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Gardner_Apr14_196.jpgStudents in the writing and digital media course that I teach have started work on their final project, the “remix a story” project that I have mentioned in previous posts. For this project, students choose a story (fiction or nonfiction) and retell that story using digital composing tools. The goal is to get beyond primarily linguistic stories to create stories that engage multiple modes of communication fully.

 

Many students will include social media as part of their remix. I have had projects that included things such as Twitter updates from Little Red Riding Hood and Facebook updates from characters in The Little Mermaid. As creative and fun as these projects are, they bring challenges:

 

  • Facebook does not allow fictional sites, so students risk having their project removed if Facebook finds it.
  • Creating logins for multiple characters can be at best tedious and at worst impossible for sites that allow only one account per email address.
  • Project assets made with the real social media sites sometimes include extraneous information Students may need to know how to edit screenshots to remove timestamps, for instance.
  • Students shouldn’t have to use their personal accounts for such projects. Their private social media stream should be private, not filled with updates from Little Red Riding Hood and the Big, Bad Wolf.

 

To address these challenges, I point students to these online tools that allow them to fake social media updates.

There are additional tools at ClassTools.net and BigHugeLabs that could work, depending upon the story and remix goals a student has.

 

I do talk about ethical use of the tools when I share the list in class. It’s not that I don’t trust my students, but many of the sites talk about pranking people with your fake creations. That isn’t our goal, and I want to avoid any mixed messages.

 

I’m always on the lookout for tools to add the list. If you have a suggestion, please leave me a comment below, or drop by my page on Facebook or Google+.

This blog was originally posted on March 16th, 2015.

 

Today’s guest blogger is Jeanne Law Bohannon.

 

As I write this week’s post, I am wrapping up an illuminating weekend at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and its library’s conference Digitorium, where I engaged with colleagues who use critical pedagogy to “do the work” of digital humanities (DH).  There were so many different kinds of re/mixing and re/envisioning happening, that I felt, for the first time, the true interdisciplinarity of DH.  My colleagues were leading students in geocaching and visualizing distance reading data from biblical texts (see Bo Adam’s Presentation). So much of what I saw made me think about how our students really do produce texts for various publics, more and more frequently in digital spaces.  And it also made me think hard about the “doing of DH” and how we, as instructors, don’t have to be IT professionals to find a comfortable praxis in this “doing” and “re/mixing.”

 

As I’ve written in an earlier post, this semester has been a reflective opportunity for me, in terms of re/mixing writing for multimodal assignments and applying multimodal composition as DIYs across genres and contexts. This week, I offer a re/mix of analytical micro-studies, re/envisioned for a podcasting genre and public dissemination on YouTube.

 

Context
This public text construction comes at the end of an upper division writing course, after students have drafted two micro-studies, demonstrating their understanding of specific language conventions and associated usages in digital spaces. Throughout the course, students practice applying grammar and syntactic structures in unconventional ways across digital platforms in social and public media.  YouTube is, of course, one of the most popular of these spaces.

 

YouTube was part of our daily lives in this class, from serving as digital teacher, Ian McCarthy on Social Media, to digital tipster, Writing Better Blog Posts.  As we watched to learn, students began to comment about adding their own voices to these video conversations about grammar(s) and creating content in digital spaces.  So, we crowd-sourced an idea: student-produced vlog-casts.

 

Assignment
A re/mixed analytical study, re/imagined from a traditional, academic essay to a multimodal, public vlog-cast.

 

Goals and Measurable Learning Objectives

  • Apply multimodal composition strategies to video productions
  • Create vlogs as rhetorical, content-delivery devices
  • Synthesize 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.  Ask students to plan by reading relevant content from your handbook:

  • 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;” Chapter 20, “Writing to the World”
  • Writing in Action: Chapter 4, “A Writer’s Choices”; Chapter 9, “Reading Critically”
  • EasyWriter: Sections 1c-1g, “A Writer’s Choices”; Section 3a, “Reading Critically”

 

Before Class: Student and Instructor Preparation

My students and I run this writing assignment late in the semester, as a re/mix of a previous one.  Prior to starting the process, the class reads, responds to, and discusses multimodalities of texts and content management across digital discourses. We read Bohannon’s Multimodalities for Students and Popular Media Writing Tips.  We also peer review each other’s original micro-studies and offer ideas for relevant topics.

 

In Class and/or Out

During the semester, we watch YouTube instructional videos.  For this class, we collaboratively searched YouTube for videos that taught us brief histories of English, helped us figure out usage (courtesy of Grammar Girl),and advised us on how to write for popular media.  Searching together as a group was a most rewarding experience; I highly recommend it!

 

After each viewing, we then analyze key rhetorical components through the Five Elements for Visual Analysis, noting what works and what doesn’t for different audiences and purposes.  We provide feedback in both large and small groups to re/vise our writing for Vlog-casting Guidelines.

 

We then produce our “Grammar Vlogs,” using tools such as iMovie, QuickTime, Movie Maker, and Garage Band. The average time spent is about four, one-hour class periods, with production happening outside of class.

