Over the summer I built an entirely new WR115 course which focuses more on teaching students genre, multimodal composition, technological adeptness, and composing for a real audience.
This section of the course will have students focusing in closely on the role of place in the development of self-identity. It’s my hope that by having students focus on a more personal topic than I’ve used to frame WR115 in previous iterations of the course, students will be able to more deeply connect to the course and will naturally want to invest more time and energy in their work because they will get to focus on a place that is really meaningful to them.
During the first few weeks of the term we will engage with a variety of texts including essays, StoryCorp videos, articles, and online photography collections. These texts all connect the author’s identity to place in some way and students will write critical responses to these texts that help them better understand how the author is connecting space and self-identity. We will also discuss these texts together in class with a focus on more deeply understanding the rhetorical strategies the authors are using when they are composing these texts and how these rhetorical strategies differ across genre.
During the remainder of the course students will turn their attention to Historypin, an online archive whose focus is telling the “stories” of specific places. Students will spend a few weeks deeply engaging with collections already posted on Historypin, familiarizing themselves with the platform, and discussing how we will use the platform in a slightly different way to meet our needs in this course. Then each student will be asked to compose their own Historypin collection focused on a specific place that is significant to their sense of self-identity. So, for example, a student might compile a collection of images and written text that help the reader understand the significance of their grandmother’s dining room table to their self identity. Another student might focus their collection on the town in which they grew up and explain how this place helped them form their sense of self identity. Or an international student might focus on their country of origin, using images and texts to demonstrate to the reader how this nation helped form their identity.
The two major overall goals in the course are to help students strengthen their critical thinking skills and to help them more fully understand the choices and moves used to develop successful texts in various genres for various audiences.
I had the unexpected surprise/pleasure of being allowed to participate in a pilot for course-embedded tutoring in this class. This type of tutoring is something I’ve long felt we should be doing at Lane and it was delightful to work with Allie Crawford, one of my former students, in this course. Her work as a course-embedded tutor greatly strengthened the overall quality of the class and provided extra support to students who needed assistance but may not have been willing to ask their instructor for help, ensuring their success in the course. A good number of students who took this class will be continuing on in WR121 with me and Allie, who will do course-embedded tutoring in 121 next term.
For a brand new iteration of a course, this class was quite successful overall. While many students showed initial reluctance about the amount of technology and different platforms integral to the course, by the end of the term most students were able to appreciate these components and how they were vital to the overall design of the course and, by extension, to student learning in the class. Allie’s work with individual students and in the context of class time helped enable students to more deeply understand how and why these technological components were important.
Historypin proved less problematic than expected and for the most part students were able to easily access, navigate, and create on the site. Many of their projects demonstrated the true potential of this platform in the context of the course and convinced me that it’s worth using the platform in future iterations of the course despite its limitations and issues.
Looking back at the work students in this course produced over the term and their end of term evaluations leads me to believe this was the most successful WR115 course I’ve taught to date at Lane. I saw tremendous amounts of growth in students ability and willingness to think critically and especially to critically engage with ideas almost across the board. Nearly all the students in the section also left the class much more aware of the function and importance of the Writing/Rhetorical situation and how to function more effectively as a writer in various writing situations.
One thing I want to be sure to spend more time on the next time I teach this course are topics around digital rhetoric. While we certainly discussed many of these topics in this section–metadata, Creative Common Copyright, visual literacy, privacy, etc–I feel as though I need to find a way to cover these topics with more depth next time I teach the course.