There are several problems in getting multimodal studies recognized as a legitimate direction to take current freshman compositions classes: 1) Why is it even desirable to teach students to use not only text, but also images, sound, etc.? 2) Why should we as composition teachers teach these modalities, instead of leaving it to those who know it best, ie. the art, communications, music or design departments? 3) Does learning multimodalities add to or detract from the learning of alphabetic writing? How so? Yet it is very important that the study of multimodal composition be studied because students nowadays were be increasingly using these skills in the work-force after college and they are coming to school already literate to the multimodalities surrounding them.
Students need to learn to use multimodalities partially because it is so relevant to their lives, but this is not to say that this is something new. There has always been other modalities involved even when working with “just text” – in formating, fonts and colors, even without illustrations, diagrams or graphs factored in. Rather, what is newer is the digital communication technologies, the unbelievable access that students have to these programs and the ease which with they can be learned. And so, with not having to have extensive training in programs such as Photoshop and Indesign (and other such programs), our composition teachers can – and should – be the ones to teach the students. Not only can the ideas of rhetoric be applied to learning multimodalities, but we can also help students to look at their works critically and in social and ethical spheres. And lastly, multimodal composition does add to the learning of alphabetic writing in the same way it always has – it provides an outlet to sketch out ideas or connect meanings that can only help when they are again writing in alphabetic ways.
Multimodal composition should play as much a factor in our composition classes as any other pedagogy. It certainly has a past and also a very real future. There’s no real way to argue with that, is there?