Lecture: On Anderson’s “The Low Bridge to High Benefits”

In “The Low Bridge to High Benefits: Entry-Level Multimedia, Literacies, and Motivation,” Daniel Anderson makes an argument for assigning multimedia projects drawing from what we know about the connections between literacy and motivation. Anderson begins his article with a quote from The New London Group which explains that for learning to occur, there must be both motivation to learn and a belief that what is being learned can be used in a way that is of interest to the learner.1 Anderson argues that incorporating what he calls “low bridge” multimedia technologies and assignments can help us construct assignments that teach rhetorical skills in ways that are meaningful to students and offer value beyond the immediate context of an assignment produced for a grade.2

In making this argument, Anderson is not suggesting that we “dumb down” the curriculum or abandon alphabetic and traditional academic literacies. Far from it. What Anderson is doing, instead, is drawing from scholarship on motivation, learning, and literacy to develop a pedagogical practice informed by what we know about how to create successful learning environments for students. In doing so, Anderson is actively seeking to create composition and literature classes that serve a gateway function rather than a gatekeeper function, just as Kathleen Blake Yancey asks us to do in the second quartet of “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key.” Recognizing that many students are part of the 21st century writing public Yancey describes, Anderson uses multimedia assignments and multimedia literacies to help prepare students to use all the available means of production and persuasion in their personal, academic, professional, and civic lives.

Below are links to some of the student work Anderson discusses in “The Low Bridge to High Benefits: Entry-Level Multimedia, Literacies, and Motivation.”

It’s also illustrative to see the final portfolios for all three students:

You can also check out the assignment for the Writing About Literature course in which “The Tyger” collages were made, or check out many of Daniel Anderson’s classes to see the assignments he uses and the work students produce in those courses.

  1. The New London Group coined the term multiliteracy. For a detailed account of multiliteracy and its role in education, see their “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” Harvard Educational Review 66.1 (1996). Graduate students, if you’re looking for articles to include in your annotated bibliography, this article is well worth considering.
  2. Anderson defines a “low bridge” approaches to multimedia as approaches that “rely on familiar literacies, free consumer-level software, and remix uses of materials to facilitate student production of new media compositions.

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