Multimodal Mondays: Critically Thinking About Digital Copyright Gives Students Low-Stakes Writing Opportunities

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Bohannon_Pic-150x150.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Jeanne Law Bohannon (see end of post for bio).

This summer I have written about flipped classroom models and dialogic discussion forums in an effort to open up potential for what “doing multimodal” can mean across varied curricula.  In my last summer post, I want to bring this discussion full-circle with a low-stakes assignment about digital copyright that can be tweaked to work at the beginning, middle, or end of a course.  And, like I always advocate, instructors don’t have to be specialists on the subject or experts in multimodal text production to elicit metacognition and rhetorical growth in students. We just have to be willing to explore the subject with them.


Issues of copyright have long been interrogated in writing classrooms.  As early as 1996, Andrea Lunsford and Susan West challenged writing teachers to re/envision copyright in terms of public, collaborative writing and to reimagine what authorship means in digital writing spaces. Following Andrea’s lead, I think that offering students the opportunity to muddle around in the copyright swamp not only makes them more sensible digital content creators, it also makes them stakeholders in their own writing outside of the classroom, where public, crowd-sourced writing is increasingly common across a diversity of digital platforms.


After reading texts (noted below) and paying special attention to Henry Jenkins responses and current issues with independent artists, think about creative commons and copyright licensing of digital writing.  Draft a digital document (podcast, video, animation, etc.) that synthesizes your argument of each concept and situates you as a scholar within this issue.  Then, view and evaluate what your colleagues have posted. Note: this was an assignment for graduate students but can be modified for undergraduate courses.

Goals and Measurable Learning Objectives

  • Articulate arguments for and against creative commons publishing.
  • Create a digital production as an argument for creative commons or copyrighted publication.
  • Evaluate yours and others’ positions on digital copyright issues.

Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of meaningful, textual performances are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in democratic, digital writing assignments. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.


In Class and Out

In addition to reading our handbook’s explanation of academic integrity and discussing what that means for emerging writers, we tackle the hallmark, government text DMCA and several introductory articles about how academic integrity in the classroom transforms into copyright in public writing.  These include Henry Jenkins blogposts on individual copyright issues and the Digital Media Law Project, as well as applications of copyright with Creative Commons and Digital Commons. I prefer to front-load the content, especially in a face-to-face course, and assign it first as a lower-level Bloom's Understanding behavior. At the next class meeting, we perform a dialogic, participatory lecture as a whole group about our content understandings.  Then, we explore our individual content synthesis by creating videos that depict our own “takes” of digital copyright. I have included what students produced here. These are public videos, so please feel free to cross-post and use them in your own classes.

Examples of Digital Copyright Synthesis

John Mindiola on Born-Digital Documents & Copyright

Kris Spadaccia Defends Artists' Rights in Digital Spaces

Nathan Atkins on Creative Commons

Reflections on the Activity – Students

Here are some excerpts from students regarding their experiences with producing low-stakes videos to synthesize the concepts related to digital copyright:

My Reflection

For me, low-stakes writing opportunities are just that – “no worry” opportunities, where students can flex their rhetorical muscles and create pieces that are both meaningful and evocative. Multimodal productions stretch their creativity even further.  Exploring copyright issues by creating video texts to create metacognition opportunities “counts” for me, in terms of multimodal composition, because it encourages students to use digital tools to become active stakeholders in their own learning and active participants in community-driven, new media conversations. Try out the assignment, use my students’ videos if you want (they’re public), and let me know what you think.

Guest blogger Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) department at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Reach Jeanne at and

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About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.