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Facilitating Multimedia Composition

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YouTube Video page for the Disability POP Culture channel; it shows the images and lengths of eight videos. We also see the titles for the four videos in the first row; they are titled "Obesity in America," "Voices in Me" by Jamie Smith, "Changing Lives Through the Power of Sports," "Rethinking Personality Disorder and Labels," 3:26; an image of Sarah Palin sitting on a couch gesturing for a video 2:37 minutes long, an image of a blind character on "Pretty Little Liars" for a video 6:02 minutes long; more
Brief Assignment Overview: 

This lesson helped students begin composing their final rhetoric assignment: a Multimedia Argument Project (MAP). I encouraged students to work with each other during the planning process and to collaborate with one another as they developed their digital literacy skills.

Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

In addition to the goals above, students were to:

-become familiar with the range of digital resources available for multimedia composition projects

-practice composing in multiple modes (visual, aural, alphanumeric)

Required Materials: 

--Please Note: all of the links below were organized onto appropriately titled pages in a folder titled "Final Project Help" on our class wiki--

1. samples of student-authored multimedia projects:

either from The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects (TheJUMP) or past student work from my class YouTube channel,

2. KeepVid website (best run on Safari),

3. a Google Doc for class brainstorming on “Beginning the Final Project,” (stored on a class PBworks wiki page)

4. Internet Archives,

5. Creative Commons for songs,

6. Disability song list,

7. Animoto website, instructions for Animoto video production, More Animoto Help,

(beneficial, though not required):

8. Digital Writing and Research Lab (DWRL) rental equipment,

9. our class PBworks wiki Homework page


Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

Adapted from Justin Hodgson’s Multimedia Research-Argument Creation


Multimodal Argument Project Prompt:


Using your prior knowledge, that of your peers’, and the skills you will gain during this unit, you will create a multimodal researched-based argumentative "document." These multimodal arguments should demonstrate a significant research effort as well as showcase your abilities to write, think, and express yourselves via the integration of multiple media.  This research will include the time you spend with “how-to” guides/tutorials with the aim of improving your digital literacy skills. But, unlike the common approach to this type of "writing," where students/researchers write a traditional paper and then try to remediate that into multimedia forms, these projects will be "born digital."  Composing digitally requires you to think, draft, design, and revise in multimedia, not engage in a text-to-multimedia practice.

The multimodal project is fairly open, but its breadth is necessary as each project will be different and take a different shape depending on the intent, skills, and risk-taking strategies of each student-author.  I am open to your creative input and ideas!

Your controversy or the pop culture source that you’ve analyzed should shape your creations and the varying rhetorical strategies that you employ. For example, if you’ve analyzed a cartoon or comic in Paper 2.1, you may want to create your own. If you analyzed a documentary, consider creating your own documentary. We will more fully discuss the flexibility of this project in-class, both on the day this project is assigned and throughout the unit, to ensure that you have a solid grasp of how to navigate these guidelines.


That said, here are some concrete guidelines.  

Minimum Requirements:

  • Must take a stance with relation to your controversy and attempt to persuade readers/viewers;

    • Must clearly be framed as an argument of conjecture, definition, ethics, value, or policy

  • Must engage your analyses of representations in pop culture by either supporting certain representations, subverting stereotypical representations and/or transforming an argument made in pop culture.

  • Must integrate and/or utilize multiple media (both the visual and alphanumeric modes are required) for rhetorical purpose (audio is encouraged, but optional—depending on your medium);

    • The video is not the only medium open to you; you can also compose a comic, be creative and innovative with PowerPoint, create a website, a video game, etc. 

    • Feel free to run an original project idea by me for approval.

  • Must rebut/refute at least one counterargument/position with the presentation or production of counter-images, words, and/or voices.

  • Must include at least 5 quality sources and "Works Cited" details (in MLA format) within the MAP--not in a separate document:

    • At least 2 must come from scholarly resources (you should use the research you gathered for your Annotated Bibliography; you may also use the scholarly class readings)

    • If your project is nearing the maximum length, you may go over the limit (if you need more time/space to add in the Works Cited and make it readable). Note, this exception to the length requirement applies only for the Works Cited. If you want to discuss another exception, please see me. See the length requirement below.

Length requirement:

  • Create a 2-3 minute video if you’re working alone.

    • If you’re working with a partner or two, the video's length requirement increases based on the number of people involved: 4-6 minutes, or 6-9 minutes, respectively.

    • Group size max: 3 people

    • If you’re not composing a video, the length requirement still applies with relation to an in-class final presentation of your project. So, if you’re using PowerPoint, it should run 2-3 minutes long in a presentation.

    • If you’re making a comic strip, the strip should be about 2 pages long--or however long you need to make your argument and be able to present it to the class in 2-3 minutes.

Accessibility requirement:

  • Make your project accessible to a deaf audience (captions/a transcript)

    • I can work with you on captioning your video in the Open Lab (PAR 102) on Wednesdays from 5pm-8pm.

    • I can also point you to some guidelines I created and work with you during class.

    • Fyi: if your submission to TheJUMP is accepted for publication, you will also need to make your project accessible to a blind audience (descriptions of visual features). If you did this work in advance of publication in TheJUMP, I would consider this evidence of going above and beyond in the argumentation/digital literacy course strands.


For a variety of digital resources, see the link below:

Dr. Rodrigue's Digital Writing Resource Page

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

Plan for at least five weeks of in-class time to work on this multimedia argument project. Students need in-class time to familiarize themselves with the various technologies available to them and to learn how to compose in a digital medium besides the alphanumeric programs they are used to composing in (i.e. Microsoft Word).

