|Multimodal composition encourages nonlinear thinking. By having our students compose hybrid, nonlinear texts, we can at the same time embrace the changing nature of language as well as modernize views on what makes a good piece of writing. The qualities of multimodal composition defy the patterns of homogenous writing found in standard academic English. For example, a student essay composed as a wiki can incorporate images, hyperlinks, or refer to classmates' posts, diverging from a solely linear structure that champions sameness. Students see the value in using a variety of language structures. Once we encourage our students to think about composing in these new, non-singular ways, we can affect the way our students view language in general, engendering a sense of diversity in the language we use to compose and speak. Compositions better reflect the fluid nature of natural communication.
Dialects such as African American English, Appalachian English, and others are complex systems with unique usage patterns rather than a series of "mistakes." Leah Zuidema argues that a lack of understanding about grammar leads to language myths and that what some perceive to be sentence-level "errors" present in dialects are not unintentional but rather sophisticated grammatical patterns. To help her English Education students make this connection she asks the question, "A taxi must obey the laws of physics, but it can disobey state laws. How is English like a taxi?" (15) Still, we can't expect that multimodal composition on its own will solely create language diversity; we need to have conversations in the classroom about how and why these texts deviate from traditional structures and the rhetorical effects.
Ideally, language diversity needs to be a part of first-year composition curriculum to embrace the increasingly multilingual language histories of students—and acknowledge that we are all speakers of dialects. Educators can emphasize that writing is situated and that other methods of discourse are appropriate—sometimes even preferred to standard academic English—in a variety of settings. Language is a hybrid. Language can be nonlinear. This fluid, nonlinear nature of multimodal composition takes the focus off of standard academic English as being the only "correct" dialect and instead encourages students to consider the situated nature of writing. Hyperlinks, tags, tabs, and other Web 2.0 features allow online text to more accurately reflect the nonlinear nature of conversation. In this sense, multimodal composition is a nonstandard dialect itself.
By teaching multimodal composing, we provide opportunities for students to think about the benefits of a variety of discourses. Pamela Tayakoshi and Cynthia Selfe write, "If composition instruction is to remain relevant, the definition of "composition" and "texts" needs to grow and change to reflect people's literacy practices in new communication environments (3). Similarly, language instruction needs to reflect the multilingual, linguistically diverse heritage of our students. Just like technology, language changes. Writing changes. Even native speakers of English are speakers of dialects. Multimodal composition matches the nature of our language in a way that traditional, linear print texts do not.