Question Expression.

Written by, Rachel Fletcher & Dohee Park 

Edited by, Emil Suarez and Sean McCarthy

 

Introduction to college

You’ve got new clothes hangers, a laptop, and your favorite outfits all packed up. You’re ready for college. This is what you tell yourself. You’ve been well-beyond prepared for this experience, considering all of the AP courses you’ve completed in high school. You expect that when you walk into Harrison Hall room 2104, Professor Sean McCarthy will be awaiting you with myriad writing assignments in mind for you. It took only about a week for this GWRTC 103 class to realize that they were mistaken in all that they had expected.

Our final assignment was open-ended. We were to construct our own final project and use creativity within multimedia in order to complete this assignment. We were discovering a new level of freedom.  We aren’t writing an essay, or even creating an online blog, rather, we are revolutionizing GWRTC classes at JMU. So, why should we be allowed to use multimedia in place of written work and how will we benefit from it? Keep reading to find out…

Here’s our music video:

 

Writing Studies & Multimedia

Written pieces limit creativity in the sense that students must follow specific guidelines and construct their project on what will earn them a good grade; writing papers can be seen as taking the safe route. By allowing students to cross that fine line between the norm and “rebellion”, professors are giving students more freedom to complete assignments without restrictions. This can also be detrimental to the student because without rules and regulations, the student needs to take responsibility and rely less on the guidance of a rubric, and more on their own writing skills. This assignment sets out to push students into the stress and the independence that they so desire in order to strengthen their multimedia skills. We are merely redefining the norm in a writing class.

Students learning how to use video equipment in Carrier Library

Photo Credit: Sean McCarthy (Video production workshop in Carrier Library, October 2012)

 

A video is similar to an essay in many ways. Multimedia can take the place of writing by sharing elements with a written piecor can be incoorporated into a written piece in student writing assignments because both require a draft, editing, peer review, and have to appeal and get a point across to an audience. Using multimedia should substitute for writing because unlike writing multimedia illustrates a story and provides the audience with a better visual understanding of the main point. By allowing students to use videos and other multimedia students will become more engaged in the writing process and can therefore focus more on the content itself. After all, “In today’s world of texting, tweeting, blogging, and social networking, young people are writing more than ever. Students are faced with learning multiple new literacies to succeed in our fast-paced, information-rich world, yet most schools have not caught up with the digital reality that students live in daily,” according to the National Writing Project of 2010. This stresses the constant need for today’s youth to have an electronic decide in their hand at all times, without it we feel hindered and disconnected from the world.

Communication has always been made possible through forms other than text; sign language, drawings, and technology/social media have impacted and advanced the way we communicate from day-to-day. For example, thousands of years ago the Egyptian form of writing, called Cuneiform, was expressed through pictures and are then translated into words. Using multimedia is very similar to this. Students are simply taking hieroglyphics to the 21st century and forming a language of their own. Digital literacy, by definition, is “the ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information” (University Library of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008). Digital literacy is a product, much like an essay. It is a way of expression, similar to written text. 

Students learning how to use iMovie

 Photo Credit: Sean McCarthy (Students learning how to use iMovie in Rose Library)

 

Communication has always been made possible through forms other than text; sign language, drawings, and technology/social media have impacted and advanced the way we communicate from day-to-day. For example, thousands of years ago the Egyptian form of writing, called Cuneiform, was expressed through pictures and are then translated into words. Using multimedia is very similar to this. Students are simply taking hieroglyphics to the 21st century and forming a language of their own. Digital literacy, by definition, is “the ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information” (University Library of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008). Digital literacy is a product, much like an essay. It is a way of expression, similar to written text.

Example of Cuneiform

 

The Context

This video is a metaphor for the successes and the failures that students encounter; it portrays the constant acceleration of society and the advancement of technology. Written assignments establish a point, they allow for structure. Multimedia allows for further interpretation though, this project was more than an assignment, it was a learning experience. The original point of this video was to construct an exciting video that would captivate the JMU students and demonstrate a student vs. teacher theme. Instead, through trial and error, a video was made that is more of an experiment. The video that you are about to watch is not exciting, it is not captivating, nor is it publishable material; rather, this video is made from scrap and embodies the “wanna-be” creativity of two freshmen, who clearly can’t do anything right. Aside from what is the video is now, the original plan was to create a video depicting students fighting the mold that teachers try shaping us into; the students were going to fight for individuality by rejecting the books and assignments that we are forced into finding interest in. The song is perfect for the life of a college student, the setting appealed to our audience, and the cast consisted of JMU students. So, where did we go wrong?! We have absolutely zero skill when it comes to making movies. We chose this project because we expected making a movie to be easier than writing an essay; we thought that we had all of the right fundamentals to create a movie. We weren’t completely wrong, but it took changing the main point of the video several times to finally get it right. This video now portrays all of the things we did wrong, but it taught us that multimedia is more like writing than we thought. Multimedia and writing share key elements such as requiring a draft, editing, peer review, and appealing to an audience. Multimedia production requires collaborating with others, utilizing management skills, and making the idea come to life (which also might require a longer time frame. If we had more time, the outcome would be different.

 

The Product

College is one big experiment. We don’t always know what to expect, but somehow or another everything turns out just fine. This assignment is very much like the college experience. We walked through these doors on the first day without an ounce of knowledge in the sense of college right and wrongs, but we managed to get through the first day, the second day, and we are now completing our very first semester. Sounds like a huge accomplishment, right? Well, not quite. Rather, our final project turned out to be be a bit of a fail. We were a bit too ambitious. The final video needs a lot of editing and fixing up, however time became an issue, If we had more time then we could have found more participants, gathered better footage, and followed the original story line. But this did not hinder our learning in the GWRTC environment. Through the stress and the crunch for time, these two “big time movie producers” managed to learn a lot from Sean. This whole “experiment”, per-say, was very valuable in the sense that we will need to know how to handle pressure and deadlines when we enter the workforce, we learned that there is more than one way to express ourselves other than through writing, and we learned how multimedia plays such a major role in our lives from day-to-day. In addition, we learned that things don’t always turn out the way that you expect them to. One day you’re a wimpy freshman with big ideas about a “pop music video,” and the next you’ve got the polar opposite of this polished product that you thought would put your name in lights. Nonetheless, we learned something, so this was not as much of a fail as the video will make it seem. We learned something from a project that we originally thought to be elementary. Multimedia, GWRTC, and even Sean, had an effect on us, because we learned real-life applications. What paper can teach you that? This project has redefined our idea of a “traditional paper,” it has taught us more about writing with emotion and incorporating personality and creativity into our paper.

 

The Analysis

When students come to college, they expect professors to assign research papers and essays that are 10 pages long. In addition, they assume that the learning environment is very different, and everything must be done on their own and they must teach and learn the material on their own. However, it was completely different for Sean McCarthy’s class. From the first day of class, the classroom environment felt comfortable, which helped us to develop trust and honesty. Because of the trust we gained, Sean gave us the freedom to choose what we wanted to do for our project. Allowing us to use our creativity and imagination was something that a typical essay would constrict us from. This assignment helped us to begin our college experience on a good note by helping us to develop a good relationship with our peers, and being able to be expressive with our opinions. We have learned that a multimedia assignment is not as different from a written assignment after all, as it requires research, drafting, and revision, too.

 

Works Cited: 

Chiang, Sharline, What Is Digital Writing and Why Does It Matter, National Writing Project, 2010. 

Hjeltness, Sarah, Digital Literacy Definition and Resources, University Library of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008.