My electronic musings have moved over to wordpress. If interested, check them out there.
My electronic musings have moved over to wordpress. If interested, check them out there.
As I finish up teaching CI 5461: Methods for Teaching Secondary Composition, I am left with still more questions about teaching and learning.
Having taught the course before, I felt that this second time around, I'd be able to better present the material in a thorough and provocative way. As a result I decided to cut my reading load almost in half, in order to promote a more in depth engagement with the ideas. While we "covered" less material, I wonder how much we actually "uncovered" ideas.
Post-Production Reflection Paper
I'm working hard to find the right balance between learning to write via study of methods, theory, and actual practice of writing. Being a big believer of learning to write through learning about your own writing process, this year I choose to assign a reflective piece for the final paper instead of curriculum lesson planning paper. I am very happy with this decision in that the paper reflected actual thinking about the ideas of digital composing as writers rather than just assigning digital writing. It took me hours to grade the papers. I filled the margins with comments and questions, not because I had so many suggestions for improvement, but because their writing engaged me in a meaningful discussion that had me thinking about these ideas in new way. I learned so much from reading through/grading those papers, making them one of my most meaningful grading experiences. My question now would be...does my enjoyment in grading the papers reflect at all the meaningfulness of the task for them?
Digital Literacy Project
For a final presentation project the students made video compositions using either iMovie or Movie Maker. I was so impressed with these projects. They really took the idea of digital storytelling and video composition to heart creating personal narratives, memoir pieces, documentaries, and digital renditions of short stories (Check them out.). What I found most interesting was how heightened the students' awareness was of their audience. In knowing that these videos would be shown to their peers, they seemed highly motivated to create a quality product. Some of the final products were absolutely phenomenal making me laugh at loud, while others made me cry.
Unlike the two projects above, which were new this year, the blogging component was carry over from last year. I have to say, that I really value the blogging as an informal space for thinking about ideas yet with an audience in mind. Furthermore, the ability to connect and apply the ideas of writing to various multimodal sources online, such as YouTube videos, art galleries, and music, added so many dimensions to their reflection on the ideas. Blogging is a definite keeper for future classes. Read some of the blogs for yourself.
While I could go on more, I'll close with this one last highlight...
The Cohort Cupcakes (see photo above)
The cupcakes, along with many of the other final-celebration goodies, were delicious. I am always surprised how food brings such a festive and collective spirit to an event. Perhaps its the carnival aspect of feasting that food and celebrations bring out in us. In seeing that we all need to eat, and that we all have cravings for celebration, we are able to let go of other traditional classroom dynamics. Then again, maybe it's just my love of chocolate that moves mountains.
Ok, so it's late and I'm listening to the Counting Crows, a group that I absolutely loved ten years ago, but have not listened to in years. These songs, composed of multiple layers: piano, guitar, Duritz' voice, and yes, the haunting lyrics, drudge up memories from times long gone. But, these memories are not in the form of images, rather they are waves of emotion that move through my body, nearly bringing me to tears. Yet these are not tears of sadness. Instead they are tears of a knowing disconnect. A disconnect between my mind and body, brought on by the music which has transported my mind back ten years.
How can music do this? What is it about the pairing of sound and words? Do they create some unique form of narrative that covers the surface of our brain, blanket-like, yet anchored deep to the brain stem via tent stakes that jolt the body with emotional surges?
I can't help but think of the materiality that music has in terms of how it influences the body's physiological functions: heart rate, breathing, tears, clenched fists, all via emotional reactions to deep-seeded swirls, be they memories or emotions.
As someone interested in the various ways of making meaning, I often get caught up with the visual, and its related literacy practices. Yet, I largely ignore the rhetorical power and potency of sound.
Daylight fading Come and waste another year All the anger and the eloquence are bleeding into fear Moonlight creeping around the corners of our lawn When we see the early signs that daylight's fading We leave just before it's gone Counting Crows
With that I say good night.
Again I'm thinking about the body, most recently while at the Walker checking out the Frida Kahlo exhibit that just passed through. What most caught my eye was the painting The Two Frida's and how it dipicts a multiplicity of identities. While I'm not an art historian, the painting seems to acknowledge that we present and live out multiple selves and that these selves are interconnected in a visceral way--hence the arteries dripping blood on her dress. I know that specifically this blood refers to her tumultuous relationship with d. rivera, but I'm still interested in how she is performing these different bodies. Some of her other paintings take up questions of the body and its representation as well. I wonder how Kahlo's play with the body on canvas and steel as she liked to do, relates to how so many of us play with our bodies on line--whether it be in Second Life, designing our avatars our on our blogs building textual bodies?
