Multimodal writing recognizes that composition is more than just producing words. Writing is evolving beyond ink and pencils, and the nature of text is exploding to include multimodal elements of audio, video, images, games and non linear structures.
Multimodal writing is connected, collaborative, driven by feedback and not done in isolation. Supports and tools for this kind of writing help to refine not only how to support learners, but how sharing and storytelling is moving beyond just the traditional written word.
One way to support non-linear thinking and help student express and organize ideas with pictures, links, and connections is with MindMup, a collaborative, cloud based mindmapping tool.
MindMup is available at http://www.mindmup.com/. It can connect to you Google Drive for storage, sharing and collaborative options, but it can also be stored and accessed on Dropbox and Github. This cloud based collaborative option sets it apart from many other mindmapping tools. Through the Extensions option a user can turn on the collaborative feature. It isn’t on as a default to save processing and loading time, but is easy to do when you turn it on.
Choose Extensions from the top menu and then check the box by the Realtime Collaboration Extension. There are other helpful extensions on this menu including a progress tool and alternate line tool if the curved connectors are visual confusing.
This adds a new tab called collaboration When you click on it up pops a regular Google Drive type charing window to add other collaborators. If you aren’t using the Chrome browser where you automatically sign in to Google, it will prompt you to do so here.
In the collaborators Google account, a new file now exists in Shared With Me in their Drive and an email is sent if this option is selected. They will have to accept Mindmap to be added to Google Drive if they haven’t already.
When the other person is working on the MindMup their profile image pops up beside the node they are working on!
MindMup is a fantastic Assistive Technology (AT) support because it allows students to quickly get out ideas with a minimum of words and time. It is very multimodal as you can drag and drop images, add hyperlinks, and create a map of ideas, a narrative, or non fiction fact collection with a visual tool. As a visual thinking tool it can help create connections, correlations, and facilitate easier communication and expression.
MindMup is a new tool, with great features, but it has it’s places that it could be stronger. The constraints of the tool right now are it doesn’t have a direct way to add videos other than to hyperlink. When you paste a link it does make it active and clickable, and adds a link icon, but the video isn’t embedded, it opens in a new window. The ability to add and change colours is available, but it could be easier as right now you have to click on a node, then change the colour. You can choose select all siblings or select all children to change the colour of a group of nodes at once. Once you insert a photo you can’t resize it at the moment, which is a problem with a large image, it needs to be resized before it is inserted. Inserting a properly sized image is easy though, you can drag and drop it in, then link it to other nodes afterwards. You can add text over images, which is helpful as you can add background images to nodes.
MindMup is free and you can use it without a Google account, but the collaborative feature requires students to have Google accounts. This can be a person Google account, but for those learners under the age of 13 this would require a Google Apps for Education Domain. The base level of MindMup is free, but if you are not saving to your Google Drive space you are limited to 100KB. With a MindMup Gold Subscription of $25 USD/year you get up to 1GB of storage, which can be linked to multiple accounts, such as a group of students in your class. If you save to Google Drive you aren’t saving on their servers so it remains free. As student work is saved on cloud servers, whether it is a Google Drive Dropbox, Github or MindMup server, considerations of privacy need to be examined. Google Apps for Education servers are controlled by a school jurisdiction, and as such are more private and controlled, but students and teachers need to be careful about what kinds of personal data they might be putting on their mindmaps if they are not shared privately.
MindMup allows for creative, nonlinear, collaborative multimodal writing across the cloud on a variety of tools. Consider it as a tool for supporting learners who might struggle with traditional text creation or any learner who wants to express or create in a different medium.
Kaizena – https://kaizena.com/
Kaizena is a feedback tool to collaboratively add sound, links, images and feedback to writing. Students can write in the cloud using the Google Documents tool which lives in Google Drive. It is a cloud based word processor which allows for traditional text based writing, but also allows for easy insert of images and video. It is collaborative in nature. With a click of the Share button users can write together from different places and different machines. This means students with writing difficulties can use the tool which best suits them and still work with other learners.
Kaizena further enhances this tool by adding more feedback and markup options. After a doc has been created and populated with content (whether that is text, photos. or videos) you open the document in the Kaizena tool. There are several ways to open the document in the tool.
In a Google Apps for Education Domain Kaizena can be added as a shortcut to the Apps list if a user signs in through Google Chrome. You can also get into the tool by going to the Kaizena site at https://kaizena.com. You will have to log into a Google Account. Then you can choose add document or add folder as appropriate.
It can also be directly added to Google Docs through the recently added Add-ons options. You can add Kaizena as an Add-on, then you can choose to open a created doc in Kaizena through the Add-ons menu.
