D-Ped 9/12: New Media

In this seminar session devoted to new media, we (Jason W. Ellis, Peter A. Fontaine, James R. Gregory, and Patrick McHenry) will discuss  forms of writing online and writing across/within networks. Specifically, we will discuss theoretical approaches and practical uses of Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging. We will share our ideas about using these technologies in the writing classroom, and we encourage you to share your plans and concerns about using new media for achieving appropriate composition outcomes.

To prepare for today’s seminar, we ask everyone to create accounts for Twitter and to follow @dynamicsubspace (Jason W. Ellis). Also, everyone should verify their logins for TechStyle by visiting the site’s login page here: http://techstyle.lmc.gatech.edu/wp-login.php. Please bring your laptops/tablets to Wednesday’s meeting–we will be using them extensively. For your first exercise, please scroll to the bottom of this post.

Required Readings and Videos:

Buck, Amber. “Examining Digital Literacy Practices on Social Network Sites.” Research in the Teaching of English 47. 1 (Aug 2012): 9-38. Proquest. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

DigiRhet.org. “Teaching Digital Rhetoric: Community, Critical Engagement, and Application.”
Pedagogy 6.2 (Spring 2006): 231-259. Project Muse. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Smith, Kim. “The Twitter Experiment – Twitter in the Classroom.” YouTube. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Dr. Monica Rankin and her history students talk about using Twitter in the classroom. Dr. Rankin addresses the pros and cons of argument and evidence, and she notes that it is okay for experimental pedagogy to be “messy.”

Stommel, Jesse. “The Twitter Essay.” Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal of Teaching & Technology (5 Jan. 2012). n.p. Web. 9 Sept. 2012. <http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/Twitter_and_the_student2point0.html>.

Recommended Readings:

Haas, Christina and Pamela Takayoshi. “Young People’s Everyday Literacies: The Language Features of Instant Messaging.” Research in the Teaching of English 45. 4 (May 2011): 378-404. Proquest. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Hawisher, Gail and Cynthia Selfe. “Becoming Literate in the Information Age: Cultural Ecologies and the Literacies of Technology.” College Composition and Communication 55. 4 (Jun 2004): 642-692. Proquest. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Moje, Elizabeth. “A Call for New Research on New and Multi-Literacies.” Research in the Teaching of English 43. 4 (May 2009): 348-362. Proquest. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Pennell, Michael. “The H1N1 Virus and Video Production: New Media Composing in First-Year Composition.” Pedagogy 10.3 (Fall 2010): 568-573. Project Muse. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Williams, Bronwyn. “Seeking New Worlds: The Study of Writing beyond Our Classrooms.”
Spec. issue of College Composition and Communication 62. 1 (Sep 2010): 127-146. Proquest. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Young, Jeffrey R. “Teaching With Twitter: Not for the Faint of Heart.” Chronicle of Higher Education 56.14 (27 Nov. 2009: pA1-A11. EBSCO. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.

Technologies That We Will Discuss:

TechStyle/Wordpress (blogging)

Twitter (microblogging and social media)

Storify (curating and creating narratives from social media)

LinkedIn (professional networking and social media)

TodaysMeet (backchannel conversations)

Other websites and social media platforms that you might find useful:

Facebook (social media)

Flickr (photo sharing and social media)

Google+ (microblogging, social media, and professional networking)


Discussion Points and Activities:

1) Once everyone has a login to Twitter we want you to use the hashtag #gtnewmedia2012 as a backchannel for live, digital discussion during the seminar. Jason will send a link via Twitter for us to join a different backchannel technology that he will demonstrate called TodaysMeet (http://todaysmeet.com/). There will be a new room for Wednesday night’s seminar and it will be displayed on the projector during our discussion. We will save a transcript and do other things with the text (e.g., throw the transcript into Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/) to create a neat word cloud). Jason will also demonstrate how to curate Twitter backchannels with a tool called Storify (http://storify.com/).

2) We will invite everyone in Digital Pedagogy to respond to the writing prompt at the end of this post to generate responses and questions for discussion.

3) We can then go around and discuss these ideas and respond to questions. James will talk about his Tech Comm project that combines LinkedIn and Twitter, and Jason will discuss how he uses Twitter as part of a twitter/essay/poster project that demonstrates using different genres for multimodal communication. We will do an exercise in Twitter based on the article on Twitter essays.

4) An important point about new media that we will discuss is linking. We do not mean this in the same way we might think about simple hypertext links. Instead, we will discuss how linking creates inventive uses for new media and enables concurrent conversations with different audiences through networks. James will discuss how this works with his student assignment focusing on LinkedIn and Twitter. Jason will discuss how this works with his student Twitter/essay/poster assignment and how this works professionally in the way he has linked his WordPress blog to Twitter and his Twitter to Facebook in order to generate concurrent conversations within different networks. This latter example can be extended to writing classes by serving as an anchor for other writing students are doing in other places such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. (especially for linking, collaborating, or single-sourcing).

