Assignments

Informal Writing (30 Points)

Blog posts: Each week that readings* are assigned you will write at least one substantive** blog post that makes a meaningful connection between that weeks’ readings and how they relate to the broader world. These blog posts will help you process the readings and prepare you for class discussions. If a prompt is not included in the Course Schedule, here are possible approaches to these blog posts:

  • Perhaps the readings have brought to mind a news story, an advertisement, a song, a TV show, a movie, a book, a website, a meme, a video clip, or an image that challenges or supports a reading’s argument. In your blog post, discuss this connection and the significance you see in it.
  • Perhaps something about the readings is confusing to you. Say more about why it is confusing, speculate on why it is confusing and what information might help clear up that confusion. Invite your classmates to help untangle your questions.
  • What surprised you—or did not surprise you—about the reading? What did you find interesting or what do you want to learn more about? What do you agree or disagree with?

Because blogs are by their very nature public, your focus should be less on mere self-expression (as it might be in a private personal journal), and more on sharing useful, insightful ideas and questions with your audience (your classmates). Since your intended audience will also have read the readings, you won’t need to put very much emphasis on summary except where needed to make a point. HOWEVR, as is always the case when writing with new media, the specter of unintended audiences is always present. In other words, there is always the possibility that someone you least expect may also be reading your posts. Although this unintended audience should not be your primary concern for these posts, beware that it ALWAYS exists.
*For nearly every class you will have a set of readings that you are to complete prior to class. There may be some dense theoretical essays that might challenge you. However, please make sure to read these essays completely (perhaps more than once) so that you can raise meaningful questions or comments in your blog posts and during class.

**Substantive here is defined as a post that engages with the reading in a way that shows you have read it. This might take the form of specific quotes or a thoughtful summative statement. Posts that are overly general, vague, or clichéd are giant red flags that you have not read the assigned readings. Although I hesitate to specify a word count, it will be difficult to write a substantive post in fewer than 200-250 words.

Comments: Each week you need to respond to at least one classmate’s blog post in a comment on their blog. As you might expect, this comment must demonstrate thoughtful engagement with your classmate’s post. Although your response may only be a sentence or two, it must do more than simply affirm or reject (“Yup” or “This is a stupid idea.”) the original post. Explain why you agree or disagree, offer examples, ask questions, and engage as we would expect a reasonable, thoughtful, and respectful citizen to act.

After you have completed your required blog post and comment for the week, leave a comment on the designated post at https://spring2017clark279.wordpress.com with links to your post and your comment. (Of course, you are welcomed and encouraged to post far more than these required posts, but submitting these links will ensure that you are getting credit for your best work.)
Due Dates:

Last names starting with A-M are due by Tuesday 8 AM.

Last names starting with S-Z are due by Thursday 8 AM.

Project 1 – WordPress Site (50 Points)

For this first assignment you will set up a WordPress site that will serve several purposes in this course. It will serve as central place to collect sources for other assignments, a place to reflect on these sources and on the course materials, and a place to connect with others in the course. At the conclusion of the course, you will redesign this site for an audience of potential employers.

To successfully complete this assignment:

  1. Go to https://wordpress.com/ and set up a website using your last name and the digits 279 as the URL. For example, the sample student site for this course is http://clark279.wordpress.com. If your URL is not available, add your first initial (and middle initial, if necessary).
  2. You are welcome to use whatever layout you prefer (there are hundreds to choose from) as long as you follow the basic format of the sample site (clark279): A blog page, an About page, a page for Project 2, and a page for Project 3. On your About page, provide a brief bio about yourself (hometown, major, hobbies, interests, quirks, etc.) and post a headshot of yourself. (In class we will discuss how you can protect your privacy if that is a concern for you.)
  3. Once you have successfully set up your site and populated it as instructed, comment on the designated blog post at https://spring2017clark279.wordpress.com.
  4. Add https://spring2017clark279.wordpress.com and the URLs of each of your classmates to your blog roll that should be visible on your site’s front page. This will make it easier to navigate between our sites as we respond to each other’s work.

