I vary the design and delivery of my courses to match the content and learning outcomes of each course. In writing courses, I emphasize the process of recursive prewriting, drafting, and revision; following the QEP emphasis on reading with a purpose, I also link strategies for close reading and information literacy to writing classes like ENG102, ENG300 (Professional and Technical Writing) and ENG301 (Advanced Composition). I organize these courses into modules, centered on thematic readings, such as readings about genre and style as part of a module on style analysis in ENG301. Each module includes opportunities for practicing the writing process and for linking writing to the course readings, thereby reinforcing reading, writing, and information literacy skills. To support writing-focused courses, I use Google Drive as a platform where students share work, peer review, and submit final drafts for comment. In my writing classes I also recognize, in keeping with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) 2013 statement on the Definition of 21st Century Literacies, that students should “develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology” and “create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts.” To this end, I include digital projects in my courses. These include video projects in ENG102 that re-present the students’ arguments from their formal research papers, audio arguments assessing the rhetoric of a favorite song in ENG095R (Developmental Writing), and constructing ePortfolios in ENG405 (Introduction to Composition Theory).
In Fall 2016 I added audio essays to my ENG095R courses and in Spring 2018 I further increased my use of technology in writing classes by redesigning my second-semester research and writing course (ENG102) to revolve around an ePortfolio and multi-modal projects, both designed in collaboration with English colleague Margaret Frozena. In ENG102, each student created a WordPress blog and posted research, drafts, and links to finished projects there. During the semester they experimented with gathering images (learning about open source and Creative Commons licenses in the process), recorded a podcast using free Audacity audio software, made a short video PSA with apps available on their smartphones or campus computers, and wrote a research-based web text that incorporated several of their smaller projects into a cohesive whole. At the end of the semester students made substantial revisions to both content and design, with an eye towards ease of use and supporting an outside readership, as many students opened their blogs up to outside viewers. My students finished the course with a strong sense of audience and greater confidence writing for the public, ready to progress into their second year as college students. As an instructor, collaborating on assignment and course design was also very beneficial, as Frozena and I met regularly to compare notes about how our students were responding to different parts of the course and exchanged ideas about further improving the course as it progressed. We presented on the success of the audio essay assignment at the 2016 TLI Showcase of Innovations in Teaching and Learning and 2017 Pedagogicon, and shared the ePortfolio project at the 2018 Pedagogicon.
In more text- or genre-focused courses such as ENG345 (Literature and Film) and ENG347 (The Graphic Novel and Manga), I again structure courses thematically around genres and authors, such as focusing a module on the genre of shojo manga (coming of age stories about girls that are popular in Japan and among anime and manga fans in the United States). I encourage ongoing conversation about texts in and outside of the class through the use of course blogs, where students post about readings and respond to one another; semester after semester, students tell me that they enjoy using the blogs for discussion because it feels more user-friendly and welcoming than discussion boards on Blackboard and that the greater support for embedded media (such as images and video clips) in blogs allows them to better express their ideas and to be creative. Blogging is also a way to encourage students who are more reticent in class discussion to share their ideas and still participate in dialogue outside of class.
The goal of technology-rich courses like I’ve described is not to teach all the ins and outs of specific programs. Rather, I hope to teach students to think about what they can do with digital technologies to better understand the world and to communicate with others. I want to teach them strategies and ethics of media use, and to give them chances to develop ways for dealing with uncertainty and for figuring out new tools on the fly—something they’ll need to do in other courses and in their careers.