In Sessions on October 1, 2015 at 2:51 pm



  • Map application demonstration(s) by Chris
  • demonstration by Corey
  • Audacity demonstration by Nathaniel
  • NB demonstration by Ruth
  • Discussion of pedagogy readings

Readings for Next Week:

Assignment for Next Week:

  • Create a screencast/video blog on one or more of the assigned readings in lieu of the usual written response for class and host it online (I’ll recommend Screencast-O-Matic for this purpose, but feel free to explore and use other options). Email me a link to the video before 6 PM on 10/08. Then, watch the videos composed by all other members of the class and email me your list of what you find to be the top three videos and your rationale for this evaluation before noon on 10/15.
  1. Link to Ruth’s Handout from her demonstration of NB

  2. Reading Response: Process/Product, Curating/Teaching

    In one of my first reading responses for class, I wrote a question that I’m still thinking about. If the final product of an assignment is fairly traditional, I wonder if using multimodal projects and technology throughout the process can still benefit students. For example, if all first-year students are required to write a long research paper, would scaffolding the assignment with a series of short multimodal assignments be more effective than assigning the traditional annotated bibliography entries and freewriting prompts? I’m not trying to suggest that writing a traditional research paper is more valuable that creating a multimodal project like the annotated texts and text-mining projects described by Bjork. But, if a writing program or gen ed guideline requires certain kinds of assignments, instructors might still have the freedom to incorporate multimodal learning and have students practice using new technologies if they are part of process instead of the final product of the assignment. Students could produce annotated texts using an application like Sophie (or even just arranging paper documents and visuals) as part of the process for producing a research paper. They could use voice recorders to gather materials for a literacy narrative but still ultimately produce a written essay. What would be lost by incorporating multimodal experiences in the process but not necessarily the final product of the project?

    Alexander and Rhodes critique the video literacy narrative, suggesting that (the final products of) multimodal projects do not always push students to consider all of the options available in modes outside the traditional essay. They found that many video literacy narratives privileged linear argument and narrative-with-examples structure, approaches also valued in essays. Their revision of the assignment suggests that students could gain more from multimodal projects if instructors and students “trace the possible histories of new media” and experiment with new media enough to gain “access to ways of knowing that are not tied to rational exposition or narrative development” (103). Perhaps incorporating multimodal learning into the process of a project, especially at the beginning of a course, would provide students with the experience they need to experiment with these ways of knowing and to build an understanding of the history of various media. Perhaps the other essential component is the instructor’s ability to “curate” assignments, as Jarvis suggests in his critique of lectures. Alexander and Rhodes provide a couple of assignment prompts that effectively place media in a historical context and, thus, encourage students to do the same in their analysis. I can see that this approaches helps students benefit more fully from the available means of each medium, but I’m left wondering how I, as an instructor, can develop my own ability to curate assignments and learning experiences.

  3. “Engaging multimodality is precisely the task for a wide variety of W&C courses, we pause to wonder what else we can do with this assignment rhetorically, with this call for students to think about literacy through deliver of new media” (Rhodes). I find this notion interesting. What I would be curious to know and hopefully coming to understand is what we can do with multimodality assignments. Would we, as educators, focus on the learning outcome of reinforcing digital literacy? Or better yet would we focus more on helping students gain fluency as well as full hybrid eloquence working within a multimodal environment. Rhetorically, I would be tempted to think about how the particular canon provide certain experiences through multimodality. That is to say, if we take delivery and memory, how can we manufacture assignments that reinforce new or old notions of these canons? For me, delivery in a multimodal environment becomes more of a performance. An essay or composition text also becomes a performance; so to think of delivery as a performance and making that a focus or learning outcome of a multimodal assignment, would this be a rhetorical assignment that we can do? Also, to explore memory as “intrinsically technological” and create this duality between artificial and natural memory, what are some rhetorical assignments we could do with multiple modalities? Another idea that I found interesting was in Bjork’s piece, that “composition is moving toward digital humanities even as it moves away from the material humanities, or that the humanities, in becoming digital, have moved toward composition. But this supposition is at best only half true ( Bjork). I have to agree with this statement. Is it because that within the digital humanities everything becomes composition, and in becoming a composition it is reinforces delivery as a performance. It seems as if within the digital realm every act becomes some sort of composition piece or at the very least has elements of composition, that is, intentional aesthetics. Another idea that I found interesting is “the scope of computers and writing projects, in contrast to those in the digital humanities, tends to be constrained by three factors: the technical proficiency of undergraduates and instructors, the timeframe of a single semester or quarter, and the availability of hardware and software” (Bjork). I this that this raises a significant point, and this is the reason why I keep returning to the idea of reinforcing digital literacy, that is, at the center of technological literacy, social-emotional literacy, and cognitive literacy. As for the other two items listed above that act as a hindrance, I have to wonder if there is any ‘practical’ solution? In other words, what can we change in a particular curriculum so that it can address these issues, and also, can it realistically be done?

