Conclusion: Classical rhetoric canons
This webtext has explored five dimensions of the delivery of digital-audio response to student texts: economics, body, distribution, access, and interaction. Drawing lessons from these five dimensions, instructors, I hope, would be better equipped to deliver digital-audio response to their students' drafts in an informed and efficient manner.
For greater insight, Porter (2009, p. 220) recommends relating delivery and its five dimensions to other aspects of rhetoric. While delivery is what most obviously distinguishes this method of responding to student texts from more conventional methods, the other canons of classical rhetoric would also come in to play in distinct ways, in particular as instructors would pursue this innovative method of delivery to do more than, say, just recording their written comments verbatim. So in closing, I synthesize some of the discussion from this webtext's five sections, supplemented with my own observations, to briefly distill how the genre(s) of digital-audio response might invite its own invention, arrangement, style, and memory, distinct from those of other response delivery methods.
- In general, recording a response seems to invite the kinds of commentary that have been valued in the composition field more so than does writing out a response. As reported in the Economics section, instructors have found recording to encourage them to focus more on the writing process in contrast with the written product, more on positive and formative comments, and more on higher-order revision concerns such as development and organization in contrast with lower-order editing concerns such as style and usage. For instance, in the Interaction section, I suggest that instructors can more readily pose a range of brainstorming questions or introduce a range of options for students to explore, all far less laborious than hand-writing or typing out the equivalent and far more creatively than pasting a "canned" response from a template of generic responses. Such an "inventive" digital-audio response could be supplemented by written comments that would focus on lower-order editing concerns and the like.
- In the Interaction section, I observed that students can more readily navigate through the spatiality of a written response than the undifferentiated temporality of an audio response. To facilitate their students' interactions with a recording, that section recommends several ways instructors can communicate the arrangement of their comments: beginning with a preview of the main points, orienting each new comment with a reference to a point or points in a student's text to which it refers, and offering explicit and ample transitions between points so students can pause the recording to attend to their revision. Indeed, the more process-oriented, formative, higher-order commentary afforded by a recorded-audio response would tend to invite greater reflection and hence a greater need for clearly demarcated moments in which a student should pause the recording.
- In contrast with written response's style of curt comments, recorded-audio response seems to invite more voluble commentary with a greater repertoire of "voice." Both instructors and students seem to perceive that, perhaps because of this greater stylistic repertoire, spoken response performs a greater interpersonal function than written response. As reported in the Body section, some instructors appreciated the more personal tone they could convey through their voice than through written commentary. Alas, impromptu recording also seems to result in more stylistic infelicities, such as hesitations and inarticulate comments, and ensuing self-consciousness and embarrassment. Yet, such stylistic infelicities apparently generated no complaints from students. Indeed, as reported in the Economics section, students perceived themselves to be better able to register their instructor's tone and attitude when receiving their response aurally rather than visually in writing.
- Digital-audio response presents greater challenges to both short-term and long-term memory than does written response. Speaking a non-stop, ad-lib monologue prompted by a smattering of various features across a student's draft can tax short-term memory more than intermittently writing brief comments in the margins of the student's draft. As reported in the Body section, many instructors read their students' drafts aloud, commenting as they went along and thereby possibly relieving some of the short-term memory load. The main challenge to long-term memory emerges once students submit a subsequent draft, when instructors would want to recall the comments made on the previous draft perhaps weeks earlier. Alas, listening to one's own recording is not as efficient as skimming one's previously written commentsanother reason why digital-audio response might be supplemented by brief written comments.
As this synthesis suggests, delivering a digital-audio response to student texts seems to invite a genre and rhetoric of response distinct enough from more familiar response genres and rhetorics to prompt experimentation and, I hope, further reflection from other instructors.