Welcome to Fall 2022! The year is already well underway, and this week we’ll see many of you on UConn’s main campus for our first workshop/conference of the year. It’s exciting to start this “new chapter” of ECE English and begin collaborating again.
Dovetailing into our Storrs campus “homecoming” after working virtually for so long, this post aims to provide a bit of an overview on some pedagogical updates from UConn’s First-Year Writing program. Namely, it will highlight some materials from the ENGL 1007 Studio modules—both synchronous and asynchronous—in the hopes that we can continue untangling the studio experience together.
Of course, ECE English classes look a bit different from the FYW courses being offered on UConn campuses. At UConn, students meet for the seminar component of their ENGL 1007 class multiple times per week, and then they meet for the studio component of that same course once every two weeks with a different instructor. Because of this, students complete a number of asynchronous activities during their “off weeks” and are encouraged to do prep work on their own time. When students meet for their in-person studio sessions, the majority of class is spent doing collaborative activities, completing peer review sessions, or working on project drafts. While students can bring in work from their seminar sections, much of this studio class time is devoted to one semester-long project in particular: the “Digital Exhibition Portfolio” website, which is to be finalized by the end of term.
These portfolios, completed on a platform like WIX or WordPress, function as the polished culmination of the student’s body of work from both the studio and seminar components of ENGL 1007. They’re expected to publish an “About Me” page, share and upload assignment drafts, and design their sites to be easily navigable and also aesthetically engaging. Students work together in small groups and run website tests, provide feedback on their writing and design choices, and generally work to draft the visual and rhetorical components of a successful portfolio website.
While you certainly also spend a great deal of time organizing collaborative activities, peer review sessions, and other multimodal assignments in your ECE English classrooms, we don’t ask you to assign something as particular as a portfolio website. Nevertheless, there are some interesting areas of overlap between the First-Year Writing classroom and the kind of experimentation we know students are doing in your own ECE English classrooms. Here are a a couple of major areas you might consider:
“Accessibility” is a big concept that can include textual, visual, and aural facets. In the FYW studio context, accessibility specifically refers to the multimodal projects students are working on at any given moment in the term. For their Digital Exhibition Portfolio websites, students are encouraged to consider how their sites promote ease of use—are the pages easy to navigate? Do they include links to other works or websites?—without becoming overwhelming.
Of course, not every ECE English classroom will be engaging with online artifact creation (like in the case of a website or webpage—we certainly don’t expect this!). But it’s still useful to think about how your students might be engaging with concepts of accessibility in their own ways. It is essential students have a strong understanding of their audience, and how their text/creation might be interpreted/used in the future. Since every artifact has an audience, every artifact has audience considerations that should factor into the drafting process. This can be as simple as adjusting Google Doc permissions—can everyone access this document?—to something more complex like determining if a PDF is compatible with a screen reader, providing captions or alt-text, and attending to other Universal Design principles.
Some things to reflect on:
- What does the accessibility conversation look like in your particular classroom? What media have your students worked with so far, and how have you engaged with questions of audience needs/expectations, creator considerations, etc.?
- How can we be creative and accessible at the same time? How have your students successfully been creative and accessible in the classroom?
- What kinds of audiences do your students engage with on a regular basis? In your classrooms, do your students circulate their work beyond their peers?
- How can we invite students to think about how their work might be interpreted after its creation? How can we encourage students to consider accessibility and longevity as concepts that go hand-in-hand when drafting an artifact?
Digital identity & media literacy
United with the concept of accessibility is that of digital identity. Who are we online? What personas do we adopt on Twitter versus Google Classroom versus when we text our family members? UConn’s FYW studio modules ask students to consider their digital identities as they put together their Digital Exhibition Portfolio websites. In these modules, FYW highlights the way we participate differently in different online communities, the importance of digital privacy, and the privileges and responsibilities of existing in online spaces.
These are particularly useful conversations to have in tandem with projects that ask students to cite other work (such as books, articles, videos, podcasts, photos, and their own field research). It also opens up the space to discuss copyright and license-free artifacts. Since studio work is a collaborative, multimodal, and ever-evolving field, conversations you have with your students about their work and their digital identities are also likely to be collaborative and ever-evolving.
Some things to reflect on:
- What kinds of multimodal artifacts do you typically bring into the classroom? What do your students bring into the classroom? How do you address questions of ownership and citation?
- How can we talk about media literacy in our ENGL 1007 classes? What space does the ECE English classroom make for conversations about digital privacy and responsibility?
We’ll continue discussing the dimensions of accessibility, creativity, and writerly identity at this week’s conference, “A New Chapter.” To view FYW’s asynchronous studio modules, follow this link; to view FYW’s synchronous modules, follow this link.