Academic journal article WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship

Multimodal Tutor Education for a Community in Transition

Academic journal article WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship

Multimodal Tutor Education for a Community in Transition

Article excerpt

As nonprint-based writing is becoming more common in classrooms and increasingly demanded in the workforce, writing centers must continue to adapt our services. To support multimodal writing at Rowan University, Celeste (Writing Center Director) and Rachael (Writing Arts department colleague and writing center ally) sought and received a $10,000 internal seed grant to develop a multiliteracy center at the Rowan Writing Center. In this transition, we needed to account for a range of familiarity and comfort with multimodality among both tutors and administrators. Through a "community-of-practice" approach to tutor education (Geller et. al), we offer a professional development model designed to ease our writing center into a multiliteracy center that supports multimodal writing. Opting for an organic approach to training as opposed to a top-down approach, we understood that our strongest leadership in some areas of multiliteracy tutor education, for instance, may not come from the director at all--rather, the tutors themselves offer unique experiences, talents, and skills that can and should shape our tutor preparation for multimodal sessions.

While multiliteracy centers typically support writers working on digital and multimodal as well as traditional texts, we wanted to include our tutoring staff in shaping, defining, and advancing the mission of our unique multiliteracy center (described below). As David Sheridan explains in Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric, "Multiliteracy centers should be spaces equal to the diversity of semiotic [meaning-making] options composers have in the 21st century" (6). Our staff reflects a rich diversity of experiences across semiotic resources that intermingle with their own identities. We believe, with Sarah Blazer, that "the diverse semiotic resources each of us brings to the lives we lead, to the work we try to accomplish daily, are fundamentally valuable and practically useful" (18). Activating what Gellar et al. call "identities in motion" (54), tutors draw on a range of individualized resources, including backgrounds in music, Photoshop, 3D printing, or even filmmaking, which they've gathered from educational contexts, hobbies shared with friends, internships, faith communities, family ties, and more. Tutors' unique experiences with multimodal writing across the visual, audio, gestural, and spatial modes form the basis of their own developing strategies in composing across meaning-making resources and cultural contexts. We drew from tutors' repertoires to support them as we shifted to a multiliteracy center, building a new vision from our collective strengths. In what follows, we describe how we took a communities-of-practice approach to building a multiliteracy center, how this approach was inspired by translingual and transmodal theory, and how we drew upon tutor leadership to support this transition for our staff.

OUR VISION: ALL BODIES. ALL VOICES. ALL WRITING.

Bill Cope and Mary Kalantz coined the term multiliteracies as a way to describe the opportunity and challenge of literacy pedagogy in a highly connected, global world. They argue that any conception of multiliteracies must include linguistic resources alongside the multimodal (25). Because we understand identity and language variety to be significant semiotic resources to be developed in multiliteracy center work, we envisioned our center to be rooted in translingual and transmodal values (described below) in order to best harness and support students' literate agency. That is, we wished to develop tutoring approaches and a center design that serve students as they read and write across modes, languages, and contexts. We also thought of our center as one that should promote inclusion, especially for students of color, neurodiverse students, and first-generation students, among others. While our three-pronged approach to the multiliteracy center--All Bodies. All Voices. …

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