Multimodal Mondays: Multimodality in the Time of Corona

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357121_KHK.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn, 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 or visit her website: Acts of Composition.

Inside, looking out -- Image-a-Day Challenge, April 2020

Inside, looking out -- Image-a-Day Challenge, April 2020

None of us could have imagined that we would be living the lives we are now. For teachers, the Corona Pandemic means moving our instruction online in record time. The impact has quickly and dramatically reshaped the ways we view education or, as Andreas Schleicher, head of education at the OECD reminds us, that “Real change takes place in deep crisis,” he says. “You will not stop the momentum that will build.” Luckily, we have many resources as teachers come together to ask important questions and share ideas such as the journal, Hybrid Pedagogy or the Facebook group, Pandemic Pedagogy (with close to 30,000 members and contributors) where “Educators, students, and others share insights, best (and worst) practices, advice, successes, challenges, and research about converting to fully online instruction during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” Despite the isolation, anxiety, and frustration, the pandemic has engaged us in teacher-talk and forced us to take a close look at our teaching practices. I have found renewed opportunities to brainstorm with teacher-friends and colleagues about new assignments and activities and the ways we might modify existing assignments to fit within our current context and cultural moment. Although we all feel a bit overwhelmed, it is a time for deep reflection on our teaching as we rethink our roles in this new instructional environment where everything is digital and . . . potentially multimodal. It is in this spirit that I decided to reflect upon and share some of my previous Multimodal Monday posts and offer a roundup of some assignments and activities to consider as we shape our classes for these new contexts.

Synchronous Virtual Gatherings – Zoom meetings, teamwork, class discussions – oh my! Although I already had many components of my class online, I had never tried to create virtual, synchronous classes. It is a challenge, but I was determined to maintain interactive discussions in this online environment. Thankfully, my students were already practiced in meaningful class discussions, productive teamwork, and peer response, so the shift to an online format was easier. I had my doubts, but we have managed to maintain the class vibe in these virtual settings. I have continued community building activities like Class Playlists and Digital Tools for Critical Reading that help students prepare for lively, connected discussion.

Community Engagement – I regularly incorporate community engagement projects in many of my classes. Those partnerships fell away as news from the pandemic spread. We had to regroup. I gave students opportunities to take ownership and create their own assignments to address community awareness and career preparedness. My Digital Storytelling class decided to create community awareness stories of the cultural and personal impact of the pandemic. My Careers in Writing class (who were originally going to engage in a professional writing and editing project) decided on Free Range Writing or Choose your Own Writing Adventure assignments in which they curated publication opportunities and went through the professional processes involved with submitting content for publication in digital spaces.

Image Assignments and Visual Rhetorics – I love multimodal image assignments, and they work well in online contexts. Students can curate for the Image-a-Day Challenge in which they capture daily images and perspectives for critical reflection. I also like the Digital Visual Series Assignment in which they create a series that represents the connections between artifacts and ideas. The pandemic has also brought with it memes and a slew of other digital content. Students can create their own memes that capture their cultural observations as they combine text and image to produce artifacts of cultural critique. We share these assignments during our virtual class meetings and create collaborative Grab and Go Galleries.

Time for Podcasts – What a great time for students to engage with podcasts in this Podcast Review Assignment. This multimodal assignment asks students to select and create a podcast series of at least five related episodes of a subject of their choosing. They listen and review a self-designed series in an interactive blog post in which they present an overview, review each episode, and connect to larger ideas through the lens of their own perspectives. They present their ideas in our virtual classroom for response and discussion.

Reflection on the Activities
If there is one thing we have come to understand through this struggle, it is that we are in the middle of a massive paradigm shift. We are pressed to look at our pedagogies and what we value in so many ways. Although we all want to return to normal, the reality is that we are creating a new normal that will be influenced by this defining time in our culture. Even though we have been dropped unprepared in unknown territory, we can embrace innovation and the freedom to experiment – to complicate, to reflect, and to share ideas with others during this time. Schleicher sees the potential value for students who “will take ownership over their learning, understanding more about how they learn, what they like, and what support they need. They will personalize their learning, even if the systems around them won’t. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle” (Anderson). It is clearly time for us to revisit our ideas on education and learning and to use these lessons to continue to provide meaningful experiences for our students. As teachers and students, we need to develop our digital literacies and multimodal skills to effectively communicate in these new rhetorical contexts and in our new world.

Anderson, Jenny. “The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Reshaping Education.” Quartz, Quartz, 31 Mar. 2020,

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.