Highlights from the 6th International Conference on Multimodality

London, Institute of Education, on 22-24th Aug 2012 between the two Olympics…the 6th International Conference on Multimodality

prezi digital pens

Link to the presentation file in Prezi

The international crowd, with a strong Scandinavian presence, kick-started a 3-day jam-packed conference on multimodality.

I presented Muriah Umoquit and my work  on using digital pens for drawing in interview elicitation:

My personal highlights, or learning points were:

  • the concept of ‘frozen action’ (e.g. the deserted classroom with its arrangements and artefacts such as books lying around can tell us many things that happened in that classroom with regards to learning).
  • an interesting study about spaces for learning in lectures by Maria Leijon, who observed how space between lecturers and students in a lecture theatre influenced students’ likelihood of contribution, (‘safe distances’ vs too much distance).
  • Arlene Archer talking about social justice and multimodal pedagogy in Cape Town, Africa.
  • there was a brilliantly interactive session about maths learning of children and how the powerpoints they produced were (or were not) ‘signs of learning’; which we were asked to debate. I like the idea of ‘signs of learning’
  • Prof Newfield talked about ‘transmodal moments’ , a liminal moment in which a shift takes place when two (or more) modes cross ; when a previous notion is ‘undone and remade in another form’.
  • I loved the idea of the Kairos multimodal journal who works with authors to produce multimodal texts, i.e. “academic articles” whose argument is expressed not just in the mode of writing but in the kind of form that yield itself to the relevant argument, for instance via hypertext or images or video.
  • Di Mavers talked about children’s “errors” in drawing and writing – and how these errors are not realy errors but products of their meaning-making, displaying their current interests.
  • Rachel Weiss, From South Africa,  gave a brilliant insight into how multimodal techniques can be used in the curriculum, in her instance with medical students learning about communication and patient-centred care. Rachel asks her students to interview a patient and then develop a specific health promotion leaflet (in this case for rheumatic heart disease) for that particular patient. The resulting artefacts were brilliant! A single page calendar for a drug-user who fails to turn up even to the clinic times, a story to tell her children for a mum who doesn’t have time for her own illness but for her children and so on!
  • There were many more but it’s difficult to list them all!

I have spent the 3 days of conference trying to explain to my friend who works in business what multimodality is about. Gunther Kress’ plenary helped me out: multimodality is about “there is more than speech and writing….that has consequences for [substitute your own field, in my case it’s: learning or educational research]. He described it in his plenary close as a church where “we” are all interested in the same (multimodality) but also having different sects, operating in different contexts  and bearing different interpretations on the various concepts of it. Of course, Carey Jewitt’s edited book on  The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis, which is well worth consulting!

One of the good side effects of attending was that it has helped me formulate more thoughts on a potential PhD topic.

Tünde

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