¡Viva la Revolución!

Welcome to The Revolution, a multimedia journal designed and produced by a single class of GWRTC 103 students during the Fall 2012 semester. The title of this journal is the students’ choice, and it’s an apt one. It captures the creative spirit and energy of these articles and their talented writers, all of whom completed this project during their first semester at JMU.

We started out the semester on a different path than the one we ended on, following a syllabus design I had successfully taught in other schools. For some reason, however, my tried and tested formula didn’t sit well with this group. They seemed only intermittently enthusiastic about our activities, and by the third week were thoroughly bored. It could have been a long and unpleasant semester.

History tells us that the best revolutions are rarely planned, and this instance is no exception. A thought occurred to me one fine day a month into the semester: why not ask the students what they would like to write? The group initially found the question puzzling when I posed it to them; a few students told me they are rarely if ever asked what they would like to learn. With a little coaxing, it became overwhelmingly clear that the students longed for assignments that incorporated a mix of text, image, and video. They wanted to think about and practice their writing skills beyond the confines of Microsoft Word — to learn how to navigate the multimedia writing spaces that stream through our phone apps and web browsers every day.

The second half of the semester were action-packed: as drafts rolled in, we did workshops, scheduled interviews, and edited each other’s work.
Image Credit: Sean McCarthy

With this goal in mind, we embarked on an unexpected and action-packed journey for the rest of the semester. These writers picked their own topics, designed their own research agendas, and learned the essentials of many genres of writing. Their research brought them all over campus and beyond. They learned to shoot video, capture good sound, and edit the results. They shared drafts of these multimedia articles on our class wiki and edited each other’s work. They cut, pasted, and wrote some more. They designed this journal’s sections and overall look, and quickly grasped the workings of the WordPress publishing platform that hosts this site.

Learning interview and video production at Media Resources

Debbie Pugh at Media Resources taught us how to use cameras and voice recorders. Within an hour, our class had basic video production and interviewing skills that they put to good use in their articles.
Image Credit: Sean McCarthy

There are many, many skills required of multimedia authorship, and we learned most of them from scratch this semester. It’s amazing to think that the journal you have before you came together in just two months! We were fortunate to have expert support from across campus to help us out. Debbie Pugh from Media Resources did a terrific job turning our writers into interviewers and film makers. D. Lee Beard and his team at the Rose Library division of the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT) taught us the basics of video editing. Kevin Hegg and his CIT team in Carrier Library have been generous and enthusiastic in their WordPress support. On behalf of the GWRTC 103 class, I sincerely thank them all.

Writing is hungry work!

The remains of a large consignment of pizza that fed hungry writers during a three-hour editing workshop on Saturday, November 10.

Personally, I want to celebrate the students whose efforts are showcased in The Revolution and I want to share the following words with them. You worked hard and creatively, and you should be immensely proud of your accomplishments here. The energy and enthusiasm you brought to this project made it a joy to turn up to class everyday. You took charge of your learning and carved out your own style of writing. In the process, you taught me how to be a better teacher and writer. I wish you all the very best of luck in your undergraduate adventures; our campus will be even more vibrant with you around for the next four years.

~ Sean McCarthy

Learning to stitch image, sound, and video together during the iMovie workshop at the Center for Instructional Technology at the Rose Library.
Image Credit: Sean McCarthy