As I look back at my various blog postings for CI 5410, I would have to say that they all forced me to look at issues of digital writing that I might not otherwise have considered. I think specifically of my entry on voice thread, and box logic. Both represent approaches that were completely unexpected, but have so much potential for multimodal composition. I can see myself having students use Voice Thread or compose some box logic project on their own.
What have perhaps influenced my thinking the most, are the blog postings related to video composition or image mashing in some way. These entries include MANY of my postings, since my line of inquiry often brought me there. But to highlight the posts I feel most represent my thinking, as a result of this class, I choose the three following posts:
1. My first "Vlog" entry: process and product
The Cummings Books video was my first attempt at mixing sound, still and moving images to creating a coherent text. Making that video gave me first hand experience with multimodal composition, which has enhanced my understanding of all I've read about video composition since making that video.
Making this podcast was hard work, but so helpful in thinking about all the decisions involved in composition, especially when bringing multiple modes into the mix. When putting this podcast together, I had to make many editing decisions related to narrowing the focus and maintaining a coherent narrative. Editing the 30 minutes down to 5 minutes took close to 5 hours.
This wiki, that I created earlier this semester has become an integral part of my thinking. Not only does it serve as a portal to my online navigation, it allows me to bookmark online sites in a more meaningful way than de.lic.ous would in that I am constantly reconfiguring how these fields of thought are related to each other. I am so glad that I started that wiki.
Pedagogically speaking, I find the blog to be a nice medium to publish product but also showcase process. I will continue using it as a tool to push my own thinking, such as with this research blog. Also, I hope to keep using them with my students as an entry point to thinking about digital writing.
For the past year and a half I have been a writing consultant at my university's writing center. My consulting occurs in different ways: face to face; asynchronous response; and synchronous chat. I would say that each setting brings about different writing practices on my part.
face to face consulting:
I would have to say that I prefer face-to-face consulting for two reasons: 1) because of the personal connection you establish with the person, made possible through seeing them, body/facial expression and all, and 2) because I feel that we can get so much more done.
Face to face consulting allows me to "adapt" my practices to the writer and writing situation. This is probably because I am able to communicate more quickly and am better able to "read" the person and situation. Having the person right there I am able to gauge whether I am understanding what they asked for and whether I'm giving them the feedback they were looking for, or if I need to modify my style of delivery to be more or less directive.
Because I'm given only a few written directives from the writer, and not nonverbal feedback, I find myself slipping into a more directive style of feedback. When I say "directive" I don't mean that I tell the writer what to do, but rather, I notice myself asking fewer questions than I do in face-to-face, probably because there is no one to answer them in the moment. Instead I find myself taking on a more reader based form of feedback in that I narrate what I think the writing is saying and where I am confused in my reading of the piece.
While I think this works most of the time, I feel that it doesn't work well in situations where the piece of writing is very poorly organized, because then it seems that all I am saying is that I don't understand. There have been two instances where I have reviewed papers where I made many comments about organization, in essence voicing that I was very confused. In those instances, the writers never showed up for the second part of the consultation, which is the live chat. My hunch tells me that my response style offended them in some way and they did not want to return.
This is where I find the online consultation to fall short of the full experience of f2f consulting. My comments on the papers mentioned above, were not stated in an offensive way, yet they may have come off that way because there was no person, not even the blinking cursor (like in the live chat experience) behind them to soften the delivery.
I find live chat feedback to be a blend of the above two forms. While I cannot see the writer, I can constantly ask the writer questions to see if I'm missing the point. Chat, because of its spontaneous form, also allows for more play with language for purposes of humor or lightening the mood of what may get too serious. Asynchronous feedback does not have that same tempo. It feels so much more formal, and as a result, the feedback comes off formal, even if I try to create a warm feel with opening and closing comments.
In thinking about my future practices of online feedback, I think I might start making fewer comments on the student's text and more comments on a separate screen, as notes to myself to address in the chat. This would allow me to familiarize myself with the text, but at the same time, it wouldn't create this formal mood, that at times may offend students.
As you can see, I'm still thinking about a lot of this.
One of my upcoming projects involves redesigning the Minnesota Writing Project (MWP) Website. While I don't know code, I will be involved in researching the website needs and wishes of those in MWP. Designed in 2001, our website (see screen shot below) exemplifies the internet practices of web 1.0, where people used the internet as a glorified yellow pages. While this worked swell for the time, we currently feel that our site does not accurately represent who we are as an outreach organization, Nor does it do much to invite new teachers to join our network. Thus, the CI5410 task of analyzing wesite usability seems an appropriate time to begin my research on writing project website design.
