Category Archives: digital writing

Making Media for Real Audiences

I always have a weird feeling at the end of a semester, an awkwardness in saying goodbye to students that I’ve spent so much time with over the past 15 weeks.  Perhaps it is because I spend so many hours inside their heads reading their blog entries and post-production reflection essays. Or perhaps it is just because I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not in the full throws of teaching.

One of the things I’ve done in the past to ease the parting of the last day has been to make a video or digital good bye of some sort. The intense focus during hours of digital composition, often writing and revising, and definitely sifting through multimodal resources, has functioned as a way to process through the experience, coalesce it into something tangible in order to peacefully let it go. This year I tried something different.  Along the same lines of my past digital goodbyes, I wanted to make a video.  But this time, I wanted to more deliberately include my students in on the process.

ImageBecause I Eat, Sleep, and Write” (5:29)

The video above is the collaborative work of Currins 547: Curricular Applications of the Internet. In this course, the students take on the role of online writing tutors for a variety of high school students in the Milwaukee metro area. Since the students never actually meet their tutees face to face, we decided to make a video so that the tutees could match the names of their tutors with the faces of the college students who had been responding to their writing throughout the semester.  To give the video some structure beyond a simple photo slideshow, we decided to each write a 6-word memoir about writing and/or life in general.  We then mashed them altogether into this five minute video. Upon completion we sent the video to the classes who participated in the writing exchange as a digital thank you.

Working with my students over the last few weeks of class to make this video highlighted the importance of providing opportunities to make media for real audiences.  I hope to do more collaborative media production like this in the future.


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Filed under digital writing, teacher education, video

Documentary as “Community Advocacy”

As part of the professional develop ment outreach work I do with the Minnesota Writing Project, I recently had the opportunity to work with a teacher using documentary filmmaking with her students.

“The Dangers of Poverty” (4:36)

The eighteen students in class, mostly juniors and seniors, were enrolled in an advanced language arts course for English language learners.  As part of their reading, research, and writing about community issues, the students made documentaries about issues of poverty and educational access.

My tasks were to assist the teacher in designing the curriculum, work with students in small groups as they drafted their voice over narrations, as well as provide technical assistance and tutorials while working in the computer lab during the final weeks of the project. Working on this project was a blast.  Not only do I love working with innovative teachers up for literacy adventurous big and small (Ms. Ziegler, whom the students affectionately called “Ms. Ina,” was definitely of this ilk), but I also crave working one on one with the students. On this project I got to know many of the students very well, helping them to work through their expression of ideas when writing the voice over narrations and then again as they combined their own writing with the interview footage, images and music.

“Poverty vs Education” (6:19)

Far from what some may call glorified dioramas, these iMovie video projects were very involved, requiring students to critically analyze the data they had gathered on their topics.  In addition to regular “academic research” for the project, the students were required to gather primary resources in the form of interviews with relevant community leaders. Weaving interview clips along side voice over narrations is not an easy task. Students had to decide which information and interview clips to leave behind, which to include, and in what order. The students also had to negotiate with their peers (the students worked in groups of three) regarding which images and music to use in order to add emphasis and tone to their arguments.  I remember hearing many heated conversations related to whether a group should use Michael Jackson’s “You are Not Alone” or Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” The group members wanted the mood to be serious but not sad.

As I continue my work with media composition as it relates to literacy learning and instruction, I hope to continue working with students as they make media.  More importantly I hope to continue working with adventurous literacy educators like Ina Ziegler, who knowingly jumped into the messiness of media composition in the classroom.

“Solving Poverty” (2:54)

Working with Ms. Ziegler as well as with several other K12 educators using digital media forms of writing, my understanding of writing instruction has become more and more complex. While I love to teach word choice and playful phrasing, I realize that words alone are not enough.  In order for our students to persuade their points and advocate their views for 21st-century audiences, they must know how to use media in rhetorical ways.  How else will they gain these critical literacy skills without schools providing the opportunities to create with images, video, music and sound?  So while Ms. Ziegler’s students used documentary to advocate for issues pertinent in their community, I use print, the medium of currency in my profession, to advocate for a broadening of our community values, for a change in how we see writing in the lives of our students.

The final documentaries can be viewed by visiting the course website – Listening to Learn, Speaking to Persuade: Documentary as Community Advocacy.

