I want to help my students develop 21st century composition and literacy skills with more than just books and term papers, but how can I ensure that the work I have them do will be both manageable and relevant?
As writing in the 21st century becomes more and more electronically driven, teachers of academic writing need to recognize that our students come to the classroom with different sets of writing skills than we might have when we were undergrads. Because academic writing for the page remains important, we might need to work with the millenials sitting in front of us to address new audiences and varying writing styles.
Troy Hicks, author of The Digital Writing Workshop (2009), elaborates:
For writing teachers, the concept of being multiliterate means that we need to both teach linguistically diverse students and honor the languages and dialects that they bring while also introducing them to the larger discourse of schooling and the community. Also, it means teaching about visual, aural, spatial, gestural, and other literacies that move beyond basic print texts. Together, this need to recognize linguistic diversity and engage in multimodal production of texts complicates the teaching of writing... Writing is, simply, about more than putting words on paper (or screen), but about the many ways in which language, culture, and technology interact (9-10).
To push students’ thinking beyond traditional on-page academic writing, ask students to discuss the differences in style, content, and audience of three short writing samples addressing the same issue: an academic essay, a blog post, and a television or online news piece. This activity can be used to teach course content and to illuminate important strategies for communication. Try to select samples that you feel are particularly well executed. After giving students a chance to read each sample, separate the class into smaller groups to discuss the differences between the writing styles in each sample. Once groups have had about 10 minutes to discuss their initial reactions, bring the class back together to share. What are the characteristics of each type of writing? Who are the audiences for each sample, and how does the writer’s language change depending on those audiences? How are visual design or multimedia elements used to create or enhance meaning in each sample? An additional benefit of this activity is that it provides you, the instructor, a chance to think about criteria for assessment if you decide to have your students engage in digital composition assignments.
Have students write a response to a controversial issue relevant to your course in a blog format. Students should incorporate other online sources to contextualize their own ideas, including hyperlinks to relevant websites, embedded videos, and images. In class, have students then reflect on how the links, videos, and/or images they chose had an impact on the possible meanings and audiences of their post. In the future, you may even ask students to blog multiple times throughout the quarter and respond to their classmates’ posts and share other online material that they have found. This provides an additional opportunity for students to read and build upon their classmates’ ideas, and to engage in critical conversation with each other.
Ask students to present their final projects in a highly structured, but still flexible digital multimedia format such as Pecha Kucha. Pecha Kucha (20x20) is Japanese for chit chat and is an increasingly popular way of bringing people together to share their stories and their work. The format is very precise, and it combines familiar “analog” presentation modes with digital ones: it requires that each participant show 20 images related to their project for 20 seconds each while talking about their work. What results is a multimedia presentation that is concise, engaging, and easy to accomplish with simple software like Powerpoint. The Dispatch recently featured an article on a local PechaKucha event. Read it here. When asking your students to compose a presentation using the Pecha Kucha format, take time as a class to discuss what would make an engaging and provocative presentation, given the content of the course, and the criteria with which such work should be assessed. Several examples are available at http://www.pecha-kucha.org/presentations/. Designing a rubric together will provide both you and your students a chance to explore the particularities of composing and communicating using digital media.
There are many easy and accessible ways to get students thinking about and composing in digital spaces. Here is a short annotated list of some free, helpful and easy-to-access resources that you can incorporate into your classroom.
Student Technology Consultants. The CSTW's Student Technology Consultant (STC) program is excited to introduce instructional technologies to the faculty, staff, and graduate students in three forums. Software demonstrations: Our STCs are rolling out teaching-related demonstrations of popular software programs you may be wanting to learn more about. Suggest a demonstration that is for best for you! Workshops: We'll be doing small hands-on workshops with a few people at a time, to make sure everyone is fully supported. Our goal is a ration of 3 participants to 1 STC. One-on-one sessions: Have our STCs come to your office, lab or a workspace of your choosing and have them help you learn, or go further, with many instructional technologies you're interested in.
The Digital Union. The OCIO's Digital Union, part of Learning Technologies, offers a variety of resources to assist instructors in the integration of digital components into their teaching and learning. We offer workshops, grants and virtual tutorials to help instructors learn how to use and incorporate tools like Carmen, video conferencing, and streaming media into your courses. Whether you need to deliver content or foster collaboration, the Digital Union can help you develop a solution!
Click through for more resources:
Design and Assessment Criteria:
CRAP Theory of Design. This website uses the acronym C.R.A.P as a way to highlight four basic principles--contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity--that are central to clear and navigable web design.
Web 2.0 Style Guide. This how-to website offers a series of simple tips for appealing content design in online contexts. It follows its own principles of design in addition to providing several examples in conjunction with its instructions.
Free Programs and Online Platforms for Digital Work:
Prezi. Prezi, “The Zooming Presentation Editor,” offers a change of pace from Microsoft’s popular Powerpoint program. Easy to learn and navigate, Prezi engages the observer through shifting spatial representations, instead of only the linear arrangement implied by Powerpoint.
Wordle. According to its website, “Wordle is a toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text” and create engaging visuals for any written assignment.” Images generated with Wordle can be inserted into...
WordPress. As self-proclaimed “largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world,” Word Press offers an impressive amount of design and content-management flexibility through its plugins, widgets, and themes.
Sophie. This multifaceted tool uses a virtual book model to enable a range interactive reading and writing experiences. Sophie 2.0 was recently featured as one of ten projects destined to impact next generation arts journalism by the National Summit on Arts Journalism.
IHMC CmapTools. This program is used to generate concept maps to help users graphically express their understanding.
Audacity. Audacity is a free, open-source sound editing program that can be downloaded from the web. It allows users to convert, edit, and record audio files. The program is available in versions compatible with all Mac and Windows operating systems.
Video Editing. Both Windows and Mac computers come with video editing software pre-installed (Windows Moviemaker and Apple iMovie, respectively). Both are reliable and easy to use programs that produce files with cross-platform compatibility.
More Ways the WAC Team Can Help You: See an archive of our past tip e-mails at: http://cstw.osu.edu/taxonomy/term/40
For more ideas about how you might implement writing to learn activities please contact us to schedule an individual consultation. To further our aim of facilitating dialogue about teaching writing, we offer workshops with faculty and graduate teaching associates that tackle issues involving the teaching of writing in various academic genres. We also can co-facilitate in-class presentations for your students, demonstrating innovative approaches to writing instruction and lending students strategies for overcoming challenges with assignments.
Upcoming Events: Next quarter, the WAC Team and the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching will be sponsoring a series on Writing as a College Teaching Tool:
Let us know how we can help. Contact us by phone (292-9650), e-mail (email@example.com), or through our website.
Have a great end of the quarter,
The WAC Team
Dr. Chris Manion, WAC Coordinator
Lindsay Bernhagen, Comparative Studies
Victoria Genetin, Women’s Studies
Mara Gross, Art Education
Deborah Petrone, Education: Teaching and Learning
Courtnie Wolfgang, Art Education