories and practices that make for strong, rhetorically appropriate communication in new contexts.

Once I realized that I was radically revising my teaching and writing assignments through these digital lenses I was able to productively extend assignments that I have successfully used over the years.

I have many students and colleagues who are radically revising their writing and classrooms through this multimodal lens. I am interested in seeing how they take on this challenge and have come to see traditional assignments in new ways.  For the purposes of these ideas I ask for Multimodal Hacks, in which students and teachers and students radically revise their traditional assignments through multimodal lenses:

Student Multimodal Hacks: 

Students in my Writing in Collaborative Spaces radically revised a mini-ethnography and cultural critique on a collaborative space.  In the original assignment, as teams they observed and applied ethnographic methods and communication theory to better understand interaction, communication, and structure of their public space.  They originally prepared and presented their findings in a powerpoint presentation and team report document that described their findings, observations, analysis and synthesis for an academic audience.

For their Radical Revision, I asked them to re-see this project through their individual perspectives and reframe it as a cultural critique through a different multimodal lens for a general internet audience and embed it into their course blogs.

Students took on the challenge and created projects such as a graphic comic, memes,  a Buzzfeed article, an infographic,  short videos.

Teaching Hacks 

I have many colleagues who are  also radically revising their writing classrooms through this multimodal lens. Like the concept of radical revision, teachers have had to find hacks that help students re-see their ideas through the lenses of multimodal composition.  Although some teachers are hesitant to make these shifts because they feel they are hard pressed to let go of the tried and true, I have talked to many teachers who have revised their writing classrooms through teaching hacks in which they radically revise their assignments through simple digital extensions and multimodal projects.  I ventured out to get some “comp-on-the-street perspectives” and talk to my colleagues and collect their best teaching hacks for enriching their curriculum through multimodal assignments and digital literacies.

Forthcoming  ~ The teaching hacks are coming soon.

Call for Teaching Hacks: 

If you are a teacher reading this blog and have a teaching hack that you would like to submit,  I encourage you to  send me your best teaching hacks @ khaimesk@kennesaw.edu with the subject line: Teaching Hacks.  I look forward to sharing these ideas soon.

Note: Although some of these assignments involve multiple steps and processes, for this project I am looking for quick, radical revisions that can help teachers shift their perspectives and easily integrate digital forms and thinking into their composition classrooms.  Each description should be no longer than one or two paragraphs (remember – the lifehack format calls for short, efficient methods).  Include a short reference to the original assignment and the way you “hacked” it for the multimodal composition classroom. I am going to look for assignments that productively blend the creative and the critical through simple shifts that demonstrate the kind of radical revision in its truest sense.  Stay tuned for what I turn up through this exploration.

Note: See my blog post, Radically Revising the Composition Classroom for more details.

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