Between the three readings for this week (Selfe’s “Toward New Media Texts,” Wysocki’s “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty,” and Sorapure’s “Between Modes: Assessing Student New Media Compositions”) the common issue addressed is the difficulty composition teachers have in assessing and grading new media assignments done by their students. Although this is an issue specifically focused for this week (at least from what I’ve noticed in the readings), I feel that this is a recurring question constantly brought up not only in our class, but with every English teacher in general, regardless of age and experience.
To start things off, I think that this issue of assessing new media texts with students is the teacher’s inherent need to separate visuals (images, animation, etc.) and text (letters, words, oh my) into opposing binaries. Although we as teachers don’t intentionally tell students the differences between visuals and texts, we show a difference between the two by making the visual assignment as the “dumbed-down” and “less-intellectual” (Selfe 71). By doing so, through George’s critique, Selfe points out that teachers use these visual assignments as “stimuli for writing” and do not place place them on equal ground with the “real” writing and work done in the course (71).
So where does this problem of low-priority visual assignments start from? Sorapure states that by “examining how student work in new media is currently assessed, it is clear that we are at a transitional stage in the process of incorporating new media into our composition courses” (2). Compared to the more traditional text based assignments (like the classic essay) that first come to mind when thinking of academic writing, the more visual and new media assignments are still in the process of being established and have yet to be a keen to academia. Besides for academic reasons, the main purpose of language is ultimately for communication.
Despite this ongoing process of establishment, new media is beneficial because it allows students to make connections within the classroom to what they experience in their everyday lives; “When students are the audiences of design, they see how designs work to shape and naturalize the necessity of their day-to-day worlds” (Wysocki 173). By having their students focus on what Selfe calls “the visual,” visual elements geared towards communication, teachers are also enabling their students to have a deeper sense engagement with their writing and their overall development of thought (69).
Although I like to think of myself as “internetly” adequate and part of the on-going technology boom that we as a society are continually diving deeper into, I also find myself feeling the same “discomfort” that Selfe describes composition teachers having when assigning new media assignments to their students. As Selfe states, by having teachers update their new media literacies, “the usefulness of composition studies in a changing world” is extended and further pushes our field into new depths (72). Interestingly enough, this discomfort doesn’t come from my own inadequacies and illiteracies with technology, but mainly my own insecurities of what actually “works” in a classroom and for students.
Despite my inexperience in actually teaching a class on my own yet, I always found myself at odds, especially in my many attempts in perfecting my forged course arcs for 710, in finding an absolute “correct” way in integrating types of new media into my courses. Time after time… and time, I constantly find myself at odds with what can actually work for students.
In a way, my own struggles with finding an absolute “correct” way is an issue that many of us in this field struggle with. Yes, I know… There is no such thing as an absolute “correct” way when it comes to teaching, especially in composition, but there are different paths that one can take in finding a way.