Project 2 – Multimodal Analysis (50 points)

For this assignment you will be matched with a local nonprofit organization in order to closely analyze the organization’s website and make recommendations for improving the functionality of the site. In line with our readings that deal with the analysis and production of multimodal texts, perform a rhetorical analysis of the website, whereby you describe its purpose, audience, genre, and context, and explain how different design choices are used to meet the demands of the rhetorical situation. When describing design choices, begin with terms from our class readings and discussions (i.e., terms such as emphasis, contrast, organization, alignment, and proximity). Conclude your analysis with a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the website, making suggestions for how it could be revised to increase its functional purpose in the community.

Not only is this assignment asking you to analyze a multimodal digital text, but it is also asking you to produce a multimodal digital text. Thus you will want to think strategically about possible ways to compose your analysis using text, visuals, audio and video clips, and so forth. Use the blog page on your site as a place to collect sources that your preliminary research uncovers. Think of it as an on-going annotated bibliography of your research throughout the semester.

Since this is a project designed to do double-duty as an educational experience for you AND as a benefit to the Dubuque community, you will need to think carefully about what medium would work best for your final report. You may want to use a dedicated page on your website and share the URL with your community partner. On the other hand, depending on the organization’s needs, you could also do a multimodal report in a Word document, still using images and texts. As always, if you have questions about what might work best for your particular project, I will be happy to consult with you.

Your project should be as long as it needs to be (likely in the range of 700-800 words). Post a draft of your project to the appropriate page on your WordPress site by the posted draft due date. Your classmates and I will provide you feedback that you will then use to revise and complete your project by the final due date.

Project 3 – Writing with Video (125 points total)

In this assignment, drawn from a similar assignment by Dr. Dan Wuebben and a PSA assignment by Dr. Louise Miller, you will work with two classmates to plan, script, shoot, edit, and upload a video on YouTube that is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long. The content of the video should remediate a text that falls into one of the following categories:

 

  • An infomercial that outlines the ingredients of a prescription drug (other than marijuana) or the parts of a specific machine (such as a toaster).
  • A grammar lesson: show your audience how to do something useful with the English language (use a semicolon, correct a run-on, etc.).
  • A video that re-envisions and sheds light on theprocess of writing something (other than a text) such as song lyrics, notes for class, or an email.

This project is designed to help you use video to both remediate text and rethink rhetoric. Questions you might ask yourself during the process: As a writer, how can you appeal to “readers” (your audience) on YouTube? What strategies from writing (planning, drafting, researching, organizing, and revising) are germane to the different narrative devices used in short videos? How are the ways that text is composed similar or different than the ways that videos are captured (flip cameras, cell phones), edited (clipped, spliced, layered with text, etc.) and finally distributed (tagged, embedded, etc.)?

As an added incentive to make an appealing remediation, if your video receives a little “viral” fame and gets 2000 views in the first 72 hours, your group will receive an automatic A for the video. (Note: Only 3% of all Youtube videos get 1000 views in the first month. The number views, likes, or comments will not negatively impact how I grade your video.)

Component Parts of Project 3
Proposal (25 points): Working collaboratively outside of class, write an approximately 600-word analysis of the text you are remediating and describe why it lends itself to video remediation and how you plan to remediate it (what shots, effects, narrative techniques you plan to use). Describe your audience and how that shapes your creative vision. In the last paragraph, sketch out a work schedule and each team member’s individual contribution to the completion of the video.

In conferences, we will discuss your proposal to determine how your video will display critical thinking and an appropriate remediation of text. If your final video deviates from that plan (i.e. the critical thinking or the text is pushed far into the background) your video will not qualify for the automatic A.

Storyboard and Script (25 points each): The goal of the storyboard is to plan every aspect of your video. The purpose of the storyboard is to create a narrative for your video and chronicle your project. Be assured that this will change as you develop your storyboard and rethink how you want to present your video.

The storyboard is a “picture” of your video that includes a written description of each scene. Use your proposal (and conference feedback) to help you write your storyboard and include the key details. Your scenes/shots should sequence your video from the very beginning of the video to the last word. Use a table format like this:

Time (in seconds) Image on Screen Accompanying Audio
15 seconds Original advertisement [insert actual image] Commentary about the advertisement
10 seconds Black screen with text Juxtapose advertisement with [other cultural elements].

