In the haze of (a) defending my dissertation, (b) getting a job, and (c) graduating, it completely slipped my mind that I’d intended to write a post about my students’ final project assignment from the spring semester. I’m not sure what a person is supposed to do after all of that stuff, but me? I’ve been sleeping.
That being said, let’s flash back to the last chunk of the semester. As I mentioned previously, I was teaching Digital Media Composing for the second time. I had a lot of fun with that class both times I taught it, for a variety of reasons, but most especially because it’s a class specifically predicated on digital play, inquiry, and composition, all of which I love.
Throughout the semester, my students created various compositions that allowed them to explore many facets of digital communication. They analyzed their own selfies, created visual essays, developed thematic playlists, conducted and edited audio interviews, and lastly, composed digital memoirs. As the final project of the semester, the memoir assignment was meant to pull together strands from the different modes they’d worked with throughout the semester. I got this idea from my pal Dr. Les Hutchinson when she shared this while I was still in the early stages of planning my class. While I didn’t think we’d necessarily pull together something that complex, I knew from previous experience that my students would rise to the challenge if given the opportunity, time, and tools to do so.
The requirements were pretty simple. They had to create a memoir using multiple digital communication modes that we’d worked with. That’s pretty much it in terms of restriction. From there, they had the freedom to play and create as they wished. To do this, you have to be willing to cede a lot of control over what the final outcome will be. There’s no singular right way for this assignment to take shape, which I think is a perk, but I know some folks might also struggle with (both from the teacher and student side). That being said, I also believe there’s so much untapped potential and possibility that we never get to in educational spaces because control takes precedence. There’s real value in loosening the reigns (which btw does not mean you allow the class to become Thunderdome, but it does mean you engage in more collaboration with students about what the class will be and what the work of the class will be).
Ultimately, my students turned in all sorts of digital memoirs, many of which went beyond whatever I could have imagined, but my favorite thing is that I could see their imaginations in their work. This was also my experience the previous time I taught this course. Students come up with all of these ideas for digital compositions, and then they figure how to make them happen in ways that are really amazing. At the end of the semester, they explored each other’s memoirs. When we discussed them after their exploration, many shared how interesting it was to see other people’s stories and to see the many ways that other people conveyed their stories. They were intrigued by all of the possibilities that this assignment offered. All in all, a great ending to one of my favorite classes.
To wrap up here, I’d like to share a few examples of the memoirs so folks can get a sense of what the students created and how awesome they are. Note: I do have permission to share these, and they were all posted online on purpose so that students could more easily have a broader audience in mind.