Tech, No to Tech, Yes: How a Former Technophobe Becomes a Digital Teaching Fellow

An ongoing series by new Brittain Fellow, Rebecca Weaver I am a new Brittain Fellow in Digital Pedagogy at Georgia Institute of Technology, where I teach a 21st Century version of First-Year Writing. This class focuses on the WOVEN curriculum, a broader curriculum of communication than that of traditional writing… Continue reading

Pieces of What?

About a thousand years after everyone else, I came across Feminist Ryan Gosling, and despite having seen only one Ryan Gosling movie—Drive, in which he “Hey’s” nary a girl, but does assault someone with a hammer—I enjoyed reading through the entries. But I knew I was late to the party when… Continue reading

A Letter to Students and Clients – Drawing Lessons from Failure in a Service Learning Classroom

As a client-based course, my technical communication class at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta functions like a hybrid between a college class and a consulting firm, with the students working in teams to compose websites, marketing strategies, reports, manuals, and a variety of other artifacts for local nonprofits and small businesses. Continue reading

The Year in the Rear-view Mirror

It’s that time of year again, and the Brittain Fellows are reflecting on the year in the rear-view mirror. The value of reflecting on the work we have done is something we emphasize to our students, and yet it is something we often fail to do ourselves. Yet we can all benefit from sitting down to ask ourselves questions like: What went well this semester? What didn’t? What will I do differently next time? What have I learned? As Karen Head, the director of Georgia Tech’s Communication Center, mentioned in her recent interview for TECHStyle, reflecting on the same questions as our students and then comparing our answers can be extremely insightful – do the students see our successes and failures the same way? Does their understanding of the goals and outcomes of the course align with our own? Reflection, however, should not just cover our teaching, but our achievements in scholarship, our progress on large projects, our work-life balance, and whether we are staying focused on our larger priorities and goals. Continue reading

Thinking outside the box by playing inside the box: Games as texts and teaching tools

  On April 26, 1478, as part of a plot against the Medici, conspirators attempted to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother Giuliano in the Duomo at high mass. Giuliano died but Lorenzo escaped. The reverberations of this daring plot, known as the Pazzi conspiracy after the family who… Continue reading

An Interview with Karen Head and Nirmal Trivedi

Assistant Professor Karen Head and Brittain Fellow Nirmal Trivedi were recognized this year with Course Instructor Opinion Survey (CIOS) Teaching Excellence Awards.

Katy Crowther, Diane Jakacki, and Christine Hoffmann sat down with Karen and Nirmal to ask them a few questions about course evaluations, teacher-student relationships, and their work in the Communications Center. A transcript of this enlightening interview follows.

KC: Thank you for agreeing to sit down with us. We have some questions, but obviously we can just have a conversation. First of all, congratulations on your awards.

KH: Thanks. Continue reading

Triviality as History in Political Campaign Ads

In the last unit of my course on copia, we’ve been looking at early modern pamphlets alongside 20- and 21st-century political campaign commercials. Oddly enough, students seem to enjoy the pamphlets more than the videos. The latter they’ve been quick to dismiss as simple-minded, pathos-driven exaggerations. They’re less eager to judge the pamphlets that, in their own heyday, were dismissed as “small, insignificant, ephemeral, disposable, untrustworthy, unruly, noisy, deceitful, poorly printed, addictive, a waste of time” (from Joad Raymond’s Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain, 10). It’s been more difficult for students to see how materials so loaded with elaborate, expressive and dexterous prose could be considered as insignificant and disposable as, well, this. Continue reading

A Midwinter Night’s Teaching Assignment

This term Tom Lolis and I are jointly teaching an 1102 course entitled “#DigitalBard: New Media Approaches to Shakespearean Drama”. By jointly I mean that we each teach three sections, but we are both focusing on the same plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Richard III, and Titus Andronicus); while we bring our own research background and interests to class lectures, several major assignments are shared across all six sections. These assignments are all rooted in some form of digital media: blogs, wikis, suites that incorporate several tools and platforms (I’m thinking specifically of Google here). But media as we are applying the term also refers to performance and video. One of our goals is to break students of the tendency to shy away from Shakespeare because they believe the plays are hard to read and therefore boring and a waste of their time. Continue reading

Your Soundbite Pleased me Greatly: Commonplacing in the Classroom

For my third soundbite-related post, I’d like to talk some pedagogy. This semester I’m teaching a course on copia, which in some ways would seem to be the opposite of sound-biting.
Copia is about abundance, variety, superfluity, excess, accumulation—words not normally associated with soundbite culture. The latter conjures very different terms: truncation, abbreviation, superficiality, redundancy, speed, spin. Continue reading

Using Multimedia and Film as a Motivational Medium for Students

As a multimedia instructional librarian, I am continually amazed at how much more engaged and excited students become when they have to challenge themselves and break away from using what they consider to be the traditional modes of communication in an academic environment. For example, this can occur through having to create a website, a visually stunning poster, designing a three- dimensional model, or masterminding a feature film.

So often, the necessary emphasis placed on the message content may cause us to forget the importance of choosing the best method for delivering that content. The way information is transmitted has the potential to either obscure or enhance the message content.
Continue reading

What We Are Proud Of…

As a way to bring the year to a close, I asked the Brittain Fellows to answer the following question: “Looking back over the fall semester, what are you most proud of?” Here’s a round-up of their answers:

Leeann Hunter: This semester, I actively transformed the classroom into a space where innovation could thrive. I found that students largely benefited from the experimental nature of the course and what I called “Invention Mobs” and “Professional Interventions.” It’s the first class that I’ve taught that I would teach again and again. For more information about the course, visit my website at www.leeannhunter.com/invention.

