Conclusion and References

A drawing of a handshake A pencil scribbling a line An open laptop Five interlocking circles symbolizing the five canons of rhetoric Four hands reaching out to meet in the middle A computer with speech bubbles on the screen A profile view of a face with an open mouth to indicate speech A person with shoulder-length hair looking at their reflection in the mirror Interlocking puzzle pieces

Despite the nuance of some students' syntheses, which tied together key concepts in our eTC curriculum (Memory, reflection, community), many students retained a tendency to remain stuck in surface-level or regurgitative modes of thought, as some segments of the discussion board video we shared demonstrate. But, as we stressed in the Portfolio video shared on the Metacognitive Synthesis page, there are a few areas in which individual students were able to go deeper. We'll list here a few examples as we conclude to indicate habitual regurgitation as well as the kind of "deeper" and perhaps more perceptive integrative/community-focused engagement with Memory we're hoping to foster through our course design.

Certainly, some student remarks reveal the persistence of basic concepts of Memory:

What encourages us in this research is that some remarks indicated reflective and integrated understandings of Memory, of Memory as symbolic (akin to the semiotic multivalence of the images that have helped you to navigate this webtext). Specifically, we are encouraged by the complex ways in which the discussion prompt moved students toward community-creation; many students cited one another, revealing an integration of others' knowledge as a constitutive component of one's own. Also, some students interpreted Memory as more about the ability to reflect, and they spoke of being able to create/apply new knowledge based on that reflection. Some students emphasized reflection leading to a future ability to analyze, so the mode of Memory as reflection is creating an ability to see previously learned knowledge and skills in more useful, integrated, multidimensional (even multimodal) ways later. Interestingly, one student noted the risk of Memory, in terms of bias (we were pleased to see an awareness of pros and cons from a student). Finally, students saw Memory as integral to the purpose of education; it allowed skills and reflections to scaffold, thus creating more purpose (as opposed to monotony or generic drill/kill approaches to education).

The multimodal application of students' situatedness within 21st-century communities is what we hope to stress in our work with them. In light of our objective to support community-building in the online technical communication classroom, we want our pedagogical design to reinforce to students the fact that most communities now rely on some multimodal means of communication, which they certainly know. Our goal is to help them develop the interpretive and practical skills required to lead in these communities as thoughtful integrators of multiple communication modalities, designed conscientiously to connect to multiple populations of co-workers, local community neighbors, and remote social network members.

As we unite at this webtext's close the main themes of our student learning outcomes, online technical communication pedagogy, and the relationship between these and the rhetorical canons as used in our curriculum, some might wonder, well, why the focus on Memory throughout our course and in this study? What do students gain—specifically—through a curricular deployment of this rhetorical concept, relative to metacognition as enabled by the multimodal pedagogy of a 16-week online class? As we've pointed out here, our integration of multimodal reflective discussion board opportunities for students gave them experience responding to a concept they previously (typically) considered unidimensionally, in that Memory to students signaled remembering and was not connected to the distinctive and complex temporalities of learning: a complex web of past, present, and future learning scenarios that emerge through various engagements, with other students, with members of one's work and social communities, and in written, audial, visual, and other modalities. A concentration on the rhetorical canon of Memory allowed us to frame technical writing instruction in such a way that students ultimately worked and played with multiple concepts related to our learning outcomes—and they worked and played with others in community-constitutive interactions, learning with and from each other.

The notions of "work" and "play" are apt to close with. They align with students' perceptions of coursework, that it is decidedly more like work, because they are obligated to perform tasks to receive a grade, than it is like play. But, as the Memory Game iconography used navigationally throughout this article, most prominently on our landing and overview pages, suggests, what at times seems simple (and, yes, the Memory game has been historically marketed to children as a way to sharpen spatial memorization through play) is often available to more nuanced and capacity-building engagement. Pedagogical incorporations of Memory—specifically, students grappling multimodally with this concept through classroom-community interactions—allow us to unlock the transformative and expanded capacity of concepts we all thought we knew: Memory, work, play, community, and communication.


We would like to thank the audience members of our panel "Multimodality as Advocacy: How Today's Communicators Create and Enter 21st Century Communities" at the 2016 ATTW annual meeting in Houston, Texas, for their valuable feedback on an early version of this project. We would also like to thank our copanelist from this presentation, Andrew Bourelle. Thanks go to Doug Eyman for his valuable insights on the development of the webtext for this study. Chuck Paine deserves commendation for his insights on deepening aspects of this project that connect theory to sample student work, particularly as it concerns reflection.

The HTML for this webtext was hand-coded by Julianne Newmark and all illustrations are her original work.


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