To guide my inquiry into content, formatting and organization of web content, I'll be using the design questions presented in Anson, et. al (2008) Engaging Students in Digital Writing.
*** What kind of info. is present and where is it positioned?
*** What is the relationship between images and words?
*** What types of icons or navigational tools are present?
*** How accessible are other forms of information?
Minnesota Writing Project
Above is a screen shot from the current website for MWP which I'll be using as my example of poor design. I say this for a variety of reasons. First of all the content is organized for a general audience, instead of geared specifically for teachers or administrators. In this sense, our identity as an organization is largely underdeveloped. Content explaining who we are, what we do, and why teachers might be interested in us is available but not explicit. I think image placement and/or navigational icons could help with this.
For example, the primary navigation bar, shown now as purple blotches of paint, could include the major component of who/what we are, yet the Summer Invitational Institute one of our most important programs is not there. While the institute is discussed front and center, this would be the perfect place to have a photo, or better yet, slide show of photos, showing who we are or what the summer institute is.
So overall, I would say my main complaint with the MWP site is that it lack identity and purpose in that 1) the content doesn't accurately represent our organization 2) the placement of content, especially photos placed in lower right hand corner of page, does little to spur interest in our organization, and 3) the lack of a heading system that cues organization of content, makes it very easy to get lost in the site.
Red Cedar Writing Project
For my example of "good" design, I've chosen the Red Cedar Writing Project's website. What jumps out at me about this website is it placement of the teacher front and center. The image almost functions as a hook into the site, by leading you to the story about the teaching consultant who is working on the podcast. This placement of image and content, speaks volumes about what the Red Cedar project is, teachers teaching teachers.
As for organization of content, there are two main navigation bars. The top bar placed just above the photo, seems to be geared toward those outside the writing project, including info. on the summer institute to recruit new teachers. The bottom bar, placed just below the photo, seems to be geared to those teacher consultants already in the writing project, with icons linked to pages related to news, events, and related networks. There is not spatial organization cues like this on the MWP website.
This organizational formatting continues with similar black tool bars and headings continuing into the following pages, with headings at the top of each page to remind you where you are.
New York City Writing Project
Also worthy of mention is the New York City Writing Project's website. While it is very web 2.0 with various interactive options, such as blog and wiki features, its placement of info. on the home page is so busy, which intuitively I find off-putting. Even though I am an NWP insider who feels quite comfortable playing and browsing online, I feel like an outsider in need of orientation, to do anything on this website. If their purpose to to attract new teachers to their project, this site doesn't seem to me like it would be very effective in doing so.
The challenge for the composer, then, is to capture that memory-laden thrill for the viewer, inventing a uniquely visionary world from carefully chosen fragments of the existing one.
Reading Geoffry Sirc's description of what he calls "box logic" has opened up new ways for me to think about video composition. First of all, it is his description of the writer not as creator of text rather as the selector and collector of statements (p.116) and his use of the box as a space to see text as a collection (p.112). In seeing text as a box, we move away from the linear norm of prose and "renew existence" (p.121) of objects by placing these words, phrases, images, sounds, etc. into new settings.
This focus on collecting as composition highlights the interpretive work that goes into choosing and layering different forms of media together such as the intermixing of sound, image, and text done in video composition. Much like in writing, Sirc claims that there is a material desire involved in this practice of collecting. (p.1190
This focus on desire, helped me to realize when I was tapping into the box logic and when I was not. For example, my first attempt was this box logic composition on ice fishing. Unlike Jen Budenski's box logic on Princesses as a cult of womandhood, my piece captures no "memory-laden thrill" and displays no interpretive insight, or as Sirc would call it "poetry" In fact, I had little desire to revise or revisit this piece even though I was interested in the topic.
All that said, I did experience much pleasure when picking and placing the material statements for the video composition below, which I argue is a form of box logic in itself. While it probably doesn't offer any interpretive insight, I do feel that it pulls together different semiotic forms to construct and capture a "memory-laden thrill" at least for those related to my son, Oliver.
In "Papie, Pizza & Poop" all of the video clips were randomly filmed. By themselves they offer no coherent narrative. Yet, pulled together under the guise of "first words" they become a collection of sound bites. The music, with its nostalgic feel, also plays into this collection of sound and adds to the memory thrill.
