Today’s guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor of English and Digital Writing at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning and critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy, and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at email@example.com or visit her website: Acts of Composition.
One of the most valuable skill sets for students is collaboration. Multimodal tools open up opportunities for rich collaborative spaces that give students experience working together in productive ways. Digital collaboration also provides opportunities for engaged learning and the sharing of technological and design knowledge.
I emphasize this across all of my classes and group my students into Content Design Teams for the semester to encourage cohesive group identity along with an ongoing commitment and team responsibility. In these teams, students compose, review, and revise all kinds of interactive, non-linear digital projects such as blog posts, infographics, interactive feature articles, and videos. Students provide ongoing feedback on multimodal projects and work together to brainstorm and pitch ideas, form peer response groups, and write collaboratively for engaged team projects.
Below are some strategies and activities that promote group cohesion and productive digital collaboration for multimodal classrooms.
- Team Organization: Each team creates a Google Drive space for team organization, workshop feedback, and collaborative writing. Part of their work as writers is learning how to communicate, organize, and write in these , collaborative spaces. Students are responsible for attending and participating in all team meetings, managing the team communication, and evaluating their group members’ team participation and contributions. This sets them up nicely for professional, collaborative contexts that they will experience in the future. As the teacher, I can easily review their progress and accomplishments through shared folders and organized team space.
- Minutes – Team History and Resolution: Each team is required to record the happenings during their meetings with minutes. This teaches them how to record discussions, shape action items, and share their accomplishments with others. They learn to compose professional communication artifacts and about the importance of curating written documentation for historical accuracy. Doing this during the meeting (on a Google doc) provides an open space for members to refer back to in order to complete tasks, manage deadlines, and build community.
- Establishing Group Cohesion through Visual Identity: At the beginning of the term, students create a collaborative slideshow for their team files. Each student posts an individual picture (that represents their identity) and a short profile to introduce themselves. They also include contact information for their records to promote communication.
I also ask students use Team Selfies. This started by accident but led to some interesting discoveries. I was at a professional conference and had my students working in their content design teams while I was out of town. I got the idea to have them text me a group selfie while they were meeting. At first, it was a way of confirming students were meeting but it morphed into an important multimodal component in establishing group cohesion. I now have them take one each time they are meeting and incorporate it into their minutes or revision logs.
- Digital Revision Logs for Peer Response: Students meet together outside of class as a team for peer response sessions on their digital projects. Teams create a Google doc for each session that includes an image of their meeting (all attending members) and a list of suggestions for each review. Team members are prepared to offer lists of strengths along with revision suggestions. These Digital Revision Logs create a reference document that demonstrates participation in the process. After the meetings, each student refers back to the document, makes revisions, and then records their changes as a follow-up. This process of articulation reveals their writing choices and helps teachers see changes in their digital texts (since digital drafts are replaced upon revision).
- Team Evaluation: Having these documents and organizational spaces helps teachers evaluate collaborative work. So much of the valuable work happens when we are not around to view it. I have students evaluate each other’s performance two times during the semester with a team evaluation rubric and collaborative process reflections. I also use visual process reflections (described in detail in Multimodal Mondays: Digital Collaboration: Infographics as Process Reflections) where students visually represent their team’s processes and collaborative models. This level of accountability keeps students motivated along the way and helps them realize they are responsible for active participation and leadership roles.
This activity helps students take responsibility for their work and teaches them how to value the processes and tools that make up team organization. As a student, Tiffany Davis states, “The Content Design Teams help me get a more well-rounded feel for my creative articles. My team members help encourage and inspire me to become a better writer with their feedback and suggestions. Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying this process and workshop atmosphere.” Today, more than ever, students work in collaborative environments through remote access and teams that operate without physical presence. Our expectations for clear communication and cohesive teams will lead students to more productive collaborative work. Students will encounter many future academic and professional contexts that demand this knowledge and use of these digital skills.