Examples of New Media Assignments:

Jason W. Ellis guides his students through a multimodal project that gives them the opportunity to explore how their writing changes by their composing in different media: Twitter, a print essay, and a poster. Asking students to answer, “How do we ‘write’ the brain,” he has them begin their six-week long project on Twitter.

For the first part of the project, I introduce students to the use of Twitter and its functions by having them learn from one another in groups. In one in-class assignment, students are tasked with writing interesting or funny things about the human brain over several tweets. In the next assignment, students follow their group members and read what they wrote about the brain, reply to those tweets with additional information or questions, and retweet the tweet they like the best. Usually, this leads to extensive conversations within the groups and occasionally between groups. Students ask “is it okay to do more than you asked us to do?” “Please, of course,” I tell them. In addition to learning about Twitter, the students form bonds with their group members, which helps their conversations and collaborations throughout the semester. Finally, for the major project, I have students write five tweets about “How do we ‘write’ the brain.” These are followed by conversations with their group members on Twitter and in-person. Finally, they have to revise their first five tweets based on what they have learned from their conversations or their increased understanding of the possibilities of Twitter (e.g., inventive spelling, unconventional grammar, links, photos, etc.). They go on to take these ideas and build on them in their essay and poster assignments. When the project is due, I ask students to reflect on how each medium affects their compositions, how they can more effectively use each medium, and how can layering these media and using multimodal synergy achieve their communicative purpose.

James R. Gregory invites his students to bridge different new media in his Technical Communication classroom. In this example, he guides them toward thinking about how LinkedIn and Twitter can be made to work together.

The following steps outline a semester-long 3403 activity using LinkedIn and Twitter.  It might be possible to port elements of this activity into an 1101 or 1102 classroom as well.

1. Require students to create LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.  Have students list their Twitter ID on their LinkedIn profile. (Lynda.com has tutorials on using all the basic elements of LinkedIn and Twitter, including the creation of profiles).

2. Assuming that all 3403 courses cover resumes, assess the students’ LinkedIn profiles as a resume-type professional document while working through the resume unit. Discuss issues of presentation and format, as well as the repurposing or reuse of information on websites with relatively tight formatting restrictions. Discuss the benefits of open vs. closed networking approaches to LinkedIn.

3. Require the students to find and join professional groups within their industry on LinkedIn.  They can also follow companies.

4. Require students to begin posting or responding to questions and discussion feeds in these professional groups.

5. Require students to tweet, once per week, an article, blog post, or other point of interest related to or stemming from their activity in their LinkedIn group(s).

6. By the end of the semester, require students to have expanded their LinkedIn network to a predetermined point, to have contacted established professional(s) in their field for informational interviewing, and/or to have added one major new accomplishment or skill to their LinkedIn profile/resume, all while they have been developing a professional online presence through LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Twitter feed would be the way to keep track of the students’ involvement with their LinkedIn groups without having to force the instructor to subscribe to and check each group individually. The Lynda.com tutorials are a way to boost Institute use of Lynda.com and using them would prevent instructors from having to teach basic LinkedIn skills in the classroom–we could just assign the tutorials and then work through higher level concerns related to LinkedIn and Twitter during our class sessions. It might even be possible to engage in backchanneling during a class session or two, or else to have students networking or conversing with industry contacts during class time as part of a focused project or discussion.

To Begin our Discussion:

Let’s take 10 minutes to each comment on this TechStyle post with a comment and a question relating to new media. You can share an assignment idea. You can share an experience you have had with new media that is relevant to our pedagogical discussion. You can ask a nuts-and-bolts question about using new media in the classroom. Anything relating to new media pedagogy is fair game. We will return to these during our discussion.

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Jason W. Ellis

About Jason W. Ellis

As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, Jason W. Ellis realized that he was better at writing about science than doing science. This led to his research focus on science fiction and the intersection of science, technology, and culture. After earning an M.A. in Science Fiction Studies at the University of Liverpool and a Ph.D. in English at Kent State University, Jason returned to Tech where he now teaches ENGL1101 with the theme, "Writing the Brain: Composition and Neuroscience." He emphasizes interdisciplinarity and collaborative projects in his classes, and his pedagogical interests include digital literacy, multimodal communication, and portfolio-focused student work. His research interests include 20th-century American literature, science fiction, the neuronovel, neuroscientific topics, the digital archive, video games, and eBooks. His current project investigates the gap between the Internet's "long memory" and digital ephemerality through William Gibson's cyberpunk fiction and experimental eBook projects in the 1990s.
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  2. The DigiRhet article has much to say about convergence, something I’ve thought a lot about before, but from the other side of the consuming/producing continuum. That is, in my popular culture class, I teach Henry Jenkins’ musings on convergence culture and how that affects us as consumers of popular culture. Here, they are talking very specifically about convergence in producing digital media. I’d like to dig a little deeper into a sort of mega-convergence, ie the convergence of both of these aspects.

