Michael Scott Multi-Modality Comprehension

It’s funny because a majority of us start our blogs off by saying something along the lines of… “I don’t really know what to talk about, but…” or “I’m not entirely sure what this means, but…” But I really really DON’T KNOW. I’m sitting here on the fourth floor of the library slowly trying to make sense of multi-modality and Shipka’s piece, but I’m at a loss of words. And honestly, I’m hoping that the more words I type, the clearer my understanding and what I’m trying to convey becomes. Yeah?

…And I was typing that little confusing, circular (?) introduction, I couldn’t stop thinking about this little nugget: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlKuohxl1so

So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say multi-modality brings out my inner Michael Scott, and that I’m not the only one.

Part of me thinks multi-modality is such a “common sense” type of topic. Or, I don’t know. Maybe not entirely “common sense”, but I feel like once I watched the Kress videos, a light went off. I had one of those “AHA!” moments and everything he talked about–format, visuals, sounds, colors, texts–made sense. I think we’ve all inherently engaged in multi-modal components in either academia or any other literacy we engage in (and I would especially argue that we engage in more multi-modal components when we’re engaging in outside literacies and or things we don’t traditionally define as literacies). But, for whatever reason, we don’t teach multi-modality. I had never heard of multi-modality until this class. I’m a fourth year college student and this is the very first time I’m hearing about multi-modality? And, the only reason I’m learning about it is because I need this class for my TESOL certificate. So in this I see two divisions: one, teaching multi-modality to only those privileged enough to attend college (and that’s assuming every other university does in fact teach multi-modality) and two, teaching multi-modality to a select few in a select discipline(s). How radically different would our education system be if we not only taught what multi-modality is, but also incorporated those multi-modal components in classrooms? I think we would achieve a number of things through this incorporation, but two stick out to me the most: one, we would bridge the gap between students who learn in a more “traditional” sense and those who could and would achieve in a more inclusive, expansive (talking about literacies here!), and collaborative classroom (talking about the benefits of multi-modality here!)

Multi-modality isn’t just for the talented artists and creative minds out there. It’s literally an opportunity for each and every student to explore their interests, talents, and individuality in showcasing their understanding of any given topic. Multi-modality is inclusive, it’s expansive, it’s the new addition we need to our education system.


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In another sense, I feel like I’ve only attained the surface level understanding of multi-modality. It’s so complex and yet so perfectly intertwined in every literacy. Right? I don’t know. How is multi-modality any different from expanding literacy practices and reading classroom literacies? What isn’t considered to be a multi-modal component? Okay, I’m starting to confuse myself again. No wonder studying multi-modality can be and is its own research area/emphasis!


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I think something semi-worth noting here is that I felt mildly uncomfortable adding in the above images in my “sly” attempt at incorporating multi-modality. Is this because I don’t fully understand multi-modality or is it because I haven’t had enough practice in multi-modality to build up my confidence in it and explore its other components?

Welp. I really tried. I don’t know if I have a better understanding of multi-modality. A clearer one or a foggier one. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t fully understand multi-modality that I’m confused as to why people would be so against incorporating it into their classrooms or it’s because I’m not an English major? Is this common sense or am I minimizing it?

All in all, I am interested in pursuing this, especially as I hope to have my own TESOL classroom one day and want to make my curriculum as inclusive, achievable, and applicable as possible. I’m interested in applying all I’ve learned about expanding literacy practices (multiliteracy?), reading classroom literacy, and multi-modality (because really, aren’t they all intertwined and interdependent on each other?) into my classroom. Perhaps I’m just not up to date on the most radical educational shifts, but I hope that more and more teachers are empowered in these expansions of the classroom and curriculum to join me in creating that multi-modal classroom.

P.S. – I didn’t know how this fit but I’m really interested in the idea of modes. Specifically, how are TESOL classrooms affected by the idea that modes are socially created and accepted and thus, vary from culture to culture. Different cultures have different pools of knowledge, different signals… all dictated by daily cultural differences. Social environments influence the role multi-modality plays and also the modes that are used. And based on this, multi-modality can’t just encompass things like text, sounds, images, color, etc. It has to also include more personal anecdotes like experiences and cultural understanding.

  • ^^^ I think I have an idea for my multi-modal project? Diversity is really important to me. Inclusivity is also really important to me. And to be a bit more casual, but also serious: food is also really important to me. Would putting together a cookbook of different cultural dishes count as multi-modal? I could include images, colors, font changes… I mean, maybe it can be a digital cookbook type of thing? With sound? Or I can suggest songs to listen to for each dish to really experience the culture the food represents? This also speaks to the importance of experience and symbolism in multi-modality because at least in my family, cookbooks are sacred tales of culture and experiences passed down. They followed my family from Honduras to the United States (even with me to South Africa). They also follow the experiences of the women in my family from a time when traditional gender roles were more enforced to now. I don’t know. I got really excited thinking about this but I’m not entirely sure this would count as a multi-modal project? Let me know. I could be completely off track, as I tend to be.



  1 comment for “Michael Scott Multi-Modality Comprehension

  1. Destiny Valencia
    Destiny Valencia
    April 3, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    All I could think of while reading your blog honestly was SAME. Don’t feel like you’re the only one stuck in the mud because I am too. *virtual high five* It really is complex! and honestly, all the questions you asked yourself here were all the things I was asking myself as I wrote my blog… I still have no idea :)
    Awesome post!!

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