After planning your storyboard, your next step is to write your video script. The goals of the script are to be able to demonstrate, clearly and concisely 1) how remediation is working in your video and 2) what it is accomplishing. The purpose of the script is to document/write every word said, every scene filmed, and every action that become your video.

Post your finalized storyboard and script to your blog and post a link on the designated post at https://spring2017clark279.wordpress.com/. We will workshop these storyboards and scripts in class.

Video (25 points): Record your video using your script and storyboard to guide your filming. (I am assuming that at least one person in your group will have a smart phone to use as a camera. If this is not the case, we will make alternative arrangements.) Use this assignment, the course materials, and peer and professor feedback to guide your work and revise as needed. Complete your video, upload to YouTube and embed it in a post on your blog. Watch your classmates’ videos and post comments.

Your video will be graded holistically based on 1) The critical thinking and creativity displayed by selection and interpretation of the text 2) The rhetorical moves used to remediate the text 3) The overall quality of the edited text (photography, soundtrack, transitions, animations).

Individual (one from each person) Post Production Questionnaire/Reflection (25 points): After your video has been uploaded and had a few days to settle in on YouTube, write a reflection of the video you have uploaded and your involvement in the process of writing, capturing, and editing it. In your reflection, answer the following questions about Project 3:

  1. In terms of planning, drafting, organizing, and revising, how was creating this video similar to what you typically do when you write an academic paper? How was it different?
  1. In what ways did making a video help you to convey an interpretation of the text you were working with? In other words, what (if anything) did creating a video allow you to say about the text that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to?
  1. When you created the video, how much consideration did you give to the people who would be viewing it? In what ways (if any) did thinking about your audience affect your choices as you made this video?
  1. Other than your classmates, describe someone who you think would like to watch this video. Outside of the content, what have you done (if anything) to attract or dissuade viewers [e.g. title, tags, (dis) allowing commenting on YouTube, etc.]?
  1. What concepts/theories/authors most influenced your work on this project? How and why did they influence your work?
  1. Do you give consent for me to use parts of your video or quotes from your comments above in academic publications/presentations I might write in the future?

Peer Review: Outside of class, each student will write a peer assessment of their fellow group members by documenting the contributions each member made and posting it to eLearn.

 

WordPress Site Redesign (25 points) and Rationale (75 points)

Having an online presence is increasingly important for professionals in the 21st century. To that end, your fourth formal assignment is to redesign your WordPress site with your emerging professional identity in mind. (Even if you are not on the job market now, you will be eventually.) To redesign your website, you will need to reflect on everything we have read and discussed in class and decide which elements are relevant to you and your professional goals. Then you will need to decide how you will incorporate those elements into your site. For example, if you are hoping to find employment as a professional or technical writer, you will need to think about how to showcase your skills and abilities in a way that will be appealing to potential employers. On the other hand, if you are more interested in building a career as a free-lance photographer, you will need a very different kind of site—one that appeals to customers rather than to employers. Discuss your plan with me so that you can leave the course with a web site you are proud of and that you can include on your résumé if you wish.

Virtually as important as your redesigned site is the rationale you will write explaining WHY you made these design choices. In your rationale (one to two pages, single-spaced in a Word.doc), you need to cover the following points:

  1. Describe the new audience you are targeting, what their motivations will be, how you know, and how you are responding to this information.
  2. Describe the specific changes you are making to your site. What are you removing? What are you adding? What are you rearranging? In explaining your reasons for making these changes, refer back to specific theories, principles, trends, and examples we have covered in class that prompt you to make these changes.

In assessing this assignment, I will be looking for evidence that you have achieved the course objectives and learning outcomes (listed in the syllabus). In other words, I am looking for more than just the product of a well-designed site, but I am also looking for evidence that you are making these design choices rhetorically, strategically, and ethically. Instead of posting this rationale to your blog, post it to the designated link on our course eLearn site.

Final (50 points)

The final exam will be a reflective essay; details to be announced later in the semester.