I think Madeleine Sorapure’s “Between Modes: Assessing Student New Media Composition” has been one of the most accessible, practically useful, and thought provoking readings we’ve done for our Computers and Writing class this semester. Because I had such a positive experience and reaction to that text, I thought I’d explore it a bit more here. As I’ve already expressed, one of my most pressing goals for the semester and for this course is to ease my anxieties about incorporating computers and writing type assignments into my first-year composition classroom. I think this text was so useful in pushing me towards that goal because it offers actual assignments and student compositions. In that way, the text helped me to come down out of the ether of theory and into the equally important, possibly more urgent issues of pedagogy. It also still helped me to sort out some more theories too.
Basically, Sorapure’s use of metaphor and metonymy to structure her assignment prompts and to evaluate her students’ compositions helped me to sort out a process by which I might incorporate some more new media/multimodal type assignments into my classroom. Not that I will wholly adopt her terms and methods, but in her process of assigning and evaluating, I found some connections to the ways that I already try to teach print based composition (like being consistent and transparent with students about the goals, requirements, and evaluation of the assignment as Sorapure did with the terms metaphor and metonymy). Turns out that bringing multimodal and new media assignments into the classroom might not be as scary as I’ve been imagining. I might already have some useful processes and principles to draw off of (although I also recognize that I will need to remain flexible and open to new possibilities, opportunities, and also unforeseen/unpredictable troubleshooting).
I will say I’m still a bit concerned and will now recapitulate some often expressed reservations about incorporating these kinds of assignments into the comp classroom (not simply to beat a dead horse but instead to hopefully get them out of my system and move beyond them):
I guess I’m still concerned about how truly de-centered my classroom will now be. I already feel less authoritative than desirable in the classroom simply because I am so young and new a teacher, so close in age to my students, and generally run my classroom pretty informally/conversationally already. Introducing technology and assignments based in using technology into the classroom will reveal and expose me as even more of a novice. And now, to move beyond this anxiety about further de-centering authority in my classroom: my students have always been respectful of me and also sought me out for my guidance/”expertise” when they’ve felt like they’ve needed it. Continuing on in this honest/transparent way that I’ve begun as a teacher will hopefully encourage that kind of dialogue and “learning together” type environment rather than alienating me or undercutting what authority I do have in the classroom. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself as I incorporate a brief, low stakes, in-class, digital assignment into my classroom today! Follow up post coming soon…