Monthly Archives: October 2013

Nonfiction remixed

Mueller, Derek. “Tracing Rhetorical Style from Prose to New Media: 3.33 Ways.” Praxis Wiki, at Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. Last modified 25 May 2013. Web. Accessed 13 October 2013. http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/praxis/index.php/Tracing_Rhetorical_Style_from_Prose_to_New_Media:_3.33_Ways

Derek Mueller is an assistant professor of written communication in Eastern Michigan University’s Department of English Language and Literature. He is interested in the intersection of writing, rhetoric, and technology, particularly social media and visual rhetoric. More information about him is available at http://www.derekmueller.net/rc/index.html and http://www.emich.edu/english/faculty/facultypages/dmueller.php

In this piece, Mueller details a project for his “Writing, Style, and Technology” class in which he requires students to examine in depth and rework a brief nonfiction passage in a variety of modes and media. The idea behind this assignment was to explore style and rhetorical elements, and discover how changing delivery methods could affect a composition.

In the six-week-long project, students first select a three-paragraph passage, then analyze its style. Next, they choose three out of four ways to remake the passage they have chosen: a Twitter stream, using elements of experimentation already present on Twitter (for example, literature recast as tweets) as well as staples of the site such as @mentions, hashtags, retweets, and hyperlinks; a three-panel imagetext triptych, accompanied by a text explanation of their rhetorical choices; a webcomic; and an intensive analysis of the piece’s syntax, sentence by sentence. The project caps off with a five-minute presentation accompanied by slides showing their work, delivered in the style of Ignite videos.

The project outlined in this video sounds like a very interesting way to examine rhetorical choices in a multimedia world, and understand the capabilities and limitations of various delivery methods. Through this project, students can see how style and delivery shape one another (I’d argue arrangement is similarly affected in the same way). By using a text passage as a starting point, students can see how the academically hegemonic mode has already crafted a message, and by reworking it in various ways, they can see how that message can be improved (or not) with different approaches.

I particularly like the Twitter stream, which may be one of the best examples of the dynamic quality of hypertext, and the webcomic, which provides an excellent example of combining words and images. I don’t really understand how the syntactical analysis is supposed to work, despite reading that section of the article three times. It seems like less of a hands-on remake and more of a dry, academic analysis. It might be a useful technique for examining the stylistic choices an author makes, but it doesn’t fit with the hands-on and fun spirit of the rest of the project. If I were to use a project like this in a classroom, I would probably find a substitute for this option, perhaps a Prezi or a YouTube video.

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Blogging in the classroom: A failed use of technology

Krause, Stephen D. “When Blogging Goes Bad: A Cautionary Tale About Blogs, Emailing Lists, Discussion, and Interaction.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 9.1 September 2004. Web. Accessed 13 October 2013. http://english.ttu.edu/Kairos/9.1/binder.html?praxis/krause/index.html. Also reprinted in Johnson, T.R. (Ed). Teaching Composition: Background Readings.
Third Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.

Stephen Krause is a professor of English at Eastern Michigan University. Most of his classes and his scholarship focus on the intersection of writing and technology. More information about him, along with more of his academic work, is available at http://stevendkrause.com/ and http://www.emich.edu/english/faculty/facultypages/skrause.php

In this piece, Krause recounts his failure in using blogs in the classroom around 2003-04. In a time when blogging was kind of the new thing, he used blogger.com and Blogspot in an MA class called “Rhetoric and Culture of Cyberspace.” He had students use their blogs as a primary mode of discussion of the texts, but found that the discussion of the texts was lacking compared with his other classes’ use of listservs for discussions.

Krause gives a number of reasons for the failure of his experiment, including: limitations of the software regarding collaborative work; a lack of directions from him as an instructor as to the assignments and discussion themselves; a lack of motivation to blog (he notes that blogging is easy, but a writer must have “generally, a personal reason” to blog); and a general lack of dynamism in blogging technology. He notes that email listservs were far more effective for discussion and blogs are generally “spaces for publishing highly individualistic writing.”

Krause does offer two suggestions for successful use of blogs in the classroom. First, blogging can be useful as an electronic alternative to traditional reading journals. Students posted their own individual thoughts, but were asked to interact with each other via the class listserv. Krause found that this utilized the strengths of both media: individuality in blogs and dynamic discussion through the listserv. The other suggestion is a research blog, not unlike this one.

I thought this was a useful article because it recounts an unsuccessful use of technology in teaching rhetoric and composition. As I prepare to apply for a teaching assistantship for next semester, I am trying to find ways to use technology to get students writing more organically and increase their literacy. It’s useful to know what doesn’t work.

