Defining Multimodal Composition Affordances Constraints
Reflections References

Dear Professor X, This is not my best work:
Multimodal composition meets (e)portfolio

Courtney L. Werner

To the Reader,

Please consider the following eportfolio as an attempt to both showcase what an eportfolio—crafted by a hypothetical student—might appear to look like and what the pedagogical implications for such a portfolio might be in an increasingly multimodal (and digital) classroom.

Throughout this portfolio, I argue portfolios and multimodal composing are parallel pedagogical tools. Often, I discuss both portfolios and multimodal composing in a digital sense: electronic portfolios and new media. However, my preference for the digital does not preclude the possibilities of the physical. In other words, though my argument works by describing digital portfolios (eportfolios) and digital multimodal composition, I also believe the underlying principles for physical portfolios and physical multimodal compositions hold true. In this eportfolio, the reader will see how (e)portfolio usage in the composition classroom has similar rationales as multimodal assignments and practices, and when these two assignment types are used together, they produce a better learning environment for students.

As you peruse this eportfolio, please keep in mind the simplicity of the design is a specific, purposeful rhetorical choice. This eportfolio is not catchy, it does not use particularly interesting graphics, and it does not utilize the most high-tech web design software on the market. Rather, it mimics the portfolios your students may create should you assign them to come up with an electronic portfolio on their own (without guidance, suggested software, suggested template websites, or a required program your school/department uses). Though many of our students are digital natives, they may not have any experience with web design (Vie, 2008). They may use templates from free web design template sites or servers (such as I did with my first draft of this portfolio). They may find some that are quite flashy, or they may use others that are quite limited in their capabilities. They might even try to reproduce a template they had previously come across (see my second draft). If you require your students to learn new software (as I did with my first professional digital portfolio), it is even more likely that their eportfolios will look like the one you are currently reading. This portfolio is basic, suggesting a student’s first attempt at designing her very own website with her limited knowledge of web design amd web design technologies while including some of her pertinent thoughts.

As simply as your student may design her first eportfolio, I have constructed a few simple pages. Three pages address main points that undergird my argument. Another page contains information about my previous drafts (the reasons I chose to revise) as well as screen captures and links to those previous drafts. The closing section of my amateur eportfolio includes a references page (mimicking the references pages students may attach to their portfolios when necessary) and a final page remarking on the research, thought process, and purpose of this particular portfolio.

My eportfolio may appear linear, but this is often how first-year students have been trained to think. In first attempts, linear progressions are often how students try to execute a portfolio (moving through the pieces of a portfolio as though they were contained in a binder even though the components may now be online). Please keep in mind, though, that my two main points (see the Affordances and Constraints pages) are not linear. Instead, they work separately to support the same main point that portfolio use and multimodal pedagogies are parallel pedagogies. Additionally, readers can peruse the drafts of this argument before they peruse the bare-bones, main points emerging from my drafts.

Similar to students' final portfolios, I only leave the main components of my argument (perhaps the most important points) on this final webtext (which also acts as the final version of my mostly print-linguistic eportfolio). The foundational information, the drafts, and all of the information that led me to the argumentative points I find most compelling can be found along the way on the Drafts page. Much like other portfolios, you will see the first and rough draft only if you click on the links and open them, look at the pages, and skim the readings for changes of content and of form. Pedagogically sound portfolios demand teachers to review all the drafts of one piece, not only look at the final product, even though they may be tempted to skip over all the drafts they have seen throughout the semester or bypass the downloadable files students link or upload on their pages. My previous drafts, much like students' first drafts, are critical to my so-called final draft, so I invite you to (briefly) review each of my drafts to see where my ideas originated and examine what the first stages of my progress looked like. I invite you to critically imagine the rhetorical changes I made along the way and think about how I ended up at this final stage.

I invite you to read through the portfolio, click on the linked files, browse my original versions, and think on my final reflections. As with any writing process, I welcome response, commentary, and critical feedback. This piece is merely an example: a means to demonstrate how difficult it can be to show process in a scholarly piece. It is also an example of how such felt difficulty can help scholars think more openly about the relationship between pedagogies that espouse portfolio construction and/or multimodal composition.

The first version of this piece, and indeed the final version, is guided by Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe’s (1997) discussion of the ways portfolios and technologies intersect and complement each other. Branching from their argument, I argue portfolios and multimodal writing are parallel pedagogical techniques with similar affordances and constraints when used in first-year composition and other composition classrooms. I suggest writing teachers of all levels should embrace these techniques, using them both in one course, to craft a more robust classroom.

Defining Multimodal Composition Affordances
Reflections References