    • Hey Julie,

      Please share your thoughts about convergence in our seminar on Wednesday. I would like to know what you think about Henry Jenkins’ ideas about convergence culture.

      I am interested in the tensions between the technology industry (primary innovators/popularizers of new media technologies), big media (culture producers), and consumers/creators (innovators on the “growing” margins–think about how DragonCon and ComicCon is becoming less marginal). There seems to be a convergence of consuming and producing, but the technology industry seems reticent or cautious of investing too much in consumers’ ability to create. Here, I am thinking of Apple’s strong support of Hypercard and eventual killing of the product after it was spun off under the Claris subsidiary, or the first iPad’s consumption oriented focus versus the iPad 2’s creation focus. It seems like there is something unique about the world wide web’s rapid adoption and growth have something to do with its strong research-academic roots that the great technology products lack or take longer to accept.

      Best, Jason

  3. Since I’m in a reading/linking/posting mode this morning, here’s a quick thought: how are the new media changing our understanding of issues like intellectual property and plagiarism? Think of Jonah Lehrer’s infamous habits of recycling his work and of disseminating others’ work as his own. Even better, think of sources and resources we can all use to police/prevent such misconduct. [You can also read this as a shameless plug and invitation to contribute to a resource/database The Intellectual Property and Ethics Committee is currently working on!]

  4. The texts we’re looking at this week–coupled with some of the discussions I’m having with my students this week–have me thinking about the issue of distraction. I say issue–and not problem–because I do think distraction can be a really, really productive part of the learning process. There’s some fascinating discussion on the epistemology of distraction among Victorian critics, so I’m interested in it from that angle, too. For tonight, I have three inter-related questions I’d like to discuss:

    1. does/when does/how does social media “distract” our attention from _what_ we’re communicating to _how_ we’re communicating? (I’m not using “distract” with necessarily negative connotations–just that media becomes the subject or the purpose of the discussion as much as the much more obvious content. In 1101 and 1102 classes, this is, obviously, often very useful. I’d still like to talk, though, about whether there are moments when turning to various social media for teaching obfuscates what we’re trying to cover–or when students turn from a Twitter back channel for class to Kanye West’s latest Tweet.)

    2. how are distractions productive? I’m thinking about days when I try to teach students active reading by googling things with them or flipping back and forth between, say, a book and a website. One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is getting students to approach reading as a conversation: it’s hard, sometimes, to get them to talk back to a text, to interrogate a text, to distract themselves by looking up things they’re interested in. I guess I’m wondering if there are ways to use social media to teach students how to distract themselves in ways that will, ultimately, help them feel more intellectually engaged with the material. I’m wondering, too, if there’s a way to apply the sense of immediacy afforded by social media to the ways we teach, for instance, close reading.

    3. how do we teach students to funnel and edit–or aggregate–these immediate forms of communication in professional ways? Several of my students were blogging last week that they felt overburdened by the level of detail in one of the books we were reading, and we’ve since had some good conversations about how producers/consumers of different media (documentary makers, investigative reporters, etc) organize and present information effectively. Ultimately, we had to really address what happens when people take huge chunks of information they’ve gathered and whittle them down into linear (or seemingly linear) narratives. I was struck when the professor in the Twitter video talked about the ways Twitter can teach students to distill their comments, ideas, and questions. Teaching students to distill//edit _is_ a huge part of what we do. At the same time, I often find myself talking with students about supporting distilled/edited points with detailed discussions. I’m wondering how social media complicates this push and pull work: teaching students to refine–and expand–their points.

  5. I’m very excited by Storify. My students are working on their first project now. Each student is producing an essay and artifact that interweaves personal and collective histories, combining analogical sets of tasks that relate to _The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks_. If I use this sort of assignment in future semesters, I think Storify would be a more seamless way to use the WOVEN approach.

  6. I think the distinction made by several of the readings between what we can learn about our students from their digital literacy and what we can teach them about digital literacy is an important one that frequently gets overlooked in the excitement of trying out new ideas and technologies. The pressure to be “innovative” and “interesting” can be intense, and I sometimes think we forget some of these distinctions as a result. I also appreciate the extent to which access (broadly defined) was addressed repeatedly: should we be assigning Twitter essays if doing so puts some of our students at a serious disadvantage because they don’t have easy access to a smart phone or laptop? Here at Tech, we have the privilege of knowing our students have laptops but this isn’t always the case. And speaking from personal experience, when my students are using their laptops in class they don’t have a lot of space to do much of anything else (like compare or take notes), since the desks are tiny–so design and access is an issue here to a certain extent too!

