POV Cultivating Transferrable Digital Skills: Modeling Multimodality in Teaching
Voice of Dr. Pary Fassihi, Assistant Director, BU Center for Teaching & Learning
Multimodal assignments provide students an opportunity to demonstrate their learning of course content through communicating a message across multiple modes. Throughout the past several years, in conversation with many faculty members across several institutions on their decision to implement multimodal assignments in the classroom, one key emotion has consistently surfaced: fear. The fear of clicking on the wrong button, the fear of breaking a piece of equipment, or even the fear of not knowing how to teach students a certain technology. These were and still are valid concerns; however, more recently, I have found that fear is not the dominant emotion in our conversations; rather, faculty feel more confident in implementing these multimodal assignments.
Many faculty members have noted that their teaching will change post-COVID world. From having students collaborate on a shared document to asking students to create videos, faculty are keeping many of the strategies that made their classes successful this past year. This shift in mindset provides the prime opportunity for faculty members and higher education leaders to sustain these positive changes, and build on the skills they have been developing.
Starting with ourselves: Modeling Multimodality
One way to build on these skills is to model multimodality for our students. In order to guide our students through these digital assignments, as instructors, it is important to experience the process of creating multimodal texts. The experience will allow us to not only build on our technical skills, but set reasonable expectations for these assignments. If we expect our students to create videos, create dynamic, accessible presentations, choose images that reflect diversity, equity and inclusion, or consider the copyrights and licensing of multimedia, we can begin with ourselves and model these transferable skills in the digital world for our students.
Examples of Modeling Multimodality
Modeling multimodality for our students may begin with making the delivery of our course information more multimodal. Recently, in the Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL)/Digital Learning & Innovation (DL&I) funded Adobe Catalyst Program, our participants have been experimenting with implementing multimodality in their assignments by adopting the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. In this program, Kaytlin Eldred, Lecturer in Sargent College, has created a course trailer for her “Introduction to Global Health” course. She created the video on Adobe Premiere Rush and uploaded it on a platform popular among students.
Take a class with me #professorsoftiktok
View BU Sargent College Lecturer Kaytlin Eldred’s “Introduction to Global Health” course trailer.
Communicating the course content in a different mode allows for incorporating visuals that reflect on diversity and address the students’ different learning styles. Creating a shorter, more personal and visual version of a longer syllabus is another way instructors may model multimodality for students. In my own Academic Writing courses, I email students such a multimodal syllabus on Adobe Spark in advance of our first session. Doing so, not only makes the syllabus visually appealing, it also makes it easier to read and process for the students. More importantly, it creates a welcoming and personal environment; therefore changing the tone of my syllabus for my audience.
Among the many ways to model multimodality is to create multimodal assignment prompts for students. Shannon Peters, Lecturer in Sargent College, experimented with creating her assignment sheet for a Grant Proposal Film assignment on Adobe Spark. This assignment sheet provides all the resources students need in one place, while remaining visually appealing. Apart from the design and visual appeal, by reviewing the resources provided, students witness the instructor’s attention to accessibility and copyright, and will learn to transfer those considerations into their own digital assignments.
View BU Sargent College Lecturer Shannon Peters Grant Proposal film assignment.
Above are only a few of the possibilities in modeling multimodality in our own teaching. If instructors are the ones guiding the students in gaining these digital skills, and transferring them later to the outside world, then we need to guide the students through the essentials they need to succeed. Of course, this does not mean starting with creating a video because that may not be everybody’s forte, rather, it could mean seeking out help in starting with smaller steps, such as creating more accessible presentation slides or creating assignment sheets that consider different learning styles, and implementing the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in our lecture content.
With Boston University being an Adobe Creative Campus, we have the essential tools and support to begin this journey. You may choose to attend the Adobe CC training sessions offered by Maria Afzal, Charles River Campus Educational Technologist, or Jack Wolfe, BUMC Educational Technologist. Or you may decide to try out the many resources and tutorials offered on the BU Digital Multimedia Commons. The Center for Teaching & Learning is also available to discuss multimodality in your classroom, and your pedagogical applications of the Adobe CC.
In the end, I believe this is an opportune time to embrace all the changes and disruptions COVID-19 brought upon education and view this time as an incubator for innovation. Collaboration promotes innovation, so let’s continue to collaborate with our colleagues, support staff and our students to cultivate these digital skills, which are so essential for our current and future generations.
About the Author: Dr. Pary Fassihi is the Assistant Director for the Center for Teaching & Learning. Pary has extensive experience implementing a vast array of educational technologies in her courses, and training faculty to do the same. Her passion lies in developing innovative learning experiences and supporting faculty in those efforts.