Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Multimedia literacy in the academy

By Guest Blogger Hanna Lee

Hello world! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything, and when Shannon asked me to be a guest blogger for the next few weeks, I jumped at the chance. I’m a little less than mid-way through my two-year residency at the Student Multimedia Design Center (SMDC) at the University of Delaware Library, and one of my long-term goals is to be able to articulate how multimodal composing practices can align with the goals of the library and scholarly community. Some may question the place of a multimedia design center within an academic library setting. However, I firmly believe that scholarship is moving in this direction, and that the library can play an integral part in it. Students are very used to seeing multimedia content in entertainment—in music videos, YouTube videos, social networking sites, and so on. The academic world needs to think critically about how digital media can be used for its own purposes—to engage students in deep scholarly exploration, to probe ideas, to further thought.

I first got a taste of this as a graduate student in the Writing Studies program at the University of Illinois, where I took an experimental course called Writing withVideo. The following semester, I was asked to teach the undergraduate section of it. It was a hybrid sort of course that some people had a hard time wrapping their minds around—at least back in the day. An art class where students get advanced composition credit? A writing class where students make videos? The course was designed to “engage students in a comprehensive exploration of creative inquiry, self-reflection, social engagement, and media production. Directed writings in concert with video production projects allow students to experience an integrated process of thinking, creating, and problem-solving.” Taking and teaching the course stretched me in so many ways, and changed the way I viewed writing, media, and scholarly engagement for good.

All of this to say that I was super excited to see this recent Chronicle of Higher Education article: “Across More Classes, Videos Make the Grade.” It describes the various multimedia projects that professors from different institutions have begun assigning their students, and how some colleges and universities are considering adding multimedia literacy as a core skill required for graduation. The article even mentions how librarians have been quick to see the trend, with the Association of College and Research Libraries drafting its first visual-literacy standards. It includes how students should be able to "design and create meaningful images and visual media." This is definitely a step in the right direction. The Writing with Video class doesn’t seem as experimental now as it did five years ago when it first started, and I think people are understanding more and more the need for students to be able to critically communicate and engage in this networked world that we live in. I don’t know if we’re completely there yet in terms of fully addressing the need for multimedia literacy, but it’s a step in the right direction.


  1. Why shouldn't a library include a multimedia design center? Libraries have always provided access to resources and media of all kinds, as well as information and instruction on how to do many different kinds of things. Libraries are centers of independent learning and creating end products, whether they be papers or multi-media presentations. Libraries also teach patrons/students how to become savvy users of information in all its forms. I think the library is the perfect place for a multimedia design center!

  2. Totally with you Gina! Thanks for the comment :)