The student's experience of multimodal assignments : play, learning, and visual thinking

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2012-12

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Nahas, Lauren Mitchell

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Abstract

Much of current pedagogical discussion of the use of multimodal assignments in the writing classroom argues that one benefit of such assignments is that they foster student engagement, innovation, and creativity while simultaneously teaching writing and argumentation concepts. Although such discussions rarely use the term “play,” play theorists consider engagement, innovation, creativity, and learning to be central characteristics and outcomes of play. Thus, what many scholars view as a major outcome of multimodal assignments might most accurately be described as playful learning. In order to investigate the validity of claims that playful learning is a product of multimodal assignments, this dissertation reports on the results of a comparative case study of four different classrooms that used multimodal assignments. The objective of the study was to better understand the students’ experience of these assignments because the students’ perspective is only represented anecdotally in the literature. The study’s research questions asked: Do students find these assignments to be playful, creative, or engaging experiences? Do they view these assignments as related to and supportive of the more traditional goals of the course? And what role does the visual nature of these technologies have in the student’s experience of using them or in their pedagogical effectiveness? Each case was composed of a different writing course, a different assignment, and a different multimodal computer technology. The results of the study show that students generally did find these assignments both enjoyable and useful in terms of the learning goals of the course. Many students even went so far as to describe them as fun, indicating that for some students these were playful experiences in the traditional sense. However, comparison of the results of each case illustrates that the simple injection of a multimodal assignment into the classroom will not necessarily create a playful learning experience for students. The students’ experience is a complex phenomenon that is impacted by the structure of the assignment, whether or not they are provided a space for exploration and experimentation, their attitude towards the technology, and the characteristics of the technology.

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