The details of setting up multimedia projects are vital to their success, as I learned through trial and error early in this process. In order for students to achieve success, they must be given the proper instruction and guidance when they put together their multimedia texts. This is not to say that an undue amount of class time must go into instructing the students in how to use multimedia software, though that is certainly part of the process. While I do give in-class instruction on how to actually compose in multimedia and use multimedia software, a lot of the preparation goes into instructing students in the rhetorical appeals and their effective use. This instruction that is typical in the composition classroom goes a long way in the production of multimedia texts.
Early in the semester I cover rhetoric and the use of ethos, pathos, and logos in the establishment of sound arguments. I emphasize that good arguments must be backed by good evidence. Students then write several papers that are based on the typical argumentative modes found in first-year composition courses. These fundamental rhetorical strategies translate well to multimedia texts; however, additional groundwork must be laid in order to help students make the transition from written work to multimedia effectively.
Students must first learn to analyze and interpret visual rhetoric before they are able to implement these ideas into their own work. The scheduling of the project must also allow for instruction in copyright, Creative Commons, technology, visual presentation, and there should be time scheduled for group work.
I have organized the multimedia project to be a culmination of all the work done in the class, so it is done in the last six weeks of the semester. In the first 10 weeks, students write two in-class essays, as is required by my department as preparation for the standardized Regents’ test that all students in Georgia must take their first semester as a full-time student. I then shift the focus of the course to rhetoric, the fun stuff. Students write a narrative, cause-and-effect and proposal essay, the latter two based on strong argumentation and supporting evidence.
In the remaining weeks of the course, we shift to a focus on digital rhetoric. I have allotted five weeks for the final multimedia project. Student homework and in-class assignments are focused on the project during this time. The first week I introduce the students to the concepts of visual rhetoric. Last semester, upon the suggestion of my professor (Dr. Bowie is now the chair of my dissertation committee), I used Roland Barthes’ “Rhetoric of the Image” as the first homework assignment related to the video project.
I warned students that it was a difficult read, but to try to get as much out of it as they could. I had them read the article and then write a summary and response. Many of them bemoaned the difficulty of the piece, but I was both surprised and pleased when most of their homework responses demonstrated an overall good understanding of the piece.
The class following the Barthes assignment, I gave a PowerPoint presentation covering the Rhetoric of the Image. This presentation is full of images I got from WikiCommons, a resource for digital media in the public domain or under Creative Commons license. I used this presentation to inform students of the symbolic and rhetorical power of the images they encounter on a daily basis, but it also served to demonstrate how to use resources in the public domain, give proper attribution when needed, and establish fair use practices. The presentation went well and I received a very positive response from the students, so I think it is a good addition to the project’s setup. Difficult areas of the Bathes’ piece are explained and students are then prompted to do some rhetorical analysis of the images they encounter in their daily lives.
In the class period following the Rhetoric of the Image discussion, I show several videos produced by students in previous semesters and have the students analyze and critique the videos based on the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, logos and kairos. We also discuss the quality of the video editing, the soundtrack, and the overall quality of the argument and information presented. The students become keenly aware of the audience for their own videos. They will actually be producing work that will be viewed and critiqued by someone other than just their teacher. I find that this sense of audience awareness motivates the students to produce something that is worthy of viewing with their classmates.
The following week I schedule time in the computer lab to introduce the basics of using multimedia software. I give the students time to create a mini video and I emphasize the importance of organization when creating multimedia projects. They set up a folder on the desktop where they collect media for the mini assignment. It is interesting to note that I begin the semester discussing the importance of organization in their ideas and essays, and by the end of the semester we have moved to importance of organization when working with digital texts.
I also use this week to discuss copyright and the Creative Commons license, and I direct students to sites such as freeplaymusic.com* where they can download free music that can be used without infringing on copyright. This week their homework assignments focus on establishing groups, confirming topic choices, and developing production plans.
In the weeks that follow, I allow students to work on the videos in class and I help them with technical difficulties, editing, and the overall framework for the project. This means that I have to reserve the computer lab months in advance in order to guarantee that students will have access to the technology they need for the project.
Usually I allow groups to film at least one day, which means they are allowed to arrange to be out of class as long as they report that evening on what they accomplished. I think this is an important aspect in the organization of the project. Students often complain that they have difficulty coordinating schedules when trying to work on group projects outside of class, so it’s important to guarantee this collaboration time.
I set up the project to be the culminating aspect of the course, and we watch the videos together during the last day of class. There is definitely a sense of excitement in the air on premiere day. Students who have worked really hard are eager to show off their work to their classmates, and those who have not put in as much effort are usually quick to make caveats for their production. Now that I have collected a hundred or more student videos, I can honestly say that even the students without strong technical skills can produce a video to be proud of, and, as with any college course, there are also those who have the abilities but do not follow through. >>