Bringing New Media into My Classroom

In my ENG 114 class, I asked my students to read Pratt’s “Arts of the Contact Zone” and in their next formal assignment I’m asking them to create an autoethnography: “a text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them” (35). An autoethnography asks students to speak to an audience by using that audience’s language, so my students won’t be writing a traditional essay; they will be mixing different genres to speak back to a public audience. Although I am still requiring students to do a certain amount of writing, they are creating a new media composition, at least in the way that Wysocki defines new media in “Opening New  Media To Writing: Openings & Justifications,” (Writing New Media) as texts “that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and then who highlight the materiality” (15). I’m asking my students to think about the choices they are making and what that means for them as producers, and their audience as consumers. I’m also considering a conversation about Yancey’s “writing public” and the ways in which people communicate outside of school (301).

I’m excited about this assignment, but I’m also a little wary. I’m worried that my students have spent so long writing traditional academic essays that they won’t know what to do! I’m not doubting my students creativity; I think they have great ideas about everything (probably like most teachers do). However, after feeling uncomfortable just reading Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key,” I’m wondering how my students will feel actually crafting a new media composition for a formal grade in an English class. This is the second time I’ve read Yancey’s piece, and the format of the “essay” still throws me off. We often talk about how teachers feel weird assigning anything other than a traditional essay, so I’m wondering how students feel creating a new media composition in the classroom. I wonder if they enjoy it like we think they will? Or if they think its important or relevant to their education like we think they should? I’m hoping to ask my students about this as they work on this assignment, and a few other assignments in the future.

But for now I’m wondering if any of you have assigned a new media composition in a writing class? Did the students have trouble fulfilling the assignment? How much did they incorporate the new media aspect? Do you think they thought is was fun or useful?


2 comments on “Bringing New Media into My Classroom

  1. Martha,

    You do a great job relating this back to your classroom. I especially liked what you had to say about getting your students in the mind frame of being “producers and the their audiences as consumers”. I don’t think you will have an issue with your students taking to this assignment; I think they will actually enjoy the change from the ‘typical’ way of academic writing. This assignment will also get them used to be aware of who they are writing to. I’m sure most of your students have Facebook, so they are already of aware of writing with an audience in mind, but, for them, translating this idea to an academic assignment will be interesting.

  2. Please forgive the lateness of this response. I always wanted to comment on this blog entry, but alas, procrastination gets the best of me.

    I agree with Orey; I love the direct connection of the activities that we are doing in class to your real life classroom. I know you have (or had) your reservations about executing this type of assignment, but I honestly believe that the students would relish the chance to do something more creative and experimental. I did, since many of the activities and assignments that I had to do for both Kory and Mark take on a more technological, new media feel, where I have to use some academic capacities, but I am not writing a traditional paper. And I can honestly say that I enjoy blogging, group discussions, and other digital activities (for lack of a better term?) more than a traditional, 20 page paper on this material.

    How do you feel doing the ¨non-traditional¨ assignments for your composition (or other courses)? Did it feel weird to you, or did you wind up enjoying the experience? I have a feeling your answers would be similar to your students answers if they were to reflect on this process. As long as the task, criteria/rubric, and expectations are clear, this sounds like a wonderful way to engage students in the classroom.

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