Learning the Disciplinary Language and Literacies of Multimedia Composition

Learning the Disciplinary Language and Literacies of Multimedia Composition

Deborah Kozdras, James R. King, Jenifer Schneider
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4345-1.ch021
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In this chapter, the authors describe four adolescent students’ participation in a digital video summer camp. They describe the students’ acquisition of moving-image composition strategies and how these processes are connected to acquiring new vocabulary. The authors examine the camp practices through a lens of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and use this perspective to guide data analysis. Through observations, interviews, and videos, they identify the various activity systems necessary to teach filmmaking, and use examples from one group to illustrate how boundary crossings shift expertise to students. The authors describe the following: (1) the “third space” (i.e., between counselor and student motives), (2) “networked space” (i.e., among different multiliteracy systems), and (3) “shifted spaces” where boundaries are not just crossed, but actually create a shift in expertise or perspective. The authors discover a mediated learning approach that helps students effectively use filmmakers’ words as tools. The camp structure is a model of apprenticeship into a discipline through its language and multiliteracies.
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The following scene occurred during a summer film camp while a group of adolescent boys produced a James Bond-like short film. As they brought their scripts and storyboards to action, a professional photojournalist from one of the local television stations filmed the boy’s process for a feature on the evening news. After observing the students for several minutes, the photojournalist tapped Deborah, the lead researcher, on the shoulder and said, “Hey, did you hear these kids talking? I can’t believe the language they’re using!”

Yes, she heard the language the students were using. No, it was not “bad” language. Rather, the students were using his language: the language of film.

The man whispered, “These kids are after my job! I can’t believe how fluent they are with the terminology. They sound like university film students! Check them out.” And so Deborah did. This is what she heard from a group of four middle school boys:

  • Len:I’d like that to be a low-angle shot.

  • Jared:Is that what we planned on the storyboard?

  • Len:No. But I think the low-angle shot makes you look more cool and powerful, like the hero. You know, how in a movie you see the hero come in larger than life.

  • Ned:Yeah, what’s that called…fore…

  • Len:Foreshadowing

  • Jared:Then maybe we can start with a low-angle shot and then a close-up of me on the phone.

  • Cameron:Oh yeah. Like in the script (turns to Ned). Can we see the script?

  • Ned:(holding up the script and pointing) Yeah, Jared. Here it is. In the actions, we wrote ‘answer your cell phone looking cool.’ And then in the dialogue, you say, “Talk to me.”

  • All:Yeah!

In this scene, the boys used film language with facility and ease. They “sounded” like film students because the discourse of film was at play. However, the discourse was also enacted as the youth worked seamlessly across media and print-based texts to create and compose a multimodal product that reflected their sense of story, character-development, and cinematic knowledge. These boys were not merely “at play,” approximating filmmakers’ behaviors; instead, the boys were actively changing their cognitive stances and conceptions of visual literacy through their use of media tools.

In this chapter, we describe these students’ acquisition of moving image literacies as the language (Metz, 1974) and syntax (Monaco, 1977/2000) of film and we explicate the complex multimodal processes involved in moving-image composition and how these processes are connected to acquiring new vocabulary. We also trace the students’ language acquisition to the instructional elements of the film camp in which the counselors created opportunities for the students to become fluent with and embody the language and literacies of filmmaking.

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