Writing Across Technology (WAT) at UConn is an initiative designed to teach rhetorical composition practices with a diverse range of technologies and communicative modes. Composition that uses more than one mode of communication is called multimodal. The New London Group (1996) describes “five modes through which meaning is made: linguistic, aural, visual, gestural, and spatial. Any combination of modes makes a multimodal text, and all texts—every piece of communication a human composes—use more than one mode. Thus, all writing is multimodal” (Ball and Charlton, 2016, p. 42). We live in a world where it is increasingly common to encounter and produce writing that is multimodal and mediated by diverse technologies. It is important for teachers of writing to help students strategize and think critically about the synergy that is created when they compose through multiple modes as well as the technologies they use to compose.
Technology, however, need not mean digital necessarily. All writing, even alphabetic writing with a pencil and paper, is still a technology, one that has diverse applications and uses multiple modes. Writing Across Technology invites students and instructors to consider the rhetorical implications of composing with a variety of other technologies: video, audio recording, oral speeches, photographs, body language, captioning, sculpture, hypertext, interactive games, comics, etc. Multimodal composition technologies have changed the ways we write, the way we read, and the way we access texts. It is important for students to become aware of these changes through the practice of composing.
FYW instructors are encouraged to make multimodal Writing Across Technology a part of the course throughout the semester. Besides using texts that are multimodal as readings, instructors should ask students to produce multimodal texts with a variety of technologies. The NCTE Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies more specifically highlights the importance of writing across technologies and modes.