This blog was originally posted on March 16th, 2015.
Today’s guest blogger is Jeanne Law Bohannon.
When I begin a new semester, I try to make time to reflect on my pedagogy and its implications/opportunities for student-scholars across my courses and across disciplines. This semester, I have actually done it! You may recall that last fall I blogged on a Multimodal Monday about Video Game Vlogcasting. I wanted to take that assignment and re/mix it for a different audience and purpose.
Because I practice at a large state university, the core classes I sometimes teach feature a majority of students who are NOT English majors. In fact, fall semester of last year is the first time I have ever had an English major in a literature course — ever. Like other 2000 level literature courses, American Literature 1860s – present at my university is one that attracts students based not on subject, but on scheduling. Finding a balance between getting students to write authentically about content and going bust on Bloom’s taxonomy is a challenge for all of us. I have found that digital writing assignments pique student interest and challenge them to employ skills that elicit critical thinking and measurable rhetorical performances. Hosting a vlog/podcast (we call them vlog/pods) on a subject that they have already successfully written about in traditional academic form (for us, Annotated Bibliographies) gives students a composition opportunity that also engenders creativity and digital literacy.
A DIY vlog/podcasting assignment that encourages students to apply researched texts to digital environments and create their own auditory and visual representations of previously researched materials.
Assignment Goals and Measurable Learning Objectives
- Apply an annotated bibliography to a digital literacy
- Employ multimodalities as rhetorical delivery devices
- Analyze meaning through critical production of digital texts on-screen
Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of reading and viewing visual texts are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in democratic, digital writing assignments. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.
- The St. Martin’s Handbook: Chapter 2, “Rhetorical Situations”; Section 6a, “Collaborating in College”; Chapter 7, “Reading Critically”
- The Everyday Writer: Chapters 5-11, “The Writing Process”
- Writing in Action: Chapter 4, “A Writer’s Choices”; Section 7h, “Collaboration and Communication”; Chapter 9, “Reading Critically”
- EasyWriter: Sections 1c-1g in Ch.1, “A Writer’s Choices”; Section 1h, “Collaborating”; Section 3a, “Reading Critically”
- Bohannon’s Multimodalities for Students
Before Class: Student and Instructor Preparation
The vlog/pod project works well on its own or bridged with other assignments. In my course, we produced vlog/pods based on Annotated Bibliographies that students had written on a subject covered in our readings. All of our readings came from marginalized authors and performers, and students chose among those subjects for their two assignments. However, you may want to use this project as a stand-alone; either way works. If you want more information on the Annotated Bibliography assignment, click here.
I run this project mid-semester. Prior to starting this project, the class discusses multimodalities of texts that we produce across digital discourses. We read Bohannon’s Multimodalities for Students, MIT’s Podcasting 101,PC Magazine’s “What is a Vlog?”, Class Blog Space, and Bohannon’s YouTube Channel to prepare us to produce.
In Class and/or Out
Much of the readings for this assignment are already embedded in coursework. Those of you who have taught core literature courses will have your own content requirements. Some of us even have this content prescribed by our departments or colleges. Either way, this assignment gives instructors and students some creative freedom to create their own content.
If you teach in a computer lab, then you are LUCKY! For those of us who don’t, we can work around it. In groups of two or three, students read resources and write outlines for their vlog/pod transcripts over three class periods. I require them to post their final transcripts with their uploaded vlog/pods. Since students are working with individual topics, they group themselves around genre or time period. They brainstorm, workshop their storyboards/outlines, and edit in class. Production happens outside of class. Many universities have vlog/podcasting studios available to students; check with your IT folks to see if your students have access to a studio. My students have successfully produced vlog/pods using, iMovie,QuickTime, Movie Maker, and Garage Band on their own.
After they draft, edit, and produce their vlog/pods, students either upload them to my YouTube channel or submit their work directly into our course LMS. You may want to give your students a choice for either public or private (class only) vlog/pod dissemination. I have found that most students are excited for others to see their work, but it’s nice to have a choice.
Next Steps: Reflections on the Activity
At the next class meeting(s), students discuss and show their vlog/pods to the class, arranged by genre and time period. We bring popcorn (maybe not a good idea if you’re in a computer lab) and sodas and make it a red-carpet event by inviting friends and colleagues. You can either show vlog/pods in class or arrange for a larger venue on campus. Next time I run this assignment, I am going to book our library multimedia room, which holds more people and has a place for setting up food and drinks.
Truthfully, though, this assignment requires students to balance traditional academic invention and public, digital text productions. In my experience I have found that learning success closely follows authentic student engagement, including democratic and digital textual productions informed by student choice. Students are far more likely to engage in any course, composition, literature, or otherwise, if they feel that they can exert their agency to affect writing and learning outcomes. For us as instructors, a vital part of our teaching is our ability to let go of our authority and guide students towards enduring understandings of content, which theyresearch, design, and produce. When we re-focus our efforts around digital, authored performances in these environments, we facilitate rhetorical growth for our students, helping them develop informed voices as they become fluent in multiple discourse communities.
Try this assignment and let me know what you think. Please view/use the project guidelines (edit as you need) and view student samples here: Vlog/Pods from AmLit 2132
Also, please leave me feedback at Bohannon’s AmLit 2132.
Guest blogger Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: Jeanne_bohannon@kennesaw.edu and www.rhetoricmatters.org
Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in a future post.