Once the document is open in Kaizena, this is where you can get creative. You can click on a word and up pops a menu to add voice, text or tags. In the text box you can type ideas or comments. With the microphone you can record your own voice to provide feedback or add a different audio element to the text. The tag feature is great for adding links to videos, other documents or webpages.
Once the audio, comments, and links have been added on the sidebar choose the feedback receiver from the list of people the document is already shared with. You can choose to post the feedback as a link in the doc or email them the link.
The addition of sound allows students with writing, processing or visual problems to be able to add and receive comments or audio elements to writing. These elements can be added by the author, a peer editor, or a teacher. Anyone who you can share a document with can get the feedback. This makes the collaborative and sharing elements strong. You shared through the Google environment.
Currently the tool is new and you have to open your doc in a completely different program to add the voice, tag and comment feedback or multimodal features, which is a constraint. If voice comments and audio embedding were part of the Google document tool, instead of having to open it separately, it would be easier as opening and adding the audio elements would require fewer steps. Other constraints are requiring a microphone for audio comments, whether a headset or built in microphone. You have to allow access to the microphone the first time, which may require a few clicks to get activated. You can’t directly embed video, but you can link to videos easily through the tag option.
Users do need to have a Google account and feedback can only be shared with those with Google accounts as they have to be shared with on the document. As with other cloud tools, considerations of privacy and what data is appropriate in the cloud are relevant. Age restrictions are in place. For those under 13, Google Apps for Education accounts need to be created, but if you are over 13 a regular Gmail account can be used. At a district level direct access to the app can be added to the app shortcuts and permission to use add-ons must be granted at the administration level in the Google Apps for Education control panel to be able to access the add-on shortcut.
Kaizena is a tool to allows users to add multimodal elements to a cloud based writing document. It takes the idea of a user typing on a machine to a user working with others on a document, then being able to add audio, feedback, and hyperlinked elements. It enhances the writing experience and makes it accessible to more learners.
Prezi – http://prezi.com/
If you are stuck in the serial, linear model that writing in a word processor or presentation tool can create, try using the presentation tool Prezi to write a story. Prezi allows for text, image, video, and sound to be grouped and scaled. You can create a pathway through elements, as you would in a presentation to create a story. I have used this idea with students, and some examples of Prezi Storytelling and planning are here: http://www.trailsoptional.com/2010/03/digital-storytelling-with-prezi/ with images below.
Prezi is a click and create tool, you can add minimal or larger chunks of text. You can embed links, video, images and other files right into the canvas to help to create your ideas or story. It is a collaborative tool. You can add other users to help you create live at the same time.
There are great templates to give you ideas or you can start blank, select a colour palette, or theme and create! Recently spell check features were added to the tool, which is a handy feature when using text. Prezi keeps adding more features and functionality. You can edit on a desktop program now, with a paid premium license. You can add voice overs, create diagrams, add frames to group ideas and media together, and even import from Power Point. This is a great feature because it takes something more traditional and static and allows you to add more multimedia and visual elements.
The constraints of the tool are that you have to create an account to sign in. Student and teachers get free Enjoy level accounts, which gives access to more premium features and cloud based storage space. To access the free education level students need to use an email address that is a school domain. So the email address needs to match the school website address to verify that they are legitimate education users. According to the Terms of Service of Prezi, users must be 13 and users under 18 must have parental permission. When I used the tool with my students I had signed permission forms, much like a field trip permission form, to use the tool. Prezi uses Adobe flash so that tool needs to be updated and the plugin installed. There is an iPad Prezi app, which does not require Flash, which allows users to not only view, but create Prezis on the iPad or iPhone. There is a Prezi Google chrome app, but it is simply a link to the Prezi sign in page.
Prezi adds movement and zoomable scale. This are unique features to give writing more dynamic elements. Learners can create and express themselves in a very visual and creative way. For learners with trouble writing words visuals can be put together in a path to tell a story. The path can be linear or can vary in size and movement can be added. Because Prezi is visually intensive it may be a good choice for students with a hearing impairment. Various visual elements could help create mood or setting that might be restricted when trying to create a video or other audio rich multimedia writing project. The tool is user friendly with drag and drop photo and file adding, click and type elements and it saves automatically as you create. Try it for your learners who are trying to add visual elements to their storytelling.
Kaizena. (2014). Kaizena. Retrieved from https://kaizena.com/
MindMup.com. (2013). MindMup: Zero-friction free online mind mapping. Retrieved from http://www.mindmup.com/
Prezi Inc. (2014). Prezi. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/