  4. As society becomes increasingly engulfed by a flow of information brought by the digital revolution, the task of incorporating ever more networking technologies into the classroom becomes increasingly essential if students are to assimilate all this endless data. Jeff Jarvis is exceptionally critical of traditional instruction (not surprisingly, the lecture format), claiming that it was “built for the industrial age” and thus incapable of absorbing “2,000 gigabytes per second” into its pedagogy. He also argues that this “networked digital information is also qualitatively different. . . [having] the potential to be created, managed, read, critiqued, and organized very differently than information on paper.” I, however, am more skeptical about the benefits of flooding a classroom environment with cat pictures, memes, desert photos, and all of the useless jargon that seems to both characterize and monopolize this age of social networking.

    As I often tell my first year composition students when I (God forbid) lecture about the differences between primary and secondary sources, the more times information changes hands, the more it is prone to be corrupted by bias, personal prejudice, or willful misdirection. The ‘more is better’ reasoning that Jarvis seems to be using departs from Brett Hirch’s reference to Wosh, Hajo and Katz’s claim that “educators need to carefully balance theoretical, practical, and digital skills in their programs.” While an active and vibrant exchange of information can enhance its quality by offering more input and perspectives, it can also be degraded by them. Teaching students how to successfully navigate this sea of information involves imparting an inquisitive skepticism that filters most of it out.

    What are the consequences of completely overhauling our current pedagogical infrastructure under the premise that more information always equates to more understanding?

  5. As I read Alexander and Rhodes’ “Direct to Video,” I was brought back to my question from week one about how software is designed in ways that still privileges print media. Alexander and Rhodes have a similar concern in “Direct to Video,” which is the fact that the composition of digital video (video literacy narratives, specifically) “invites students to participate in the production of multimedia texts but, at the same time, often separates those texts from a robust consideration of the rhetorical affordances of video” (71). The authors believe that, “a good deal of contemporary composition practice uses new media and new media tools to replicate and reproduce some of its own cherished forms and genres” (78). The most cherished form, of course, is the thesis driven alphabetic essay.
    The question is, then, how do we as writing instructors utilize new media and technology in a way that does not merely mimic what we had been doing before. Alexander and Rhodes recommend “reenvisioning” assignments (such as video literacy narratives) in order to “consider more specifically the particular rhetorical affordances of video so that students can encounter the genre of the video narrative and inhabit it with and perform subjectivities that might exceed the textual” (86). This requires us to not only to reevaluate our assignments and instruction, but to reconsider courses as a whole. Specifically, Alexander and Rhodes seem to advocate a shift from composition to rhetoric (92). This seems to echo Steven Mailloux’s call to collapse the disciplinary boundaries (both within English departments and in the university as a whole) and subsume the study of literature, composition, and communication under the heading of rhetoric. Alexander and Rhodes cite Mailloux in chapter one, but they do not fully engage Mailloux. I see Alexander and Rhodes as critically extending Mailloux’s work in important ways.
    How does it change what we do as writing instructors if we do not think of ourselves as compositionists but as rhetoricians? What possible avenues does this open up, especially in the realm of new media and technology?

  6. After this week’s readings I had to look up the term pedagogy. After a quick Google search there was a resounding, yet vague, answer. Pedagogy is the art of teaching. So where does technology fit into the art of teaching?
    From the Alexander and Rhodes piece, “we are tempted to praise and extol the technical while overlooking the critical and rhetorical shortcomings,” (84). They were speaking of a project that students had completed. It looked great and the students showed technological prowess, but they didn’t display a high level of rhetorical skills. It seems to me that students work harder on the pizzazz of a piece when asked to use technology and devalue the skills of communication and rhetoric.
    Alexander and Rhodes go on to say, “one surprising element of these videos is that they are essentially short themes delivered via video with little attention to the rhetorical affordances of video production,” (80). Themes are middle and high school activities. For the use of technology to effectively supplement teaching it needs to be on equal footing with the academic content (unless the academic content is the teaching of the technology at hand).
    In an earlier article one of the authors pointed out that digital humanities classes are often in the graduate realm. In my opinion students should focus on becoming masters of the basics in their undergraduate studies before incorporating technology. If students have the skills to communicate effectively then they will be more likely to incorporate those skills in the technological masterpieces.
    I had a few random questions as I was reading this week. Is there a way to check for plagiarism when it comes to images and video footage? I did a little research with google imagines, but what about when a student turns in a hard copy of a photo? With students creating such diverse digital pieces, how do we grade them effectively and fairly? In one of the readings it was suggested that we use reflection pieces, but then are we grading the reflection piece or the piece that the student created?