Julia Munro: I’m proud of, and impressed by, the creative work that the first-year Gatech students (in my 1101 classes, and other 1101-1102 classes) come up with to meet the challenge of our multimodal assignments.

Aaron Kashtan: I’m proud of having gotten my students to notice typography. Continue reading

Myth in the Classroom 3.0

Since I’m awash in grading, I’d like to wrap up the semester with a meditation on final projects and cultural studies. I asked my ENGL 1101 students to create websites that perform a cultural study of a chosen artifact of American culture in terms of its relationship to race and technology. Overall, I think the assignment went quite well. Students appreciated the opportunity to share their ideas with an audience beyond me and even beyond their fellow classmates. And they especially enjoyed playing around with Dreamweaver, html, and iWeb. (Or so they tell me in their reflection papers.) An additional enticement was that they got to select artifacts of American culture that were important or relevant to them, including the Ford Mustang, the iPhone, and the NFL.

The greatest challenge students faced when making their arguments about these artifacts, though, was to bridge the issues of race and technology. Most of their websites ended up devoting one page to race and one to technology and not tying them together… Continue reading

The Rhetoric of “Occupy Wall Street”

For my second soundbite-focused post, I’m already deviating from the original plan by covering not so much a soundbite as the name of an entire movement. I’ve been wondering lately about the awkward resonance of “Occupy Wall Street,” the way that first word “Occupy” provokes so many distinctive interpretations: it can suggest invasion, colonization, aggressive seizure of territory; less aggressively, it can simply mean occupying a position, both in the sense of physical space and a mental perspective; and of course it echoes occupation as work, employment, along with the work we do at work (on our best days), when we are intensely engaged in (occupied with) a task.

So what does it really mean to “Occupy Wall Street?” For a variety of reasons (all of them lame), I have yet to attend an OWS event in Atlanta, and certainly not in New York. I have occupied neither park nor street nor quad nor sidewalk, which makes me wonder if I can really say that I’m part of the movement, and not just an observer of its viral video. Continue reading

Notes from National Women’s Studies Association

Normally, I would sit down to write a blog of this sort saying I’d “just returned” from a particular conference.  However, that language doesn’t really work this year as I was lucky enough to move to Atlanta just before this year’s National Women’s Studies Association annual conference.  This year it… Continue reading

Material Studies

(Seminar by Sipai Klein, Julia Munro, Michael Tondre) 1. The meaning-making process writers face has been historically determined by the “technology” of paper. The integration of electronic communication has arguably changed writers’ meaning-making processes and the discourse produced by writers. In other words, the material contexts of writing have influenced… Continue reading

Myth in the Classroom, take two

I know you’ve been holding your breath for the second installment of my musings on and eternal search for effective stereotype-breaking strategies. So here goes. Today I take on the elusive term “race” as a myth that students approach rather curiously: with great resentment. And I think I’ve figured out at least part of the reason why. Let me try to explain:
I attempted to have a conversation with my students this week about white privilege. They read “The End of White America?” by Hua Hsu, published in The Atlantic in 2009. I also had them look at this hilarious video made by Smirnoff in 2006, which Hsu mentions.

So, they had read (or were supposed to have read) Hsu’s essay on the “beiging” of the white race in the United States, the increasing diversity of American popular culture, and the ensuing backlash against multiculturalism and retrenchment into whiteness. Continue reading

Reflections on Digital Media Archaeology: Excavating Definitions

In this article I wish to reflect at more length on the topic of “archaeology of digital media,” which happens to be the topic of discussion this week for the weekly Digital Pedagogy Seminar for first-year Brittain Fellows. Although many literary scholars are certainly well-versed in historical approaches, myself included,… Continue reading

Stommel and Champion Produce Georgia Tech It Gets Better Video

The Georgia Tech Pride Alliance and the Writing and Communication Program have joined the community, corporate, and collegiate movement across the country by co-producing a Georgia Tech It Gets Better video. It Gets Better is a national movement to reduce bullying and suicides among LGBTQ youth. The video was produced and directed by Jesse Stommel, Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow and Julie Champion, Student and President of Georgia Tech Pride Alliance, with a musical score by Matt Morris.
Stommel and Champion were inspired to work on this project after seeing the wonderful video produced recently at NC State. Like the NC State video, the Georgia Tech It Gets Better video features personal interviews in recognizable campus locations with nearly 50 students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni of varying sexualities and backgrounds. Continue reading

On Soundbites and other Forbidden Fruits

I hope this will be the first of a series of posts on a running theme: the unintentional eloquence of soundbite culture. For several years now I’ve been interested in the communicative potential of inarticulate speech and writing. It’s part guilty pleasure (I look for Sarah Palin in the news for nearly the same reasons I watch America’s Next Top Model); but a hopefully bigger part of my interest derives from a genuine fascination with the ways in which gaffes can be translated into eloquence, gibberish into poetry, nonsense into social commentary.
Such translations are already easy to find in the form of parody: here are William Shatner reading a Palin speech as beat poetry, John Lithgow performing a Newt Gingrich press release, Obama supporters combining hyperbole and understatement via a Joe Biden gaffe, and my personal favorite Twitter meme, ShakesPalin. Continue reading

Digital Humanities Show and Tell: An Emory DiSC Workshop

Last Monday, I attended one of the Workshops on Digital Scholarship being offered through the Emory Digital Scholarship Commons this semester.  This series offers workshops on a variety of topics ranging from “Creating an Online Presence I: Take Control of Your Online Personality” to “Hack Your Theme: Customize WordPress Themes… Continue reading