PLN, Twitter, Web2.0, DMAL, & “My” Class

I really appreciate the materials shared by colleagues related to digital media production.  Gleaned from Twitter and my PLN (personal/professional learning network) this week, two very provocative resources stand out:

1)    Aram Kabodian’s digital media production and reflection. http://kabod1.edublogs.org/2011/02/21/reflection-on-mi-champs-classes/

2)   Jim Burke’s sample of a digital essay and related instructional materials.

http://englishcompanion.ning.com/forum/topics/the-digital-essay

Both of these exemplify the spirit of Web2.0 participatory culture (e.g., http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=12011 ) because these scholars are putting themselves and their work out into the experience of mutual collaboration.  Instead of a finely edited product, Burke, for example, “publishes” his work in process, with an open ending: “Marlow, on the other hand . . .”

I feel Burke and Kabodian trust that their drafts will be treated respectfully.  Their work is so alive and engaging because it is not marked with the old, but still dominant, paradigm’s distinctive attributes of individual ownership and external authority.   The fresh air flows through these works refreshing and generative.

Kabodian shares his process of applying a training model that involved storyboarding and digital media production.  He shows:

1. his bubbl.us chart

2. the youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt4FebfuncM

3. student reactions

Some of their more critical comments included the following: “That sped up part in the hotel was confusing. Why did you do that?” “Why did you put that part with you and Goofy at the beginning?” and “That lady talking at the end didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the video.”

4. his own reflections

It was interesting to me that most of their comments did not have to do with the actual NWP meeting or events, but with my digital movie decision-making. I suppose that could be seen as a positive: they are becoming better critical consumers of digital information.

5. and related instructional materials.

Just as we learned in the research on written composition (e.g.,Flower & Hayes: http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng221/Flower_and_Hayes_Cognitive_Process_Model_of_Composition.htm ; Emig: http://wac.colostate.edu/books/bazerman_wac/chapter5.pdf ), as composition teachers, we can understand digital media much better when the architecture and thinking processes get articulated.  I’m applying Kabodian’s process in my own storyboarding and especially in my instruction with students.  We need this articulated scaffolding in order to go beyond the technical level (which can be so captivating with DM) and  in order to move on into more substantive aspects of composing.

Because my reactions to Kabodian’s movie appear to contrast sharply with the responses of his students, I’m provoked to ask some hard questions about the relative values of peer vs “expert” critique.  I realize that in doing this I’m risking imprisonment in the old hegemonic paradigm, but I believe we should accept the challenge of re-making authority and power in constructive ways.

I recall my frustration in teaching the introductory speech class and inviting peer critique.  The novice speech-makers were typically fixated on vocalized pause (even counting the number of “uhs” in the speech to the exclusion of anything else) or the lack of eye contact.  Of course, these elements need attention at some point in development; but when overemphasized, the beginning orator can be traumatized and silenced.  Similarly, a premature isolation on usage sometimes silences students of “color,” as we know.

The novice may need to be guided to see beyond the technical and on into more subtle elements of form and argument.  In digital media composition, certain expertise may be needed to recognize emergent expression of authentic identity, power in voice, and the advance of social justice.  In Kabodian’s video about his experience at NWP’s annual meeting, I see evidence of distinctive style and selection of particular moments of the larger NWP conference.  In my appraisal, his decision-making focuses and guides the viewer toward essential and defining features of the organization’s nature, essential dimensions that I believe do advance social justice because they empower the authority of situated knowing.

I’m not an expert producer of digital media and don’t claim that expertise, but I am a scholar of rhetoric and a director of one NWP-affiliated site.  As a professor, I take seriously the responsibility to support learners in their growth as composers, to advance beyond the superficial, not just for individual benefit but for the social good.   As Brian Boyd develops in The Origin of Stories, our narratives offer us the capacity to advance consciousness and to promote cooperation for humanity’s welfare, but we are not automatically given the advances.  Effective coaching and generous collaboration in this work with digital media offer us a very important opportunity.

In relation to coaching, Jim Burke ventures into what he tentatively calls “the digital essay,” guiding our profession with his generous sharing of exploratory work with his AP English Lit.  His opening note says, “I have been up a while trying to create an example for them so they have some sense of what [a digital essay] looks like.”  Given the depth of Burke’s example (link available in http://englishcompanion.ning.com/forum/topics/the-digital-essay ), I suspect “a while” is an understatement.  His “wow” title is “The Inferno of the Human Heart,” and his opening paragraph includes Sartre, Shakespeare, Milton, and Dante, as well as Conrad, along with hyperlinks, embedded pictures and subsequent links to videos.

For my interests, more importantly, Burke takes us into the jungle of what makes a good guide.  I think this is a similar issue to my note above about the need for expertise even in the participatory culture, and perhaps especially here given the potential for captivation at the surface level in a digital-media world where the colors and sounds can be so tantalizing, to say nothing of students caught in our culture’s post-modern angst where devotion to a guide may be a lost art.  Burke puts the crisis starkly: “In the absence of any guide, Kurtz was lost in the crumbling structures of his own mind which had long ago ‘grown scientifically interesting’.”  I believe the assertion Burke is building and is inviting us into pushes at the potential that Brian Boyd names: will we advance into our capacity for cooperation in making a better world?

The challenge is huge.  Yet we can take some cheer in the power available in digital media.  For example, Burke invites the “reader” of his digital essay into a mesmerizing soliloquy dramatized by a superb actor in a YouTube video, Col. Kurtz’s Anthropological Understanding ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_NwvO1UxN8&feature=related ).  If the reader takes the link, the search gets intensified and perhaps the opportunity for dialectic with the challenging question extends into a readiness to move closer to finding and accepting a true guide, a guide who can support the movement toward a healthy ecology of cooperation, peace and justice.

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One comment on “PLN, Twitter, Web2.0, DMAL, & “My” Class

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