In Sessions on March 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm




  • Potpurri Demonstrations
  • Readings & Responses review

Assignments (as assigned):

  • (for those submitting online teaching portfolios as their final project) Create the “shell” for your online teaching portfolio (front page, page/post links, and at least one project/unit description) for presentation to the class
  • (for those submitting a research article as their final project) Write a 300-500 word abstract for your paper to present to the class

NOTE: Class meets next on 03/26

  1. In Toward a Composition Made Whole, Jody Shipka claims that composition is an act of communication that can be expressed through a variety of media, not just writing. Whether students write on ballet shoes, create an interpretive dance, or write a traditional essay, the focus, Shipka asserts, of FYC should be on having students mindfully and purposefully choose the media they would like to use to get their message across and reflect on how this choice affects subsequent choices and the ultimate product. Shipka’s argument is compelling and her descriptions of the processes the students go through and the awareness they show of their processes in their written reflections adequately proved, to me anyway, that her multimodal assignments were rigorous and had genuine academic value. That being said, I would hesitate to adopt this multimodal approach as a framework for the entire course.

    Early in my reading of the book, I began to feel tempted to include a multimodal assignment in my own course. Shipka, however, discouraged me from thinking too seriously about this by claiming it’s important to realize that “asking students to take responsibility for the purposes, potentials, and contexts of their work is not something this approach requires (or allows) them to do once or twice during the semester. […] This approach to composing is not intended as an alternative to, or a break from ‘essay writing as usual’ “(89). In other words, it must become the framework for the entire course.

    The truth is, while I see value in having students “making more visible the social and historical dimensions of technologies and aspects of composing processes that have become invisible, and so, seemingly natural over time” (127), I see that as one goal of FYC rather than the main one. It simply doesn’t make sense to me to sideline the actual process of print-based writing to such an extent. Yes, her students write reflective letters and, in these, it is clear they are thinking carefully and critically about the impact of their work and the choices they have made. This is great, but I don’t understand why Shipka insists FYC become a course which is designed around achieving this through multimodality alone. Many of the more traditional print-based assignments have students think carefully and critically about their choices as well. Is it really necessary to convert to a totally multimodal framework or do print-based writing assignments and multimodal ones coexist more comfortably than Shipka suggests?

  2. This is what I meant to ask Jody Shipka and, gaws willin’ an’ the crick don’ rise, I’ll ask her when we come back:

    ” I am on-board with what you’re suggesting in terms of, as your book suggests, a “composition made whole.” I’m reminded of Hemingway in “A Moveable Feast” describing the process of writing as including long nights eating oranges and spitting the seeds into a burning fire.

    But I want to ask you about something that may seem obvious: in this case, the value of the essay as a discreet written entity. Naturally I don’t mean to just limit the alphabetically arranged text to the freshman year five-paragraph essay on why “grades should be abolished” or why “college sports are bad for students,” but then again, do I?

    Is there a point at which we have to say that if everything is writing, then nothing is? I really am not trying to be reductive or reactionary, but I have to ask if in terms of expression and communication, is it too late to un-ring the bell in terms of the schism between written composition and communciative arts generally.

    My contention or concern being that whether to express oneself in words, dance, or pink ballet slippers seems to me the students choice, while exposing the student to our discipline-specific modes? Is this not the essence of the University approach: to expose to “many” so that the student ultimately crafts his or her own “one?”

  3. One of the things I appreciated the most about Jody Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole was the emphasis on complicating the conversation. Rather than dismissing certain technologies in favor of newer/different ones, Shipka advocates for doing more than simply integrating and/or emphasizing screen-mediated technologies in the composition classroom. Shipka acknowledges Handa’s claim that“…students’ twenty-first-century lives are nothing if not visual”—and I agree. This is a persuasive point to me in the movement toward integrating more “writing technologies” and web 2.0-informed assignments into composition pedagogy. However, as Shipka aptly points out “…a composition made whole requires us to be more mindful about our use of a term like technology.” Uh, yeah. Too often, as we’ve discussed this semester, “technology” or even “teaching with technology” is a label that gets slapped on anything that has students logging into a computer or hopping online. Too little thought is usually given (especially at an institutional level) to the ways in which multiple technologies are at work in the various composing processes our students are asked to navigate.
    This simplistic conception of “technology” is revealed in the tension between the push for more “teaching with technology” on the one hand, and the push for greater facility with academic discourses within the writing our students produce. In other words, it is one thing to wax philosophical about how “students these days” must “increase their digital literacy” because of the speedy development of digital technologies. It is another to then continue teaching staid, traditionally academic essays that are evaluated according to their success in meeting traditional academic discourse criteria. As Shipka puts it, we in composition instruction at the university level have the “tendency to ‘freeze’ writing, to treat it as a noun rather than a verb,” which is frankly limiting to our conceptions of literacy. In chapters 4 and 4, I was gratified to see Shipka’s demonstration of a complicated multimodal teaching framework presented quite logically. I share tend to share Shipka’s opinion that “an activity-based multimodal framework [that] requires that students spend the semester attending to how language, combined with still other representational systems, mediates communicative practice,” is potentially more rigorous than one that considered only traditional academic applications of language—or even simplistic applications of technology.

