Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

We Teach Who We Are

October 30th, 2012 · 2 Comments

So the link below will take you to an online storage site where you can download and watch a photo-essay/memoir that I originally did as my “auto-geography” for EPSE 308. It has a basic soundtrack and narration, and I fashioned it using Windows Movie Maker. It is kinda big (200 mgs) and it is an .wmv file so you will have to view it using Windows Media Player or some freeware player like the VLC media player. I am not entirely happy with the narration part as the sound levels are a bit wonky sometimes but all in all it turned out okay. This was the first time I have ever used the software so I’m cutting myself some slack. The rationale for doing this artifact ties in with the last creative piece I did using Prezi: I think it’s important if we want to teach video/film specifically and multiliteracy in general that we be as proficient as we can be with this sort of software. As well, putting together these projects is a good way for us to practice the craft of video editing ourselves ie visual grammar seems rather abstract until you are really doing it. Movie Maker makes crafting a video fairly easy, but it has enough bells and whistles that your students will be able to hone their skills without unduly taxing them.


– The title of the piece is a quote from Parker Palmer, a very progressive American educator (the person who first coined the phrase was another famous American educator, John Gardner).

– Also there is a section that references Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, and much of what comes after is an extension of the basic metaphor at the heart of that book.

– You will be prompted for a password – it is watch:


PS: Comments would be appreciated, and will be reciprocated when you post your next artifact.

Tags: Visual Literacy · Weblog Activities

2 responses so far ↓

  • dinouye // Nov 11th 2012 at 1:25 am

    Mike, let me begin my comment with an overarching – I LOVE this!!

    I think your use of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a metaphor for teaching is apt. (I too remember devouring this book in my early 20s and being overwhelmingly inspired by it).

    Your metaphor certainly brings up some problematics that I feel I can speak to, with some confidence, post-short practicum.

    One is the deficiency or insufficiency of the lesson plan. There is a danger, I think, of feeling beholden to it, of failing to take cues off of students, of failing to adapt to constraints and unknowns (“emergent properties of complex systems”).

    There’s the aspect of the PLOs that are so vague and encompassing and ambiguous in many cases that they become almost meaningless. “Critical thinking”!

    As I was watching and listening to your auto-geography, I found myself nodding, smiling, and marveling, as one thing became eminently clear: classroom dynamics, like life, are messy and unpredictable. How then do we approach this messy business?

    With paradox, I suppose!! Having some actor training (theatre background), I can attest to the marvelously intriguing paradox of preparing a scene by interpreting and dissecting character, motivation, relationship, subtext, trying out different interpretations, adding, layering… only to get up (on stage or on camera) and be told to “let it all go.” I had to let it all go in order to live and breathe the character in the moment. But that “presence” only worked because the “work” had been done. This is a concept that fascinates me: having to prepare in order to let it go. To do the work, and then to abandon it, trusting all along that it’s there, that it will inform you.
    As teachers, we are on “stage”, and I do believe that this paradoxical relationship between preparation and abandon will be useful in the classroom.

    Like your parable of the motorcycle that needs to be fixed on the road and not in a shop/garage, learning to teach, I agree, can only be done “in the trenches”: “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

    The question you ask as a teacher is profound: you raise the importance of asking questions, of being out in the world, of appreciating the unknown, of acknowledging illusory knowledge, and of valuing fleeting joys and contingent harmonies. How do we teach students that this is what it’s about? How do we make learning relevant to life outside of the classroom IN the classroom?

    Maybe actually stepping outside of the classroom is a step.

    Some reading on year-round schooling has gotten me reflecting on restructuring schools. I recently read an article that discusses Salman Khan’s idea that school should be more like summer camp:

    We want students to learn! Right now, students are spending nine months stressed, going through drills, memorizing things before an exam and then forgetting it. Then, they go to summer vacation. Some of the most affluent or motivated kids might be able to pull off having a very creative summer vacation, but most don’t. For most, it is just kind of lost time.
    When people say, “Summer vacation, those are my best memories. That is when I actually got to do creative things. That is when we actually got to travel,” I say, yeah, exactly, that is what the whole year should be like. Make school year-round, but also make it much more like a creative summer camp.

    This re-conceptualization calls on explorations of multi-modal learning, arts integration, outdoor education, and interdisciplinary education. Sir Ken Robinson has frequently, and rightly, I believe, interrogated the structure of disparate isolated disciplines in our schools.

    Yet for the most part, we are stuck indoors, in classrooms, between four walls. Perhaps taking ourselves outside of our lesson plans, and into students’ lives, in some small way, is a start. I sat in on a class where the teacher took time out of her lesson to just talk about stress, and to put things in perspective. This manner of being in tune and addressing what’s important can be effective.

    I think we have to believe that we are making a difference. But how quantifiable is that? How do we measure success, triumph, and failure? Surely not in test scores.

    Fundamentally, I think teaching needs to come from the heart more than from the intellect. Lesson plans and subject knowledge are a good start but they’re not enough. The problem is how can we be taught to teach from the heart? How can we prepare/plan for that which must emerge, like you say, as “intangible, contingent, ephemeral”? How do we lay down the soil so that it yields an ORGANIC harvest?

    Veteran teacher John Rockne, in a collection titled “Stories of the Courage to Teach”, talks about “relishing the tensions and the polarities, seeing in them the opportunities for creativity.”(25) Here is how he begins his classes:
    I tell the kids that they are stuck in the predicament of being a teenager. They are the main characters in their own life stories, and their choices are creating their destinies… If they use skill and imagination to read, write, talk, and listen, they can begin to unravel the baffling puzzle of their lives. To succeed in this adventure they need to be brave and bold and look to each other for inspiration. I end by explaining, that I, their teacher, am so old that I can’t remember being a teen, so my ability to help them is limited. (24)
    Pretty inspiring!

    Finally, I think, like the teacher who stopped her lesson to address the issue of stress, that we need perspective and balance in our own lives. You and I talked about not having the time, since the start of this program, to exercise, to do good for our selves, our bodies. I continuously feel this despairing predicament. At the same time, I am convinced that it must change. If we ourselves are isolated and dispirited, “we are unlikely to be able to summon the personal resources to inspire [the] leaps of faith” (Diana Chapman Walsh (Stories of the Courage to Teach), 272) that we require as educators.

    Sources cited:
    Intrator, Sam, M. (2002). Stories of the Courage to Teach – Honoring the Teacher’s Heart. Jossey-Bass.

  • dinouye // Nov 11th 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I don’t mean that year-round schooling gets students outside of the classroom. I was just inspired to use the “restructuring” that year-round schooling posits in terms of holidays and instructional days as an occasion to extend the idea of “restructuring” to the larger role and purpose of education and pedagogical practices as a whole.

You must log in to post a comment.