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Filed under digital writing, mwp, video

digital storytelling as pedagogy

The Pedagogy of Digital Storytelling in the College Classroom

The digitalstory that Rachel Raimist, Walt Jacobs, and I co-created was featured today on the CLA homepage. Rachel was truly the editing artist behind this piece.  That said, I so enjoyed the collaborative process we used to create this piece.  We brainstormed our ideas using synchronous and asynchronous chat on Google.wave.  We used this discussion as the basis of our voice over. Rachel then made the final revisions to each of our voice-over scripts, which we then recorded and uploaded to Media Mill. Rachel was then able to access all of the media from our individual digital story pieces and mix them into the final product.

This video will eventually be featured along side an article we wrote  together for, explaining the design of the Fall 2008 course, Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color.

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To engage or not to engage: tool choice and identity

I stumbled across the Technium, a blog by Kevin Kelly that explores technology’s impact on culture, or perhaps I should say technology’s encompassing of culture.  Kelly describes “Technium” as …

It’s a word I’ve reluctantly coined to designate the greater sphere of technology – one that goes beyond hardware to include culture, law, social institutions, and intellectual creations of all types. In short, the Technium is anything that springs from the human mind. It includes hard technology, but much else of human creation as well. I see this extended face of technology as a whole system with its own dynamics.

At first glance, his ideas seem similar to McLuhan‘s view of the media as deterministic.  Yet, his stance seems to take on a more ecological angle, arguing that technology is an organism, in itself … see interview excerpt below.

What I am most drawn to in this interview is his discussion of identity as a matter of refusing technologies. In other words, our choice to take up or engage with a certain hardware or software has just as much impact on one’s identity, if not more, than what we do choose to use. These ideas are further explored in the essay Identity from What-Is-Not.

This makes me think about my choices not to use Twitter, or Delicious.  While I find these software programs and the social practices they motivate to be very interesting in terms of collaborative construction and distribution of knowledge, I haven’t yet felt a strong enough need to personally engage.  This focus on the “process of refusal” is a fascinating and powerful line of inquiry for me to explore in terms of my interests in identity and student engagement with digital media.

Thank you Kevin Kelly.  I can’t wait for your book to come out.

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Filed under bodywork, digital writing, Uncategorized

multigenre synergy

multigenre wordle

This week the teachers in my Digital Writing class collaborated to create a multigenre piece titled “A Soldier’s Blog.” Not only was the piece multigenre, taking up letter, postcard, recipie, poetry, and news story genres, it also was multimodal AND multimedia, combining pictures, voice, linguistic text and music, into wiki pages, VoiceThread, Garage Band, & Photo Story.

While I was a bit nervous about taking on such a complex task in single class setting, thinking it might be overwhelming to those who don’t compose digitally on a regular basis, the process and final piece were as one student summarized “amazing.”  They all wrote and composed such wonderful pieces.  Not only did I finish class feeling exuberant and enthused by the energy of accomplishment in the room, but the teachers also felt invigorated by the experience.  The Wordle above catches the words they used to summarize their experience.

It is moments like these that make me feel so fortunate to do the work I do, working with such creative and thoughtful professionals.

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National Day on Writing 2009

Picture 5

Since I was unable to start up my own gallery for this year’s National Day on Writing, I’ve decided instead to try out some new forms of online writing.  First, I played with the multimodal writing tools of VoiceThread to archive the day’s events  In the piece above, we take advantage of VoiceThread’s collaborative potentials by contributing to a collective commentary on the National Day on Writing events offered at the University of Minnesota.

Many of these events were organized by the Center for Writing and you will hear their voices in the VoiceThread above. Lend an ear and take a peek at this year’s celebration of writing. (Click on the image above to see/hear the piece or visit the piece via the UofMN Gallery of Writing)

Second, I decided to finally contribute to an online forum by posting a comment.  While I often read discussions online, I remain a “lurker” and do not contribute.  So to actually participate, I posted a discussion comment to a recent article about Chris Jordan’s photos of dead birds filled with garbage. It was a bit nerve racking to think that others might actually read and respond to my thoughts.  Yet, inspired by the desire to further develop an “answerability” for my actions, I took the plunge.  I display it here to further remind myself that participation also involves contribution.

C comment

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IRA 2009 — Online Role-Play


Today I presented at IRA with Rick Beach on online role-play.  We had about 50 people there.  What I loved was the discussion we had afterwards with all of the teachers and their ideas for implementation. Click on the slide above to page through our presentation slides.

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Filed under digital writing, presentations