    Also, somewhat random, but nice: I love the paraphrased Yancey definition of a “…composition is, at once, a thing with parts—with visual-verbal or multimodal aspects—the expression of relationships and, perhaps most importantly, the result of complex, ongoing processes that are shaped by, and provide shape for, living.” So. Good.

  4. I want to ask as some traditional or conservative people did: “How is that college-level academic writing?” (2). Specifically, I wonder if Muffie’s dance in Chapter 3 would be considered as college-level academic writing. I do not deny that Muffie’s dance presentation was awesome and would have been successful in communicating with classmates, however, I am curious if Muffie’s final product is appropriate to what a student is supposed to produce in a writing class.

    I agree with Shipka’s argument that a writing assignment does not necessarily need to be a letter-size word-processing white paper document. But I think that a writing class should require a writing assignment. Of course, writing is a means of communication. Then a writing class would be about communication through the means of writing i.e., writing should be the medium to represent one’s idea. So if the class in the example was a communication class, Muffie did a great job in that she took the means which could best represent her story. But, it was not: it was a first year composition class. Shipka says that “Muffie likely would have composed other print-based texts while working on the performance” (82). In a comprehensive sense, Muffie did write for her final product so this is meaningful because all the actions which occurred during the process of making the final product should be considered just as important as her last performance. However, I am concerned that the written portion was not the focal point of her project even though she was in a composition course. In other words, I question if just occurrence of writing is okay.

    I do not oppose Shipka’s argument but in fact, her approach is fantastic in that it opens me up to a new view in composition classes. I might be one of conventional people about writing but I believe that writing should be taught as writing because this is a different medium having different characteristics and method in becoming a final product.

  5. YIKES I almost forgot to upload this!!! I’m sure I missed a great discussion!!!

    Toward a Composition Made Whole brought up several interesting and valuable issues in rhet/comp studies. For myself, it was Shipka’s understanding of what we call new media which inspired me. From what I was able to understand, she argues that new media does not necessarily refer to recently emerging technologies, but rather media and forms of composition with which a student is unfamiliar or is not very comfortable. This would mean that it is not really the job of the writing instructor to engage students in whatever is new (because, as Shipka also argues, these are “disappearing” modes of technology – soon to be commonplace and no longer novel) but rather it is the job of the instructor to engage students in a variety of mediums so that they may best articulate their arguments.
    I understood the fracture in composition studies (the one Shipka wants to make whole) to refer to the split between composition studies and communication studies. For many instructors, this split is one with which they are hardly familiar. Had it not been for my own experience at community college (where they offer both Composition and Communications as first year writing options, only one is required), I would likely have not understood the difference. As it is, I was unaware of the college’s requirements and took both Composition (where I was taught how to master the five paragraph essay and write definition essays and classification essays) and Communications (where we were required to write a researched paper and present it to the class). The material covered in both classes was different and had I not mistakenly taken both, I believe my abilities as a writer would have been greatly hindered. I agree with Shipka that it is important to rectify the gap in first year writing courses so that we are best serving our students.
    For Shipka, encouraging students to work in a variety of mediums allowed them to gain what seemed to be a greater control of the writing and composition experience. The examples of student work (also found on her blog) were enlightening and I was able to imagine using several of her approaches in my own classes. I was particularly impressed by the prewriting and reflective pieces the students were required to write. Asking students to create the framework for their assignment and then choose between more than one method of execution seemed to me to not just help students work with media they were unfamiliar with but it also got the students excited about the writing process. As any first year writing teacher knows, this is one of the greatest hurdles facing us.
    This text was one of the more practical texts we have read this semester so far and I really enjoyed engaging with Shipka’s argument. In fact, I found myself discussing her ideas with several friends the past few days. I wonder how we might learn from her years of experience and what would be, in everyone’s opinions, the most practical things to take from her examples and research?

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