Multimodal Mondays: Prezis and Source Use: Engaging in a Multimodal Annotated Bibliography

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This blog was originally posted on March 23rd, 2015.

Jessie Miller is a Master’s Candidate in Written Communication at Eastern Michigan University, where she teaches first-year composition and consults in the University Writing Center. In her Master’s project, she uses discourse analysis to analyze the language First-Year Writing instructors use in assignment sheets where they ask their students to compose digitally. Her research (and her Master’s degree) will be completed in April 2015.

Since I began teaching, I have been increasingly interested in the role technology plays in the composition classroom. Last year at Cs, I presented a digital pedagogy poster on how I engaged with social media and technology in my classroom. For one of the large projects of the semester I assigned a multimodal transformation of my students’ research essays. They had to re-envision their essay on a social media platform of their choosing (i.e. Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). As I worked through this assignment with my class, I found myself negotiating the affordances and limitations of each platform with my students. Digital multimodal projects, I had realized, could easily become unwieldy.

So this year, I decided to thematize my first-year writing class around “new media” and its role in composition. Instead of having one large multimodal project at the end of the semester, I integrated several multimodal elements on an incremental basis throughout the semester, one of which I want to share with you today: “The Prezi Presentation,” a multimodal version of an annotated bibliography.


The goal of this assignment was to get students to see source use as an engaging and active practice.


For the second unit in my class, my students write an 8-10 page essay I call “The Rhetorical Research Argument.” In it, they pick a topic under the theme of “new media” and contribute to the discourse (or debate) surrounding that topic. Since their arguments must be rhetorically compelling, we naturally spent several weeks discussing effective source use before they began writing their essays. This discussion built up to “The Prezi Presentation,” a low-stakes in-class presentation conducted in small groups. Instead of completing a traditional annotated bibliography, I had my students use Prezi to visually map the relationship between their sources.

The guidelines for the presentation were as follows:

  1. Introduce the topic you plan to discuss in your essay
  2. Provide your specific thesis statement
  3. Discuss/Integrate the 7 (on a minimum) different sources you plan to integrate into your essay (you have creative freedom with how they introduced the sources, so this could be done in a number of ways)
  4. Provide a brief explanation of how you plan to use these sources to support your essay’s claims

         1. This should include some specific examples from the source’s text (i.e. Direct quotes or paraphrases)

   5.  Provide a brief explanation of how the sources relate to one another

          1. For example, which sources support one another? Which sources disagree?

I told my students that they had creative liberty over the design of the presentation and the way in which they introduced their information (ex. Reading a quote versus pasting it directly into the Prezi). I also asked that they try to stay under ten minutes, but that was a loose estimate.

Instead of grafting a quote or two from a source, my students used a visual display of information to map out the interplay between their sources. I chose Prezi as the platform for this assignment because it does not have to be constructed linearly. In an essay, students won’t necessarily use sources in a linear way; instead, many sources have relationships to one another—they “talk to” one another. I wanted my students to use Prezi to help illuminate those connections for them.

In-Class Preparation
I introduced this project two weeks ahead of time. One the day I first introduced it, I provided laptops for my students and showed them how to use Prezi. Then, for homework I had my students write a journal entry in their Google Drive folder in which they responded to the following questions:

  1. Write down the title of each of your sources and provide the URL if it’s an online source.
  2. Write a 1-2 sentence summary of each source, then provide two paraphrased passages, and finally provide two direct quotations.
  3. At the end of the journal entry, write a paragraph in which you answer: How do these sources relate to one another? How will I use them in my essay?

This journal entry provided much of the framework for their Prezi.

During our next class period, we had an in-class workday where my students got feedback on their works-in-progress. Then, on the presentation day, I put students into groups of three or four, and each took turns presenting their Prezi while the other students graded them based on a rubric created from the assignment guidelines listed above.

Here are some student samples:

Internet Linguistics by student Keinan Slater

Citizen Journalism by student David Finquelievich

Children Learning from Apps by student Andrea Murphy

As I walked around the classroom while my students were giving their presentations, I was surprised to see how interactive my students were. Instead of sitting there silently during a presentation, students in the group often asked questions and offered feedback during the presentation itself. Likewise, the presenters would explain their sources, while also asking for help or direction as needed. As an instructor, I played little part in this final presentation day. I let my students work independently, which built their self-efficacy and helped shape their peer-to-peer relationships.

I am pleased with the results of this assignment. After the Prezi presentations, my students wrote a half draft of their essay, and in them they are already demonstrating a strong command of their sources. I am excited to see how their writing will progress from here.

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to for possible inclusion in a future post.

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.