Back to (someone else’s) Classroom – with cameras!

This week, I get to do two very cool things in other people’s writing classrooms.  First, I’m bringing video cameras and microphones to four different sections of first-year writing and letting the students play and make and do with the equipment.  This is both exciting and terrifying.  Exciting: students (lots of students!) will be composing and creating with cameras, discovering new possibilities for communication and expression.  Terrifying: somehow, I am the “expert” on this stuff, on these cameras – the classroom visitor bringing in the cool tools and toys.  This is mildly terrifying because I wouldn’t (until recently, perhaps) describe myself as expert in these technical matters – perhaps I’d call myself “willing and open”.  And look where this kind of openness gets you!

The second cool thing I get to do this week is start my official classroom observations for my dissertation research.  I’ll be observing with cameras in tow – this time for my own data collection and documentation.  And I’m going to observe with the help of several cameras, one of which will be in my hand.  I’m most excited for this new challenge – to see and listen and look with my body, as usual, of course, but also to see and listen and look with the composing tool (yes, that’s the camera) in my hand.  This, I expect, will be a very cool thing.

So here I go, back to (someone else’s) classroom – with cameras!

Thinking about making video….while listening to Etta

I just heard that Etta James passed away today, which makes me sad.  So I’m listening to her “The Essential Etta James” CD as I compose this post.  Here’s a taste for you, so you can listen while you read.

This morning I attended a workshop on making and teaching video led by MSU’s Danielle Nicole DeVoss.  I was excited to meet her as I’ve used her book Because Digital Writing Matters in a few papers.  It was a small group for the workshop, which made the format informal and conversational, which was nice.  We talked about teaching video in a writing class because most of the attendees were writing teachers.  It was interesting to hear different folks talk about their perceptions of video composing and its role (or non-role) in the writing classroom.  For some, “writing” and video seem like two totally different things, for others, making video opens up possibilities to highlight a rhetorical approach to writing any kind of text.

A few instructors voiced anxieties or frustration with having their students compose in video but not knowing how to help them or coach them when technical issues arose.  I think it’s true that the instructor should have at least a little bit of knowledge about software and hardware; however, I also think that the classroom can become a sort of “workshop” space where students and instructor play and learn together, where no one really is the “expert.”  This approach is a definite switch from the model where the teacher brings in the expert knowledge, but I think it’s a model where collaborative learning is at the forefront, even for functional or technical questions such as how to import a video clip into a software program such as imovie.

Another concern that was raised was how to assess products like videos in the writing classroom – a question which I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about lately, too.  I’ve come to see that setting students up to self-assess (set goals, reflect and revise their goals multiple times, and then evaluate their goals and process) is very useful along with evaluation from the instructor.  This approach highlights not just the video product in the end, but also the process.

I was also happy to get some time to just play around with imovie in the workshop.  Danielle provided us with “found materials” – images, video clips, songs – and we got to spend about an hour manipulating them in imovie and making a short video.  This is the kind of activity that would work great in a writing class to introduce video composing.  I’ve done something similar, but I really like that Danielle provided the materials for us, which saved a lot of searching time.  I think I will steal and adapt for my own classroom in the future!

 

Fraizer on coaching transfer in context

Not much time to work on the prospectus today, but I did read Fraizer’s 2010 article on coaching transfer after FYC.  His point is that transfer coaching strategies (he pulls these from Beaufort: genre analysis, discourse community analysis, and metacognitive reflection) should be done when students are encountering new writing situations and new disciplines.  He points to “writing studios” and writing centers as places where this kind of transfer coaching can be done. 

I agree that “in context” coaching for transfer seems logical, but I’m not sure I’m ready to abandon having students reflect a lot in first year comp.  And new media composition offers a space where they can experience diverse writing situations IN the writing class, using diverse materials.  Can’t FYC be used to develop a “metacognitive foundation” for the awareness to come, if you will?  I will have to consider more.

I have a plan of attack!…and Jarrett et al on transfer

I’m calling it a day, and proud that I actually worked today.  Here’s what I got done and a few musings and questions on what I learned.

I went through the comments I received from my co-chair and my professor on the first draft of my prospectus that I wrote a few weeks ago.  I made a Word doc and summarized all the important themes throughout the comments.  Then I made a plan of attack for revising the draft, which includes revamping the research questions pretty much completely, adding to the lit. review section but at the same time cutting it down so I don’t lit review on and on for 20+ pages, backgrounding literature and foregrounding my terms, my voice, and my arguments in the conceptual framework section, adding a section about the unit I want to design, and developing the methods section in depth (it is bare bones if that right now). 

I also made a timeline / syllabus / schedule for this semester that I will discuss with my co-chairs next week.  I put a tentative defense date for the week of March 12, the week before Cs, so we’ll see what my advisors think about that.  I also confirmed a co-chair meeting via email for next Wednesday where we will discuss my timeline and other members of my committee. 

In the afternoon, I spent a few hours reading Jarrett et al’s 2009 essay “Pedagogical Memory.”  They offer what they call pedagogical memory as a framework that writing instructors and researchers can use to approach questions of transfer from first year comp.  They interviewed almost 100 college juniors and seniors about their first year writing course and their upper level writing course, looking for what students remembered from their first year course and how they charted a path to their upper level course.  They organize their data according to four categories: students that had difficulty remembering or explaining what they learned in FYC, students who talked about writing as a process, students who saw writing as technical correctness and grammar, and students who constructed learning about writing in the moment during the interview. 

Jarrett et al then conclude that based on their data, transfer is difficult to chart and that it might be the wrong question.  Instead, they suggest our energies be spent in helping students to translate discourses about writing from site to site.  They call this “pedagogical memory work” which involves reflective writing as a tool to map pasts and imagine writing futures. 

I found the article fascinating, as many of the pieces of data that Jarrett et al cite are similar to the data I collected from my former students for the small study I put together for Qualitative Methods last term.  I also think that the way the authors frame this issue in terms of “memory” is intriguing – they avoid using the term “meta-awareness” all together. 

A major note: they do not mention technologies whatsoever, or a definition of writing for the 21st century that may be expanding beyond print and traditional genres/formats.  This is where my work can add to this conversation, I think.  Does new media writing help students to move from writing site to writing site more fluidly?  Does reflection over new media composition serve the same purposes as reflection over print writing? 

I will definitely use the Jarrett et al article in my meta-awareness section of the lit. review.  I also culled their works cited for more articles on transfer which I will look at tomorrow. 

 

Unproductivity

Well, I lined up some ducks today, but didn’t actually work on my prospectus much.  I emailed both of my co-chairs and set up a meeting with one and sent the other my materials.  I also found several articles on the transfer of learning in the writing classroom that I need to read: “Pedagogical Memory” 09 by Jarrett et al and “Steps Beyond the First Year” 2010 by Frazier.  Both articles speak to meta-awareness about writing and how students take what they’ve learned in the writing course beyond to other writing contexts.  So first up, I need to read these and incorporate them into my Lit review.  I also saw on a friend’s Facebook post that Jody Shipka has a new book I need to read: Toward a Composition Made Whole, so I’m excited to get that and look at it.   

The rest of my day was taken up with teaching and conferencing with my new students.  I like to have them come by my office near the beginning of the term so I can get to know them a bit more one on one.  So I met with students all afternoon – not a waste of time by any means, but I didn’t do much in between meetings except check email and Facebook. 

Here’s hoping tomorrow will be a bit more productive in the prospectus dept.