Saturday, December 5, 2015

Weekly Response: Selfe's "The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing"

Selfe is arguing that FYW and Composition courses need to include other modes of communication besides writing. I am most certain that they contain discussion and often presentations. Many colleges now use CMS that allow for digital reading and writing, videos, tweets, linked readings, and online references. I understand her argument: that students now create aural compositions. If they are doing this on their own, do they need more in-class instruction? Why teach them what they already know? It seems that their writing skills are significantly weaker than their media skills. I have noticed that while students write electronically, compose in mixed media, and read tweets and texts, they lack the ability to read deeply and write clearly. Therefore, that is where teachers should be focusing their efforts in the classroom. Can we use pieces of other modalities? Sure, but they should not be the focus.

I wonder if Selfe had had less instruction in writing, whether the CCCC would have published her article? Would she have been able to digest and synthesize as much research, if the research material was in the form of podcasts or digitally remixed media? From her works cited, it seems she relied heavily on the written word. Should colleges deny or dilute formal writing instruction because it isn't popular or fun or cool?

The history of aurality she presents is admittedly "selective," meaning she only talks about the historical events that support her theory and omits those that don't. I agree that there is a place for aural composing. Perhaps there should be a class by that name. First Year Writing is called "writing" for a reason.

Selfe quotes Dunn who suggests that Composition teachers think writing isn't one way of knowing, but the only way. Such a silly generalization. How many Comp teachers did Dunn survey? While it is indeed one way of many, it is the way that students struggle most in, and will likely need instruction in.

Our HUM 101 and 102 courses at NJIT are subtitled "Writing, Speaking, Thinking." We read silently and aloud, discuss, present, and write. We compose for paper and electronic reading, and focus on the writing process. We think critically about texts and ideas, discuss in small and large groups, and learn different "genres" of writing and why we use them. We take researched essays and turn them into electronic and spoken presentations. Talking is important, of course. But again, most of the students are at least accomplished speakers one-on-one or in small groups. Their writing skills lag far behind, so that is where we emphasize instruction.

Dangerous! Don't "resist the literacy practices of the dominant culture" as Selfe suggests (624), or you will remain outside of it. Learn the literacy practices of the dominant culture and use them to your benefit. Then, and only then, can you change the rules and culture.

I disagree with much of what she says, and I firmly support English-Only education not out of racism but out of inclusion, opportunity, and enfranchisement.  It's important socially, civically, and financially. To enable school children in America to NOT speak English should be a crime.

Warning! Rant: Selfe advocates that composition teachers should "encourage students to deploy multiple modalities in skillful ways- written, aural, visual- and that they model a respect for and understanding of the various roles each modality can play in human expression, the formation of individual and group identity, and meaning making." This would then be a content course and not necessarily a writing course. How much do you want to cram into one year of writing instruction? Why is it that every time anyone thinks freshmen need to learn a skill they try to lump it into Composition, which is usually only 2 semesters of FYW instruction? Need to learn public speaking, don't create a class in the department, just tell FYW to handle it. Aural comp--FYW! How about composing in digital environments--give it to the FYW instructors. End Rant

Of course oral tradition has strong historic and social importance and is a valuable component of composition. Don't try to lump it into written composition, though. Give it its own course.

OK--the quote on page 629. So if the suppression and neglect of other modalities have dampened  human potential, then how did the emergence of all the new multimedia genres develop in the last few decades? Shouldn't print have squelched them?

Oooo, compose a PSA...I'm going to make a lesson out of that. The students in 102 have to make a poster to present at the end-of-year research showcase. I'll have  each group compose a PSA for their project and upload it to their eportfolios. I like it!! (643) I'm glad to have found something useful in this article.
As teachers of rhetoric and composition, our responsibility is to teach students effective, rhetorically based strategies for taking advantage of all available means of communicating effectively and productively as literate citizens. (644)
Really? I wonder if my department would agree with the word "all."

I understand Selfe's point. She doesn't want rigid teachers who value writing and only writing. However, I need to understand where in the curriculum she intends to place teaching of aural works and aural history and tradition. For many schools, and many students, composition instruction lasts only 2 semesters, and that isn't enough to produce accomplished writers.

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