MyAmericanFuture

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MyAmericanFuture

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14, 2015: Semester Recaps: First-Year Writing



[With this week’s final papers and exams comes the end of another semester at Fitchburg State University, and with it a series of semester recap posts, this time focused on inspiring student work and ideas! Please share your own semester reflections in comments, and/or your spring plans and goals leading up to a predictive weekend post!]
In my fall preview series (which feels like it was about two weeks ago, but hey), I wrote about my plans to bring more digital and multimedia options to Writing I. Here are three examples of how my first-year students responded to these expanded possibilities:
1)      A number of students chose to create tumblr pages for the personal narrative portion of the first paper (which includes both a personal narrative and an analysis of that primary text). In part, I was struck by how similar many of both the formal choices and the identity themes were in these digital personal narratives as in the more traditional written ones, reminding me that these forms aren’t as different as we might think. But at the same time, there were some striking distinctions, including the way in which tumblr relies heavily on using images and texts created by others, making these personal narratives much more multi-vocal than the largely first-person versions created in the written texts. Made for a richly multi-layered reading and grading experience, that’s for sure!
2)      Speaking of multivocal, one student (a Communications/Media major) took that multimedia option for Paper 1 in a very different direction, creating a podcast conversation between him and a couple of close friends over some shared interests (especially anime) that had significantly informed his identity and perspective. This was a much trickier text to analyze, as it involved virtually none of the kinds of formal planning and choices that become key focal points for most of the student analyses of their personal narratives. But that challenge—the question of how to treat a podcast with the same analytical nuance we’d bring to more formal or constructed texts—is itself a valuable 21st century question, and the student found some great ways to consider elements such as structure and tone within his podcast.
3)      My Writing I final paper, in which students combine more personal and more analytical/academic styles of writing a la Richard Rodriguez’s “The Achievement of Desire” and Adrienne Rich’s “When We Dead Awaken,” has always been a site of impressively original and innovative student work. That was certainly the case this time around as well, and one student found a way to link this assignment to the semester-long push for digital options: she created a hypertext version of the paper, where links in the academic section went to scholarly resources for her ideas, and those in the personal section to blog posts, photos, and other reflections of her perspective and experiences. It was a wonderful Paper 5, and a great reflection of what the digital and multimedia modes can bring to a first-year writing course.
Next recap tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other reflections or predictions you’d share?

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