Papie, Pizza & Poop
Overall, I would say that my mommy blog, Oliver Haiku, is a form of box logic. It is here that I use technology to scrapbook. In so doing, I renew the practice of scrapbooking. While the materiality is different, in its digital rather than physical presence, it is still material. Most notable is the power of sound whether voice, or music and how it impacts the body via emotion. I surely could go on and on about this, but I'll stop here for now, certain to return later.
While I'm not as enthusiastic as Mike Dionne, who claims that podcasts come close to being the Holy Grail of utility in the classroom, I would agree that podcasts hold much potential in terms of increasing our awareness of the persuasive impact of sound in the multimodal messages we consume and produce daily. That said, I think we need to be critical of how we implement podcasts into our curriculum.
Evans, discusses using podcasts to supplement readings and analysis of literature. I'm sure that the new medium was motivational for students. Yet, I wonder how much the potential of the podcast mode of expression and genre of information delivery was harnessed.
What I worry about is that we will use this new tool only as a glorified voice recorder to produce and share vocal performances of text. While recording the voice has benefits in terms of language awareness and comprehension, it does not address all of the many other sounds that layer in between and on top of the voice to influence its meaning and delivery. Through a thoughtful consideration of the podcast genre, its community defined conventions and uses, we can better understand how podcast distribution is changing cultural flows of information.
I am very drawn to the simplistic sound and image layering made possible through the interactive software at Voice Thread. I think the site has much potential in terms of a classroom tool for composing, publishing and sharing work. It is one of the few sites that allows one to work with images, sound, and video in a way that is interactive. Unlike video composition which requires a camera, and editing software, it takes very little equipment to create these multimodal voice threads beyond a computer with a basic microphone. There are many different ways this software could be used. Listed below are just a few possibilities to get the wheels turning.
Layering Voice and still Images:
-- personal memoir -- students could chose 3-5 images from a significant event. They then could write small voice over scripts for each image.
-- expository slide shows -- students could chose images from a historical event and then do research to write short descriptions or narrative vignettes to describe the event. (See Hurricane Katrina Example)
-- literature response -- students could choose images to describe characters, scenes, emotions, symbols, etc. in literature. They could then use the voice recorder to document an paragraph explaining the significance (see Favorite Poems example-- This voice thread is composed of a collection of students reading their favorite poems aloud. while the image does not change, the voices rotate.)
Interactive Video Share:
Video Doodling -- this new feature, which allows one to upload small clips of video and then comment and doodle on them has huge potential for sharing video for feedback. I can see small groups of people sharing their videos with each other via this site. Unlike YouTube, Voice Thread allows one to directly engage with the video by doodling on top of the images/video. Plus there is the ability to give feedback via voice and/or video instead of print comments.
Voice Thread goodies:
What is a Voice Thread? demonstration
Jen' Budenski's posting on Voice Thread--an excellent example of archiving oral histories
Voice Thread Forum -- a space where educators and other users meet up to post questions on the practicalities of using and implementing Voice Thread into their classrooms.
As I look back on my experience composing a podcast for the first time, (check out my podcast interview with Larissa Anderson) there are few observations I have to share.
My focus kept changing. Pre-interview, I started with three questions that contrasted print writing with radio writing. Yet as we got into the interview this whole idea of storytelling emerged and the aspects of sound that play into that storytelling process. So I ended up adding more and more questions about this storytelling process. Then, as I was editing the tape, yet another focus emerged, which was "treatment" of stories. While I had enough tape to have a forty minute podcast, I decided to focus specifically on the writing process in terms of treating the story.
Editing is a long and involved process. Just as Larissa described in my interview with her, listening and logging the tape is a long monotonous process. Our original interview produced 31 minutes of tape, which I didn't think was very much. Yet it took me just under eight hours to edit that half hour down to 5 and a half minutes.
Pacing and Tone:
During my eight hours of editing, I encountered some problems with pacing and tone. As I whittled away at quotes to include, I noticed that the pacing was choppy. In some pieces, Larissa was talking very fast and with an animated voice, while in others her voice is more relaxed and reflective. When these pieces are put so closely together they sound a bit shifty. I tried to break up this pacing and tone contrasts by inserting my own voice connection pieces.
"Talking into the Tape"
Larissa talked about the process of talking into the tape, or having a conversation with the tape. I found myself doing the same, especially towards the end of my editing when I had to re-record my questions to better connect the voice pieces. I had to really listen to the words Larissa was using in her responses so that I could then use some of her concepts, her visuals, to bridge the pieces together.
How does this relate to video editing?
