On Friday my students and I reached the next 'pit-stop' in the journey we have undertaken this semester- creating new forms of multimodal texts (new to us, anyway). This time, it was multimodal poetry with my year 10's. We finished off the year with a unit on 'poetry'- one of the few spots on the workplan that classes were free to follow any direction we chose (basically because it was the first time that poetry had taken a prominent spot in our year 10 course). Just about every class went in a different direction, but I decided that I wanted to get my students to question some of the assumptions that my students were making about what poetry actually is and who poetry speaks to and for. To do this, I introduced them to a whole range of multimedia poetry that was created, in one or another, using computer technology.
They fell in love with these concrete poems by Dan Waber, particularly 'Arms', 'poidog' and 'HaHa'. My favourite was the strange and absorbing 'The Last Day of Betty Nkomo' by Young Hae-Chang. And 'Oh' was lots of fun to investigate, because it is interactive. I projected the poem on the electronic whiteboard, and a couple of students came up to see if they could figure out how to 'read' it.
Anyway, this had followed on from some discussions about various music videos and what the images added to the lyrics. After we had explored quite a diverse range of multimedia poetry by various poets, for assessment, students had to choose a poem (from a collection of poetry books) and create a multimedia interpretation of it. They could use MovieMaker or PowerPoint for this, and all except one group elected to use MovieMaker. On Friday, we had a 'screening' of sorts, where they introduced and explained how they had interpreted their poem and what they wanted to convey through the images, movie clips, voice overs, music, effects and animation that they had used.
I really wasn't sure what to expect, even though I had been working with them on their projects for about a week. The 'process' leading up to this 'screening' had been really enjoyable in lots of ways. Doing this for the first time- with students who had never done anything like this in an English classroom- it had felt really.... 'creative' and 'generative' and 'spontaneous' and 'freeing' and 'unruly' and... it became difficult to pin down exactly what was going on in my classroom during these past two weeks! I do know that the 'outcomes' that I had in mind when I devised the task had shifted in some ways by the time the students presented, although I couldn't tell you exactly when my expectations had shifted. And, as I watched the final versions of their multimedia poems, I realised that some of the most interesting 'learning' that had occurred in terms of what the students had produced was quite different to what I had intended- some of the more interesting things that were happening in their 'short films' had more to do with narrative than poetry per se. And I'm finding that fascinating to think about, although I haven't really come to any conclusions about it all yet. I'm not sure if it was to do with software used- Windows MovieMaker- or not. Unfortunately, I'm unable to explain all of this to you without you actually seeing the multimedia poems and filling you in about the different 'journeys' that a number of my students in particular went on. Anyway, suffice to say that that was a great start to the day, and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of them on Friday.