With the shift from individual acquisition to artifact mediated collaborative participation, using different modes of technology in teaching writing is a great opportunity to further enhance students’ writing competency. We have begun to ask questions about how digital video assignments enhance the student's composition process. Results from this study and the collected data—including students' brainstorming activities, interactions, script writings and revisions, reflections, and feedback—will hopefully initiate a community of inquiry and discussion/reflections about curriculum design and encourage important adjustments based on students’ feedback and progress.
Digital Media continues to diversify the way we teach. Specifically, it offers fresh challenges and options to enhance student-teacher interactions in our classrooms. Within the Academic Writing Blended Learning initiative, we find that such interactions are fostered through the implementation of video/screencasting coursework. In particular, we’ve implemented two key projects—"digital storytelling" and "group rhetorical analysis.” With the individual digital storytelling project students are required to create a video which builds academic inquiry through a personal experience. This gives students the unique opportunity to employ both audio and visual elements (along with scripts/text) to initiate the inquiry process and engage with their own storytelling/questions. The group rhetorical analysis project proves more challenging as it requires analysis of key rhetorical concepts. The video elements in this case help students to employ these concepts while analyzing them in videos of their choice. These assignments enhance teaching and student learning as they actively engage students by having them create/collaborate on animated conversations/videos. In fact, these videos/screencasts become digital windows for inquiry and research since students critically address and actively engage their audiences while investigating issues from different angles. These assignments are creative but critical tools for literally moving students beyond the personal space to research and consider an issue from various perspectives. Research suggests that when students are invited to begin a writing or research task with a personal reaction or experience, they develop a good foundation for later critical thinking (citation). As students get acquainted with the first digital assignment, they become more creative while critical of their writing/composing practices when producing their group digital projects.
Student evaluations/feedback through self assessment reveal strong evidence of effectiveness. Select feedback is provided below. :
Editing and revising were the two common writing strategies we used when creating our project. There were many aspects of the argument we continued to identify as we worked on our project.
During out drafting we took advantage of the planning and all worked together to draft out script so it would be ready to go to make into the video.
Planning and drafting were the two most used writing strategies for this project. We planned the script and the project before actually writing the script. Then we drafted it and finished the project.
My group used the revising portion the most. We divided the work very evenly but before we would submit something the other two group members would look over it just to double check.
This assignment in my opinion was targeted at making my writing clear and concise. Communication was key in this project.
Using multiple modes made this assignment more organized and effective. Having an individual rhetorical analysis gave each one of us a good idea of what this project would entail, and a written script gave us a good starting point for the assignment. We could then use these written portions and incorporate them into the video and make sure that we included all the necessary aspects required by the rubric.
This assignment helped me improve my writing skills, because since the final product was a video, we had to make sure that the writing was concise and to the point in order to convey a clear message within the allotted time. It also helped me develop a clear thesis and effective supporting evidence.
Our group focused on drafting and revising. We spend a large portion of our time drafting the script for the video, and then going back to make sure that everything we needed to include was there and to make our language more precise.
I liked using multiple modes, as making video projects are always hard work but fun to do! And having good skills in communication and writing are great things to have and improving them never hurts.
I think our group did a good job of including all of the important aspects of a rhetorical analysis into the video and including clips/pictures that kept the audience engaged. We also exhibited great teamwork, because all of the members gave constructive criticism to one another's work, which was more helpful than just agreeing with everything to get the work done faster.
I think this assignment helped with my group working skills.
The combination of the of the modes I felt were beneficial to the group project because it made you think in different ways in order to prepare and complete the project, instead just writing a paper explaining the argument.
It helped me improve my organization, because you needed to make sure everything you were saying was in a logical manner.
Explanation and editing were the strategies we used the most. Explaining is important because you need to make sure your audience understands what you are talking about. Editing is important to make sure you did not make any dumb mistakes that may confused the audience.
My writing improved because I was editing a lot of what my other group members wrote, so I got to see a contrast in writing style, which I may include in my future writings.
The most beneficial aspect was learning how to critically and deeply evaluate our video.
I liked using the multiple modes. I think that is what 'blended learning' is supposed to be about. In today's world, balancing these multiple forms of communication is a necessary skill.
By having personal interactions with other view points, I think I was able to see my writing from different perspectives, in turn allowing me to revise my writing while catering to the audience. Seeing actual reactions to your writing as a beginning writer gets the point across better.
The assignment made my writing skills more analytical and concise by making me aware of rhetorical appeals and better able to decide what to include in a final analysis.
I do believe that the script format helped me to write in a more consistent way, because I had to ensure that my speaking roles in the video flowed smoothly with the roles of my teammates. The assignment also pushed me to write more concisely and to more precisely choose my diction, in efforts to keep the attention of my audience and to refrain from droning on.
The combination of the different modes helps foster a more creative approach.
The strengths are in showing examples of my analysis in the film. I was able to make a claim in my analysis and immediately back it up with a clip.
The assignment allowed me to realize what kind of powerful arguments are going on in present day society. In addition, I view commercial ads much differently than I used to. Instead of casually watching various ads, I begin to analyze and see what kind of argument each ad is trying to make and what rhetorical strategies they are using.
I believe I was able to work on the evaluation portion of our writing process because the rhetorical analysis assignment involved thoroughly examining an ad and locating specific rhetorical devices that were used for the author to really make his argument impacting. After finding the devices, I then had to analyze them which I believe is a crucial ability necessary for writing assignments because a student could take apart a source and analyze certain points of it for their paper.
I believe that rhetorical analysis project teaches students that when writing a paper, a source must be investigated thoroughly to hand pick certain areas and then analyze those areas to use for your paper.
We have begun to ask questions about how these assignments enhance the student composition process, and our project here is to continue the research into this question. We aim to collect further date by analyzing students’ texts, composing practices, and presentations, while paying particular attention to how the students use multimodalties to collaborate and interact to present their thoughts and arguments to their intended audiences. The goal our project is to allow research and practice to inform each other in ways that help develop pedagogical practices aimed at engaging writers in 21st century academic literacy skills. By effectively interacting with the students, instruction and research will be integrated into a dynamic learning process.
Very little equipment is 'necessary' to employ digital video assignments in our classrooms. Popular Digital Storytelling software includes but is certainly not limited to:
iMovie - import video footage and edit video clips (Mac)
Final Cut Express- video editing software (Mac)
Garage Band - used to create and edit music (Mac)
Audacity - digital audio editor and recording application
Adobe Photoshop - graphics editing
Camtasia - screen video capture program
Windows MovieMaker- video editing (PC)
Microsoft Photo Story 3- for Windows XP
Students have access to many of these resources.
Again, very little equipment and/or cost is 'necessary' to employ digital video assignments in our classrooms. Popular Digital Storytelling software includes but is certainly not limited to:
Students have access to many of these resources for free and can even create video projects through their home computers, cell phones, and/or tablets.
A Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction (OWI): http://www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/owiprinciples
Handa, Carolyn. 'Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World: A Critical Sourcebook.' Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.
The goal of this project is to allow research and practice to inform each other in ways that help develop pedagogical practices aimed at engaging writers in 21st century academic literacy skills. Thank you for your consideration.