I also thought this was a good piece to highlight for another reason: It’s incredibly dated. First of all, most of the links do not work. Many pages seem to have been taken down, or at the very least, moved, and the author has apparently not done any necessary upkeep (which could be as simple as noting that the links no longer work, or removing the hypertext markup). Second, the essay can also be presented as a blog, with each section appearing in reverse order, as if they were chronological posts. An interesting, if gimmicky, idea, but in execution it just creates a weird and disjointed reading experience (actually, the reading experience was a bit disjointed anyway). Finally, he’s writing about blogging, a technology that is still used but not in the same way it was used 9-10 years ago. It would be interesting to see how Krause might use other technology, such as message boards or social media, to achieve some of the same teaching goals. Ultimately, this article is an artifact of an earlier technological area, and is itself an example of a poor use of technology.

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Critical literacy, critical thinking, and Facebook

Coad, David T. “Developing Critical Literacy and Critical Thinking through Facebook. Praxis Wiki, at Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. Last modified 16 August 2013. Web. Accessed 13 October 2013. http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/praxis/index.php/Developing_Critical_Literacy_and_Critical_Thinking_through_Facebook

David Coad is a PhD student at the University of California, Davis, School of Education, with an emphasis in writing, rhetoric, and composition. According to his web page(davidcoad.com), he is interested in topics such as multimodal composition and the “intersection of social media and literacy.”

Coad explains how he uses analysis of Facebook to engage his students in critical thinking and enhance the growth of their critical literacy. He doesn’t want his students to simply know how to use Facebook; they already know how to do that. He wants them to think about how the designers of Facebook shape users’ experiences with the site, and metacognitively understand how Facebook affects their everyday lives.

The author wants students to understand how Facebook’s form reflects human forces who want to drive discussion in a particular manner. He also wants them to be aware of how they evaluate audience and craft messages in a digital environment, with an emphasis on how such communication constitutes “real, live rhetorical situations.” He sees digital communication as an essential component of literacy.

At first glance, this piece may appear quite similar to Elaine Childs’ piece on using Facebook in the classroom, but they’re really quite different. Childs explains how she uses Facebook as a forum for discussion and a vehicle for delivery of class information, while Coad explains how he asks his students to analyze the social networking site. He wants to challenge the idea that social media are trivial forms of communication and emphasize that such communication is complex, even if we don’t realize it. I think his ideas provide important intersections with Shirky (whom he cites in the piece), Sheridan et al, and McCorkle. His assignments make students think about what they do every day and how that activity relates to their studies. I don’t know that I’d incorporate Facebook into a classroom in the same manner, but it’s certainly an interesting analytical activity.

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14 October 2013 · 12:28 am

Using Facebook in the composition classroom

Childs, Elaine. “Using Facebook as a Teaching Tool.” Praxis Wiki, at Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. Last modified 25 May 2013. Web. Accessed 13 October 2013. http://praxis.technorhetoric.net/index.php/Using_Facebook_as_a_Teaching_Tool

I could not find much information about Elaine Childs, except that she at least used to teach English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (she is not currently listed on the department’s website). However, I am familiarizing myself with Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy for an assignment for another class, so I can say a few things about the journal, as well as one of its projects, the Praxis Wiki, from which this piece (along with others I have read) comes. Kairos is an open-access online journal that covers the intersection of technology, rhetoric, and teaching. The journal’s content, which takes a variety of forms and uses multiple modes of communication, is free to access. The Praxis Wiki, a major section of the journal, provides testimonials and suggestions for teachers of rhetoric and composition.

This article details how the author incorporated Facebook into her first-year composition class and how successful that incorporation was. Childs taught an English 101 class using The Simpsons, and retooled that class when her department standardized first-semester composition by emphasizing rhetoric. She explains that she incorporated Facebook because she wanted to show her students that practicing rhetoric is “something they do, not merely an artificial exercise deployed in order to earn a greade.” She also wanted to increase students’ access to her and bring the classroom to them. She notes that Blackboard was “too impersonal and ‘academic'” for what she wanted to do, so she created a Facebook group for her class and required participation on that page.

Childs recounts the successes and shortcomings of her first attempt to use Facebook as a teaching tool. While she notes that she didn’t provide enough motivation for her students to participate on the group page beyond the basic requirements, the group’s wall was a success. She gives an example of how one student answered another’s question before she, the instructor, could get to it. She also notes that Facebook’s messaging system, and indeed the site’s overall aesthetic, was more personal than email or Blackboard, and led to easier contact between instructor and student.

Childs writes: “I am convinced that placing course material in students’ social space promotes the demystification of writing, the university, and the instructor.” I think that her positive experience using Facebook is due in large part to how integrated the social network has become in the daily lives of most people. Nearly everyone (except my dad, who didn’t know he could have both his email and a browser window open simultaneously until I told him he could a few years ago) uses Facebook to some degree. People post statuses. They comment. They share. Indeed, social-networking sites have made a lot more people produce text (aka write) on a regular basis than any other tool that I can think of. The usefulness of showing composition students that they’re already writing and using rhetorical strategies cannot be underestimated. If I ever teach first-year composition, I would like to use social media in some way for that very reason.

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14 October 2013 · 12:27 am