  7. Bjork’s discussion revolves around what should be taught in the FYW classroom. Framed around Fish and others’ stances, Bjork points to quantitative methods as a promising corrective to FYW pedagogy. The “mixed methods” approach suggested by Bjork has inherent challenges such as time constraints (i.e., how much time to teach technologies, deal with troubleshooting, learning curves, etc.). I’m drawn to this idea Bjork seems to present here, that of a FYW course as structured by methodology. Methods, then, it would seem, would become the content of the course as much as any particular object of study. I’ll get back to this point in the provocation at the end.

    I’m also drawn to Bjork’s tripartite division of the digital humanities field into 1) humanities computing (literature, quantitative), 2) computers and writing (rhet-comp, qualitative, technologies as tools) and 3) new media studies (rhet-comp, qualitative, tools as objects of study, participatory). While I see Bjork’s classification as limited in some regards (scholars regularly cross the boundaries Bjork establishes), I think it’s holds up well from a distance. It seems to me that Bjork is making the argument, somewhat implied, that the reason for the kinds of scholarship produced, and subsequent divisions within the DH field, is rooted in the kinds of funding available for research, notably through NEH grants. With the apparent advent of an expanded range of inquiry in the 2012 grant guidelines (inquiry into history, criticism, and philosophy), those in C&W and NMS should, Bjork implies, continue to see their approaches gain traction. In other words, Bjork seems to be making the argument that pedagogy follows research, an unsurprising suggestion even if it’s not made explicitly beyond the discussion of NEH grants.

    My first provocation takes us back to the content of FYW courses: What would a FYW course rooted in methodologies look like? What kinds of things ought students learn from such a course, and how would that learning privilege rhetoric and composition alongside methodologies as content? I’m also curious where I/we place ourselves in Bjork’s division of the digital humanities.

    My second provocation is to polemically question Bjork’s eminently reasonable call for “at least some of the projects [to] benefit students, even those in a first-year writing course.” Why must everything, even NEH grants for scholarship, come back to pedagogy in the field? What if the best proposals have nothing to do with pedagogy whatsoever? What would be wrong with funding the best research, full stop? After all, hasn’t our discipline proved its commitment enough to students and pedagogy? Bjork’s suggestion strikes me as somewhat misguided affirmative action. In the academy as a whole, pedagogy may be the neglected minority in need of affirmative action. I just don’t see that as the case in our discipline. In our disciplinary context, in fact, one might argue that reserving funding for pedagogy would be like an Ivy league taking care to reserve funding *specifically for* well-connected, wealthy, waspy, legacy applicants *in the name of affirmative action*.

  8. Standing at the front of my classroom, I looked over and observed Julius creating his literacy narrative on a laptop. He was shifting between typing and looking at his brainstorm sheet. He was engaged. When the bell rang at the end of class, he said, “Wow, is it time to go already?” This was an unusually positive comment from an often disgruntled student—I was taken aback. Incorporating new modes for students to produce meaning with can profoundly change their outlooks on creating and literacy. When I scan my classroom during five minutes of note taking, I see not students but a large group of automatons dutifully writing away. That is when I am reminded of Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The “banking system” of education, which Freire critiques, was a staple text during my undergrad. Lecturing is commonly placed under this system. Many might argue about the conflict between lectures and incorporating multiple learning preferences. On the other hand, some assert lectures can be inspirational performances that—at times—add value. One the other hand, incorporating the digital humanities fights the banking system and “addresses how literacy pedagogy in a digital age can reflect societal changes such as globalization, technology and increasing cultural and social diversity” (Hirsch 374). During my undergrad many liked to appeal to the theory of moderation; this has its faults, however. When it comes to pedagogy, how we teach material is dependent on who is sitting in front of us. Maybe a balanced diet is not what a specific group of students need. They could have deficiencies that need to be met in one particular area.

    Current academics argue against representing new modes of literacy, especially when they are pitted against the novel. However, technology allows for creative thinking; Snapchat has become a new medium for telling narratives. The app has limited tools to craft a narrative and since it only lasts for a period of time, people are prone to take more risks and experiment with the art of storytelling. It also fosters different perspectives and close observation of a person’s surroundings.

    Multiliteracies “promote collaboration and creation”; this engagement is a social one, where community is of utmost importance (Hirsch 374). I am again drawn to think about students’ outcomes and how I would assess a product. If I were to support the production of multiliteracies in my classroom, I would question what type of assessment would be fair or equitable to students. Often, I am drawn to think of assessment as a binary—where innovation is separate from assessment. How can I best meld the two together and not hinder inspiration or creativity and still clearly assign and quantifiable grade?

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