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The Material Conditions of College: A Love Story?

The Material Conditions of College: A Love Story?

Written by Meaghan Rand
November 06, 2011

It all started with a timeline. At our planning meeting for the Digital Is project, Lacy asked us to map significant events in our lives that dealt with technology. My timeline had significant events such as the first time I played a video game (in 1985—my cousins had an Atari), and when my family bought our first cell phone, which was the size of a brick. There was one event, though, that really stood out to me, which was when I bought my first laptop. When we were asked to take the sheet of overhead projector paper to lay over our timelines and then map out the master and little narratives that spoke through these events, the themes that stood out were buying power and access to technology.

Upon reflection, I thought about how much I rely on technology, how quickly it changes, and the pressure to change [my teaching and my life] as a result of technology. Fast forward a few weeks, and I am in the middle of a lesson about rhetorical appeals with my freshman composition course. We were watching a series of Youtube videos and talking about context, audience, purpose, and which rhetorical appeals were present in these videos. I chose “Vision of Students Today,” a class project by Michael Wesch at Kansas State and his students, and RSA Animate’s “Changing Educational Paradigms.” Both videos problematize the current state of education in our country. I have to say, the discussions that came out of watching these videos were fantastic—we talked about increased access and convenience of technology, power, authority,voicelessness, and expectations of a college education. If you haven’t seen these videos, I highly recommend them (I will have links from this resource to the videos). I asked students to form groups and write down what they thought the thesis statements were from the “Vision” video, but they had to write them in a form of a text message. We placed these text messages on the chalkboards/whiteboards in the classrooms and talked about their significance. I took pictures of most of them, and they are the still photos you see here in the video.

When I look at them, not only do I see creativity and critical thinking of the texts, but I also see interesting things happening in the genre of text messaging.  Steven Fraiberg defines “codemashing” as “[…] the complex blending of multimodal and multilingual texts and literacy practices in our teaching and research” (102).  One of my students said that the RSA Animate video was “the coolest thing he’s ever seen,” and several of them noted that the way the artist was drawing on the whiteboard as Sir Ken Robinson’s spoke allowed them to synthesize the information better—the codemashing led to a better understanding of the messages inherent in the video.

So…in my attempt to enter into the Digital Is conversation, I decided to work on a digital literacy narrative. In my video, you can hear my own narrative and you can see my drawings that correspond to certain elements of this narrative. You can also see the students’ text messages. Together, we form knots of understanding and engagement with multimodal texts—all of which (in this case) rely on technology.

Works Cited

Alexander, Kara Poe. “Successes, Victims, and Prodigies: ‘Master’ and ‘Little’ Cultural Narratives in the Literacy Genre Narrative. College Composition and Communication, 62.4 (2011): 608-633.

Dave Matthews Band. “Typical Situation.” Under the Table and Dreaming. RCA, 1994. MP3.

Fraiberg, Steven. “Composition 2.0: Toward a Multilingual and Multimodal Framework.” College Composition and Communication 62.1 (2010): 100-126.

RSA Animate. “Changing Educational Paradigms.” Online Posting. Youtube. 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 14 Sept. 2011. Wesch, Michael. “Vision of Students Today.” Online Posting. Youtube. 12 Oct. 2007. Web. 14 Sept. 2011.  

Want to know more about the people and ideas behind this resource?  Click the image below to link to Digital Is (K)not, a resource to tie resources together, created by the UNC Charlotte Writing Project.  

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