The teaching and learning affordances of string

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I’m currently working on a First Year Exam (FYE) about representations of multimodal and multimedia assignments in NCTE journals, and I haven’t quite nailed down the “question” yet. I’ve met with my two readers to set up goals and timelines, and so, in twelve days, I have to have SOMETHING to give them.

My cohort is meeting once a week to check in and support each other through this (kind of confusing) process, and as I was explaining what I thought I was going to do and how I was trying to document it, Aubrey suggested that I just write about the affordances of teaching with string. She was teasing. I think. But now I’m beginning to take it seriously. Here’s why:

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My FYE Map

You see, I’m trying to map my progress and make the connections manifest in a way that will help me structure my final draft. I’m illustrating the parts with images, the connections with string, and the categories, or meta with text on index cards. I’m taking photographs when I make changes and filming the process in hopes of creating a time-lapse video representation of my thought process. For my own entertainment.

I am hoping to get some use out of the process though. I’m hoping that the physical/visual representation of my work will improve the clarity of my prose when it comes time to articulate the connections between the different parts. I’m planning to make a webtext in Dreamweaver alongside my FYE text, and I’m hoping that this large-scale concept map will help me understand the best way to link the parts and convey my ideas about the connectedness of terms like “multimodal” and “multimedia” to each other and to classroom practices.

My biggest problem (always) is narrowing, and I’m expecting this process to be useful for that as well. Maybe with a large-scale reminder that I have left some interesting pieces for another time, I can actually let myself let go of them and focus on something more appropriate to the task demands of the FYE.

So, I don’t know whether string is going to help me do all these things or not, but I like the experience of engaging with my thinking in this way, so I’m going to lean on it for a bit longer and see what comes of it.

I’m also keeping track of articles in my mind palace (which is under construction – always). I need to rework the annotations for the 16 English Journal articles I’ve read before they can go up, and I plan to revisit readings from last semester’s Computers and Writing class to add to the record. I had originally envisioned the repository as a spreadsheet, but I like the idea of using tags and making the information more broadly available – even if I’m the only one using it.

This issue of Kairos is all about multimodality, so no doubt sharper (and quicker) minds have already published what I had in mind. It’s exasperating when reading around unearths work that got to your ideas first, but also very necessary to acknowledge it (and maybe also to acknowledge that being first doesn’t have to be the most important thing about your work). So, I’ll be reading (and annotating for the mind palace) articles from the most recent Kairos and a webtext that they published in the fall by Claire Lauer about the terms multimedia/multimodal/digital/new media. Hopefully the pieces will help me narrow.

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