  7. Since I’m teaching Tech Comm this semester, I’ve talked a lot with my students about presentation, reception, and perception in communication online through various social networking sites and through simple online presence (Googling, Google Image-ing, etc.). I had my students engage in an online reputation assignment in which they each had to spend only 15 minutes researching a fellow student (who, in turn, was assigned to them) and then do a short write-up as to what they found, how they found it, and what potential employers might think of such information. It was funny to see students candidly call their actions “stalking” and fascinating to find out how comfortable many of them were to share aspects of themselves online with the public and yet be slightly uncomfortable talking about them face to face. They enjoyed finding connections with each other they didn’t know they had, too. Still, they seemed to appreciate the turning of the “stalker” eye to themselves in order to more clearly know what was out there and up for consumption by potential employers (for instance, class projects on YouTube).

    I’m interested in talking about trends, too, but particularly past trends that may have seemed future-forward, but turned out otherwise. What technologies or social trends from the past have like-minded folks toyed with and what do their experiences have to teach us about our present? How do we avoid picking the dud technologies?

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  9. New Media, specifically different forms of social networking offer new levels of interaction for the student and her professor, among students, and for students and the world outside the classroom. I asked students today what digital social networking sites they used and we made a big list. We tried to categorize them and students, in each section, seemed to view them mostly in terms of the audience —is it one that the “publisher” already knows and can limit or is it one that is unknown and beyond the publisher’s control? Since successful communication is based on knowing one’s audience. I wonder, what advice, words of caution, etc. would others give me in shaping an assignment in which, say, students create Yelp reviews of Atlanta restaurants—reviews that speak only and specifically about how the restaurant matches up to environmental justice standards (locally produced food, organic ingredients, access to dietary information, work conditions of the employees)? What could go horribly wrong?

  10. I was especially interested in a particular moment in the Buck piece: when Ronnie mentions his desire to be a net contributor on Twitter (and other social media), to have more followers than followees. I always try to get my students to think of themselves as authors rather than mere receivers, but hadn’t thought of quantifying it in that way. Buck has an admirable focus on how Ronnie and other users can “stake out” their identities — this suggests a real fight over the space of digital existence, something that might motivate students to think of their digital literacy and multimodal composition as weapons in a very real struggle over who gets to make culture and define identity.

    What I’m struggling with right now in my 1102 class: publicity/privacy issues. Each student is creating her own blog, and (partly because of privacy issues) I’ve encouraged them to experiment with a persona different from their usual online self, so some of them are highlighting a particular aspect of their current writerly personality, others are inventing radical new identities, etc. But I can’t help feeling that I’m missing out on the amazing power of their already-existing digital identity and networks; their development might proceed much more naturally if the class could somehow tap into that.

    On Mollie’s point #3: I was talking with one of my classes today about what makes them want to read composition (on the theory that they should compose things they might like to read), and I was surprised by how thoughtfully they talked about distillation — it wasn’t just that they wanted short readings; there was an overwhelming desire to read only “meat” (or marrow, or quintessence) and a seemingly firm belief that everything is distillable. They were willing to allow that sometimes expansion (why isn’t there a good antonym for “distill”?) is a good thing, but only in the realm of pure entertainment. So I’m trying to collect texts and assignments that will allow the students to see some of the value of expansion in a wider variety of contexts.

  11. The self-other/communicator-audience relationship and the way that technological literacies impact our conceptions — and our students’ — conceptions of these relationships is clearly a concern for the writers in the pieces we read for today. Conversations about audience that we have had my 1102 sections reveal that my students are very savvy about audience and that they connect that audience awareness to their use of a variety of social media. Conversations about audience turn into conversations about self-presentation, which quickly become conversations about interpreting the other, which morph into conversations about visual rhetoric. I’m fascinated by this interpretive cycle, the making and remaking, the reading and reading, the intersubjectivity and/or self-fashioning that our use of these technologies lets us as rhetoricians study. In a way, do we resemble Castiglione (our classrooms are the conversations at the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino; our scholarship on mindfully constructing our web presence and interpreting the web-based artifacts of others is the _Book of the Courtier_)?

    And that (odd? bizarre?) connection leads me to the issue of access (because the whole self-fashioning issue was a way to control access to social mobility – a way to interpret/judge people – and at the same time a tool that opened access to social mobility – as readers mastered the issues of audience expectations and how to present their artifacts (themselves) to their readers). The articles wanted to privilege online communication as broadening access to the creation of information, thereby spreading power to more individuals beyond the intellectual elite. But is there a way in which this greater access actually just shifts the power to a different sector of individuals rather than helping to remedy the problem of centralized power?

    And to connect to what Emily mentioned about dud technology: I loved the repeated reference to a privileging of PDAs in the digirhet article.

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