If feasible within your department, sign up for at least a "plus" account with Animoto. Here in the Digital Writing and Research Lab (DWRL), instructors are fortunate that the lab will renew or subscribe to digital services like Animoto--as long as they serve a pedagogical function. I communicated with the supervisor in the DWRL, who renewed our plus account so students could create a video up to nine minutes long, which was what I required if a group had three students working together.

Below are the major steps I used for this day's lesson plan on "Facilitating Multimedia Composition":

  1. Review vocabulary important to beginning students' composing process: topic, controversy, position and stakeholder. Ask students: what do these terms mean? What is the difference between a topic and a controversy? Explain how students should organize their arguments.
  2. Have students review what their classmates are doing (on a Google Doc students filled in at the start of today's class: “Beginning the Final Project”) and consider who they may want to collaborate with in a co-authorship of this final project.
  3. Introduce students to KeepVid as a way to export videos from YouTube.
  4. Discuss Copyright laws.
  5. Introduce the Internet Archives and Creative Commons.
  6. Point students to “Disability Songs” list.
  7. Have students use the rest of class time to talk over ideas with classmates they want to work with, review samples of student-authored multimedia projects on TheJUMP/previous work from our class YouTube channel, plan their final project with a rough outline, and look for images, videos and/or songs they may want to use.
  8. Remind students to not only look for images, videos and songs that they agree with or those that could support their argument but also images, videos, and/or songs that they disagree with and will refute/rebut in their final project.
  9. Review the definitions of refutations and rebuttals.
  10. Point students to instructions for Animoto (on the wiki) but also mention that I can help students with this program.


Instructions For Students: 

As a starting point to today's class, I had students go to the “in-class activities” folder on our class PBworks wiki.

From there, they went to the Google Doc folder and clicked on the “Beginning the Final Project” page.

Here's what they needed to write out as a starting point to the composing process. (The page also functioned as a class resource that would allow students to determine who they might want to co-author a project with.)

Please write:

1. Your topic;

2. Your controversy;

3. The pop culture source you will remediate

4. At least three positions that stakeholders take with regards to your controversy

5. The position that you saw your pop culture source taking

6. The position that you yourself take. (I explained that for this final unit, students were invited to share their viewpoint and to tell us where they stood with regards to their controversy.)

7. Possible multimedia project ideas you are considering (website, comic, documentary, photoessay, stop motion animation, etc).


Evaluation Suggestions: 

For information on how I assessed students' final projects, please see my blog post on the topic: "Multimodal Writing: How do we Assess New Media?" at the Digital Writing and Research Lab's Blogging Pedagogy website

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

Students had the choice to author a project alone or to work in groups of two or three. The number of students involved in a project affected the length requirement. Longer projects were expected of group-authored multimedia arguments.

Most students felt that their controversy was unique and would not merge well with fellow classmates' controversies or topics. (These final projects were the result of a semester-long process researching a single controversy). Those who did choose to co-author a project chose to work with only one partner rather than two (for logistical reasons apparently). One group started with three members, but one member eventually decided she wanted to work on her own due to creative differences. She had a specific argument she knew she wanted to pursue.

Students who were interested in co-authoring a project needed extra guidance from me on how to coherently weave together an argument on two distinct controversies. With these students, I encouraged the student groups to start from a broader standpoint--to work from our class topic "Disability in Pop Culture"--and to use research from their specific controversies to determine an argument they wanted to make about their particular topics within our class's "umbrella."

Several students were anxious about multimedia composition.

Several others were excited about this change of pace.

In the end, through in-class guidance and collaboration amongst peers, students who were anxious about composing in iMovie for the first time (for example) were eventually proud of their final product and the new digital literacy skills they gained throughout this composition process. Several students creatively went above and beyond the requirements to create a project they would be glad to publish in a public forum such as our class YouTube channel.

One student even composed an entirely original music video; another student drew and created an original stop-motion animated video; several others drew their own comics (either by hand on paper, or online with digital drawing tools/comic software).

Additional Resources: 

Recommendations from Justin Hodgson:

Bump Halbritter's recent book Mics, Cameras, and Symbolic Action: Audio-Visual Rhetoric for Writing Teachers talks about audio and video work,

Sean Morey recently had his textbook The New Media Writer come out with Fountainhead Press,

and Kristin Arola, Jennifer Shepard, and Cheryl Ball recently published their Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects.

According to Professor Hodgson, those three texts provide a nice (but not comprehensive) avenue into conversations about multimedia composition and some particular strategies for writing (with) media.

Beyond that, he recommends that instructors peruse the Computers and Composition (and Computers and Composition Online) journals for works that might resonate with your class's particular focus.

And, as always, the Blogging Pedagogy site and TheJUMP are useful resources!

Course Description: 

In this course, students focus on analyzing the relationship between pop culture and rhetoric. Their analyses examine public disagreements about various issues such as: How do popular (mis)representations of "the supercrip" convince us to make political decisions regarding accessibility, advocacy, education, and/or social policy? How can we evaluate arguments that not only depict (dis)abled people as "heroic" but also those that portray the converse: the "grotesque unfortunate" deserving of "pity" and "help"? How do these arguments address questions of basic human rights, needs, drives and "eugenics rhetoric"? Will children (and adults) make political decisions based on recurrent thematic representations of "disability" in pop culture, and, is that a good or bad influence?

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