Introduction

    Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers is one of the books in Hampton Press’s New Dimensions in Computers and Composition series. Editor Cynthia L. Selfe was the Thomas R. Watson Visiting Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville in 2004 where she led a graduate seminar, “Literacy, Technology, and Education.” The foreword written by Bronwyn Williams notes: “Much of this book is the result of the fruitful conversations that were stimulated and enriched by Cindy’s visit” (p. ix). The authors, experienced practitioners in multimodal composing, lend unique voices to the book’s thirteen chapters, yet they are all unified in their support of integrating multiple modalities into the composition classroom.


    Pamela Takayoshi and Cynthia L. Selfe in Chapter One define multimodal compositions as “texts that exceed the alphabetic and may include still and moving images, animations, color, words, music and sound” (p. 1). The book is geared towards teachers of English Composition, with any level of technological expertise, who are interested in expanding their course’s curriculum to include texts that incorporate more than just the written word, such as audio or video essays. Although new media may intimidate some traditional composition teachers, Multimodal Composition gently eases even the most technophobic reader into the concept of multimodality. The authors continually reiterate that teaching multimodal composition does not mean instructors will have to invent a whole new style of teaching; instead, most of the methods already used in traditional composition and rhetoric courses are still applicable. Daniel Keller in Chapter Five, “Thinking Rhetorically,” emphasizes this notion: “Teachers of composition need to realize that they already have valuable rhetorical knowledge and experience that will help them approach the teaching of multimodal texts” (p. 50).


    The foreword by Williams, which is a persuasive argument for the benefits of multimodal composition, is a great start to the book. In fact, there is much here that would be excellent ammunition when trying to convince your colleagues, department heads, or administrators of the benefits of multimodal composing in the English classroom. He says, “We need to teach the forms of literacy that are producing the culture on our campuses and in our communities” (p. xii). He also acknowledges the concerns composition teachers most often cite, like images are “not as rigorous in the production of intellectual work in the academy as words can be” (p. xi). However, he quickly refutes these assertions, calling them either “ill-considered shadows…or addressable through the thoughtful application of theory and practice” (p. xi). Takayoshi and Selfe in Chapter One, “Thinking about Multimodality,” also do well at addressing the crucial reasons why multimodal composition is important to anyone “concerned with writing and literacy” (p. 2). They answer five key questions for teachers “considering whether or not they should expand the range of modalities that characterize their composition assignments” (p. 6). I appreciate that the forward and first chapter get these tough issues out in the open immediately so that the reader is put at ease in order to dive into the rest of the book and learn the specifics about how to compose and assess multimodal assignments, as well as how to cite, publish, and share the compositions, and suggestions and methods for troubleshooting, collaborating, and advocating for multimodal composition in your school and community.

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