Technological Familiarity & Multimodality:

A Localized and Contextualized Model of Assessment

Numerous scholars have claimed 21st-century technologies have redefined and reshaped the composition and literacy practices of college students (Baepler & Reynolds 2014; DePalma & Alexander 2015; Nobles & Paganucci 2015). In fact, as Courtney Werner’s (2015) study indicates, how students compose with digital technologies has become a staple in the literature associated with the field of Computers and Composition. However, although scholars like Jessie Moore et al. (2015) have studied technology-based choices, little information is available regarding First-Year-Students* and their familiarity with multimodal composition technologies.

This web-text presents the results of a localized, multiyear, multiphase, mixed-method, and IRB approved study. Specifically, the study tried to determine if First-Year-Students at my institution were prepared to produce digitally mediated multimodal compositions before their arrival. The study was also designed to discover partial answers to the following question: To what degree do students understand the rhetorical affordances of the digital technologies some of them use everyday? In offering results from the study, I argue for the importance of skill-based, task-based, localized, and contextualized assessments.

I have two main goals in this web-text. My first is to provide findings from my study that may help readers question their assumptions regarding First-Year-Students’ experiences with technologies needed to build a digitally mediated multimodal composing. My second goal is to provide a model for assessment that readers can replicate at their own institutions. Further information about the study and reasons why I conducted the study can be found in the Background section.

*I use “first year” to identify students in their first year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and “First-Year-Students” when identifying students who have not yet progressed into the university’s ranking of Sophomore