 

Next Steps: Reflections on the Activity
When my students reflected on this writing opportunity, here’s what they said:

Based on my experience with this assignment I would do it all over it again. It was fairly simple because I was able to find information about putting together the technological parts of it online, as well as, through my professor and other students’ advice. One issue I came across was making sure the audio matched the timer but after playing with the slides for a while, I was able to make it work. I was inspired to continue practicing my skills and decided to start a YouTube channel of my own this summer. – Brittany Rosario, Digital Pragmatics

 

When deciding what topic to do for my vlog-cast, I thought it would be really cool to do one about language, using multimodalities. It felt 100% authentic to be discussing the linguistic phenomena of up-talk and vocal fry, and I thought that it was just organic and real. That’s why I decided to go with a vlog-cast instead of a traditional essay style of writing.  I thought it definitely helped me with a better understanding of my topic. – Becca Tuck, Watch Becca’s Vlog-Cast

 

“I enjoyed this assignment because my topic gave me an opportunity to reflect upon the characteristics of my fellow students. It was less formal than the traditional essay, [and] making the vlog helped me understand my topic in more ways than just seeing my thoughts written out.” – McKenna Hight, The Institutional Dialects of Students at SPSU

 

My Reflection

I think this assignment would work well across topics and courses, because it doesn’t teach content, but rhetorical behaviors.  It draws out rhetorical performances as well, which engenders creativity and scholarly research processes that are relevant throughout the Humanities. Instructors could re/mix their own topics and search for YouTube videos that are specific to their students’ interests and needs.  I would love for folks outside of our field to try it, so please share this post with others!

Also, please leave me feedback here or at rhetoricmatters.org.

 

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 leah.rang@macmillan.com for possible inclusion in a future post.

This blog was originally posted on April 13th, 2015.

 

As the end of the term draws near for many of us, we may wish to provide a writing process review for students. We could rehash textbook pages or websites that offer basic information about writing processes, as well as written products and genres of academic writing. But spring has sprung for many of us, and summer looms and attention drifts. How can we offer students opportunities to remember what they have learned about writing—and putting their learning into practice?

 

A kinesthetic approach to review can help. In kinesthetic learning, students turn away from laptop and tablet screens and use whole-body movement to rehearse significant concepts. For review purposes, the activity I present in class is called “What do we already know about writing and how can we apply our knowledge to our current writing project?”

 

  • Step 1: On the board, create four separate columns: Introduction, Body, Conclusion, Other
  • Step 2: Students use sticky notes to write as many concepts as they remember about the writing process and about the appearance of the final product.
  • Step 3: Students stick their sticky notes to a blank space on the wall and observe what everyone else has written.
  • Step 4: Students divide into groups based on each of the four columns: Introduction, Body, Conclusion, Other.
  • Step 5: Each separate group moves the appropriate sticky notes from the wall to the column on the board designated for their column.
  • Step 6: Each group of students explains to the rest of the class which sticky notes they chose for their column and why they were chosen.
  • Step 7: Students and instructor discuss the choices made, and also clear up contradictions, discrepancies, and overlaps between the processes and products listed on the sticky notes.

 

Results almost certainly vary between classes, and each group of students can add its own flourishes. One class member, for instance, shared heart-shaped sticky notes left over from Valentines Day. Paired with a variety of dry-eraser marker colors, the final display was detailed and bright, with hearts popping to emphasize significant points. This display brought up design questions that intersect with online multimedia writing.

 

writing kinesthetic group activity.png

 

In another class, students debated about the order of the writing process: should writers always write an introduction first? Or is it possible to write an introduction near the end of the process, even though the introduction needs to be placed at the beginning of the essay? The students decided that it depended on the genre of the writing project. Essay tests might require a more linear process, while a 1500-word researched essay might be more open-ended—or not. Students offered differing versions of how and why they grappled with their individual processes and products of writing.

 

As the instructor, I enjoyed the experience of watching students demonstrate what they already know about writing and how they could apply it to their current writing project. But perhaps most significantly, it was even more thrilling to bear witness to students’ intellectual engagements and commitments to writing. Through participating in kinesthetic activity and discussing the results, students developed a stronger sense of what they knew as individual writers, and also of what they could create through collective participation. This exercise proved useful as a writing review—and also as an activity for moving forward together.

This blog was originally posted on April 10th, 2015.

 

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act reminds us once again of the role that definition can play in argumentation. The case has been made that the recent Indiana law is no different from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. One crucial difference, however, is a matter of definition. The federal RFRA states, “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The wording of the state law is identical except that the term “governmental entity” replaces “government.” That is not the crucial difference, however.

 

What is crucial is that where the federal law does not define the word “person,” the Indiana law explicitly gives it a much broader definition than most people would expect. A person is not just an individual, but “an organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants . . . . a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company . . . .”  By stipulating that broad—and unexpected—definition of a person, Indiana has changed the whole interpretation of the law—or opened it up to a much broader range of interpretation. It would be useful for our students to consider how that stipulated definition changes the law.

 

The Indiana controversy is reminiscent of the controversy that revolved around Chick-Fil-A not too long ago. In that case, not an individual, but a company, was making decisions based on religion. That company drew criticism and boycotts because it donated to organizations opposed to same-sex marriage. It neither refused to hire or to serve gay or lesbian individuals. A question for students to consider is how the Indiana law would apply to that situation.

 

The key term “exercise of religion,” of course, is open to interpretation, and it is the discriminatory forms that the exercise of religion can take in this day of broader acceptance of same-sex marriage that have led to most of the outcry against the law. The owners of a bakery refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because they view homosexuality as a sin. Not a life-threatening exercise of religion, but how far should exercise of religion go in a world where members of ISIS use religion as justification for their atrocities?