Community-based projects work well because they allow students to actively engage in real-world activities that make a difference. They give students a chance to investigate ways to build and enhance community. I have students create action projects in which they must find a need within their communities and come up with something that results in some sort of action. Over the years, students have taken on this challenge to help non-profits, create campus events, raise funds, and help others and create community awareness. I have found that the level of ownership and motivation with these kinds of projects goes way beyond classroom assignments because the stakes are real.
Part of this project involves students in creating a social media presence that encourages community participation and informs the public of its mission. Understanding the ways that students can put the social – in social media is important. Many students use these formats for their daily communication and social relationships but this project helps them understand the ways they can use them in different ways that promote community engagement.
Although there are many tools out there, I ask students to organize their interactive work teams through Google Drive. This type of project also teaches students group management and how to communicate on interactive work teams. These kinds of activities engage students in all types of writing and organizational skills: email, real-time chats, video hangouts, professional presentations, and multimodal components.
- To engage students in community-based learning projects
- To introduce students to tools for digital collaboration
- To have students create multimodal messages and documents for a variety of rhetorical purposes, audiences and contexts
Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of textual and visual design using multimodal elements are ongoing learning opportunities for instructors. Below, I have listed a few background readings and helpful links. I encourage teachers to add to and enrich the list.
- The St. Martin’s Handbook: Ch. 26: Writing to Make Something Happen in the World; Ch. 28: Language That Builds Common Ground
- The Everyday Writer or Writer’s Help 2.0 for Lunsford: Ch. 4: Writing to Make Something Happen in the World; Ch. 21: Language That Builds Common Ground
- Writing in Action: Ch. 3: Writing to Make Something Happen in the World; Ch. 18: Language That Builds Common Ground
- EasyWriter: Ch. 6: Writing to Make Something Happen in the World; Ch. 30: Language That Builds Common Ground
For this assignment, student teams complete the following steps:
- Choose a community-based action project – something that they want to accomplish that will yield some kind of results. Ask students to research and analyze other successful community based campaigns online.
- Create a Google Team space in which they manage their teams, conduct online meetings, compose and contribute data and information, compose and revise documents and presentations, and record minutes.
- Engage in planning, composition of a social media campaign that informs others and builds community support for their projects. They must include a distribution plan and multiple modes of communication to encourage support and participation. Students are also responsible for analyzing their social media results.
- Plan and implement the project. Teams are self-governing and are responsible for weekly updates with the instructor.
- Create Community/Public Service Video -- a short, 2-3 minute video directed to a public audience in which they communicate ideas, purposes and results to others so they can learn about the project. Students embed this video into their actual social media campaign and include it in their classroom presentation and report.
- Teams are required to submit a professional presentation and report that details their processes, results, and digital media projects. They also create a multimodal infographic on their group processes (See my earlier post on Infographic Process Reflections).
- Each student also submits an individual folder that details their own group processes and a written evaluation of their team-mates.
- For more information , see a full explanation of this Action Project and Presentation, Report and Deliverables Guidelines
Reflection on Activities
This project involves students in a range of multimodal and collaborative activities. It engages them through collaboration on interactive work teams and demonstrates how to create, plan and implement real-world projects. Students come to understand their decision making processes, successes and failures, and ways to engage communities through communication.
Because the stakes are real, students often exceed their own expectations for the projects because of this level of investment and origination. For example, I had one student group who completed a time capsule project. Their purpose was to represent and preserve a past history and institutional identity through a university consolidation. They started their idea with a small home-made capsule to be buried on campus and opened in the future. They created a social media presence through a Facebook page and Twitter hashtag along with other supporting components. The initial artifact donations exceeded their expectations and the original size and plan would no longer work. They also generated such strong interest in the project that other organizations at the university got involved and funded an expensive, professional time capsule to be housed in the library and become part of the university archives.
The project also brought them outside the university framework as they had to learn the conventions of time capsule archiving and registered the capsule with the International Time Capsule Society who will manage its records and assure its reveal in the year 2050. Students had to learn how to record and document the contents according to the conventions of the field. The university also supported a ceremony to officially seal the time capsule and honor the student project. These students successfully engaged their community and grew the project to have a significant impact on their campus.
One thing I know for sure: students, when given the opportunity to participate in real-world, experiential projects will exceed expectations and extend beyond obstacles to achieve unknown possibilities.
Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning, critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website Acts of Composition.
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