Overall, I've found this process to be very helpful in thinking about the process of visual composition. Much like a specific image my drive my video drafting, a sound or a phrase drove my editing of this interview. This sound and image driven process is a bit unwieldy for me. I'm so use to harnessing my ideas down onto the page in the form of an outline. Yet, an outline doesn't work with words and sounds. So then how do we organize our ideas that come to us outside of language? Maybe I need to start using other scaffolding techniques such as storyboard, etc. to organize all of these layers. Whatever it may be that I need--I still have yet to figure it out--as teachers we need to discuss these differences in process. The writing process as we know it doesn't fully capture all the layers involved in these multimodal compositions. It will be interesting to see how the writing process is reconceptualized to better incorporate these modes.
An interview with MPR producer Larissa Anderson:
Click Here to Listen to the Interview (5:30 minutes long)
In this interview, I ask Larissa about her experience working on the MPR show, In The Loop. Larissa shares with me her writing process from interview, through sound editing, to final product. Of interest is her discussion of radio's treatment of stories and how storytelling serves as a conceptual framework for inquiry and drafting.
Also of special note is her work with songwriters documenting the creative process involved in composing songs. Check out more at "Songs from Scratch" a radio show she produced in Summer 2007.
To continue with my previous thinking on the wiki as a teaching tool, I've decided to try to use the wiki as a collaborative ongoing text. Much inspired by Matt Barton's students from St. Cloud State University do with their course wiki Rhetoric and Composition: A Guide for the College Writer, I would like to have the teachers develop a wiki as a guide for the middle school and high school writers. What exactly will be included will be up to the teachers. I will suggest some catagories and provide some examples, but then they will add to the wiki what they feel is helpful.
I value the idea of exploring online resources and then sharing the gems with others much like active bloggers do. I tried to promote this last year with having the students include one "resource link" per week to their professional blogs. While this was effective in getting the students to explore online spaces for writing resources, it wasn't as helpful in terms of sharing the gems. While the few that visited the individual's blog were able to benefit, posting the links on the the wiki, under organized catagories would make the resources more accessable to a wider audience, which taps into the collaborative potential of the wiki.
Some catagories that I'm thinking about so far are...
Revising (genre ... )
Gathering Feedback (peer review ... conferencing ... partner share)
Editing (grammar... conventions ... mechanics)
Writer Identity (gender... race ... class in writing)
Testing -- The 5 Paragraph essay
This is just a start. I hope to add more ideas and examples of such collaborative wikis as I come accross them.
Clicking through flickr, I stumbled on the photo collection of BrittneyBush. Reaching near 3,000 photos, this photography participates frequently in posting photos and comments. I was taken in by her eye, "making strange" the normal objects our eyes gloss over daily. Her photo collection is quite stunning.
Also of interest were the different groupings she had of her photos under the heading "Best of." Below are two shots I decided to feature, for reasons I'll got to below. In the meantime, take a moment, to indulge in some short slide shows to get a feel for how other's view her work and for how she views and her work.
Yes, It's A Glamorous Job -- from Best of...Other's Favorites
Access Denied -- from Best of...The ABCs of Brittney
What is interesting to me about these two collections is how each has its own character or style. What BrittneyBush likes best about her own photo style is not necessarily what others find most appealing about her work. The photo "Yes, It's a Glamorous Job" seems to involve BrittneyBush making a statement about the irony in societal depictions and expectations of women. Yet, when you read through the 140 comments posted to this photo, only a few address this possible meaning. Most people focus on the subject's body and accessories and make little note of the conflicting images (toilet bowl, rubber gloves) even though BrittneyBush's tags for the photo suggests some sort of social critique. Tags include: me, self portrait, housewife, righteous feminist indignation, it's not that I'm unhappy, it's just that somehow, this is not what I had planned on, sexy.
I don't mean to say that the other viewer's interpretations are wrong, rather that meaning is fickle. Although we put so much effort into our production and presentation of ideas, we can't control what happens to them once we put them out there. Others will receive them and us how they will. All that said, even though "Yes, It's A Glamorous Job" isn't one of BrittneyBush's personal picks, I love this photo for its irony, and would place it in her best of.
If music be the food of love, play on. --Twelfth Night
Well, what about the sounds of food and their play with the mouth? I never really considered the rhetorical implications of sound until I started playing around with video myself. Thinking more about the power of sound, which is largely "overlooked" when considering the impact of visual modes, has got
me thinking about the sound I capture in video. Inspired by other vloggers (like Kevin O. of Video Haiku) who are using video to "see" sounds ordinarily ignored, this short clip explores the sounds of pizza, pre-consumption. Buen provecho!
It seems that some people are looking into sound and its "persuasive" qualities. Adrian North researches the psychological impacts of sound