Optimistic Reciprocities: The Literacy Narratives of First-Year Writing Students
by Scott Lloyd DeWitt
Abstract | This exhibit uses a collection of five narratives by students who were preparing to become first-year students at The Ohio State University. Originally collected to train new graduate teaching associates, these narratives create a profile of student literacy practices, conveyed in stories prompted by open-ended questions, that demographic information cannot. Starting with the work of cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot, I argue that the narratives illustrate students’ striking propensity toward optimism—their ability to imagine the future—when they speak of writing and of their upcoming entry into college. This imagined future is not only about “publication,” but more importantly, about genuine audiences and genuine reciprocity. In the exhibit, I ask, “How do students imagine and generate expectations for the future when they think about writing and writing instruction? And, more importantly, what might student writing and writing instruction look like if we met students’ optimism—their imaginations and expectations of the future—in our pedagogies and curricula?” After an analysis of the five students’ narratives and carefully examining how these students’ narratives provide a frame for looking at administrative decisions affecting first-year writing, I conclude by challenging writing program administrators and composition instructors to move students toward composing in a variety of modes with a variety of media and teaching them to make careful rhetorical choices when deciding which modes and media best serve their purposes. Further, I maintain we must design curricula that involve genuine audiences and genuine occasions for reciprocity for students’ composing.
About the Curator | Scott Lloyd DeWitt, Associate Professor of English, came to The Ohio State University in 1992. For ten years, he taught writing, developed academic programs, and conducted research in computers and composition studies on the Marion Campus. An OSU Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award recipient for his pioneering teaching approaches with technology, DeWitt moved to the Columbus campus of OSU in 2002 to become the director of The Digital Media Project, the English Department’s digital media production and teaching studio. Professor DeWitt is the author of Writing Inventions: Identites, Technologies, Pedagogies (SUNY 2002), which offers instructional stories, histories, and classroom applications and connects the theoretical aspirations of the field with the craft of innovative computer-enhanced composition instruction. Writing Inventions was awarded the “Computers and Composition Distinguished Book Award” in 2003. In 2004, DeWitt directed the Battelle Endowment Institute for New Media and Writing Studies on the OSU campus, and he currently co-directs the Digital Media and Composition (DMAC) institute with Cynthia Selfe. Scott directed the First-Year Writing Program at Ohio State from 2007-2011. His current research—a textual analysis of a corpus of 5000+ pieces of student writing—argues for the creation of optimistic curricula that seeks genuine reciprocity among genuine audiences for students’ digital media and composition production
Technical Requirements | This collection of kiosks was created in Apple’s Keynote; the kiosks are intended to be played as linear slide shows and are offered in two formats:
Keynote (.key): These self-contained files can only be played in Apple’s Keynote software on a Macintosh computer or on an iOS device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch). Because these kiosks were created in Keynote, you will retain the most control and ease of use over these files in this software program. The slide show will advance with the click of the mouse or the arrow keys or with the tap of a touch screen. Kiosks may contain embedded videos with audio. The kiosks contain hyperlinks, so visiting them with an Internet or cellular data connection is best; however, the content of the exhibit can be viewed in its entirety without an Internet or cellular data connection. (158 MB total)
Portable Document Format (.pdf): These files can be played on a computer and some portable devices within any .pdf reader (Adobe Reader, Apple Preview, Evince, etc.) or any program that can open .pdf files. The slide show will advance by scrolling down the file or clicking on icons of the slides depending on the software; portable devices will advance by scrolling, tapping, or swiping the touch screen, depending on the device. Kiosks will contain links to video files on YouTube; clicking on the images of the videos will launch them in YouTube. An Internet or cellular data connection is necessary to access the videos. (9.8 MB total)Each compressed (.zip) folder of kiosks contains a Read Me file that includes information about Creative Commons licensing and a Transcript file that provides a text version of the entire exhibit.
The CCDP is committed to working toward the goal of making projects as accessible as possible for all readers. Readers who cannot access this project in any of the above formats can request an alternative format by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cite this Exhibit
MLA: DeWitt, Scott Lloyd. “Optimistic Reciprocities: The Literacy Narratives of First-Year Writing Students.” Stories that Speak to Us: Exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Ed. H. Lewis Ulman, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, & Cynthia L. Selfe. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2013. Web.
APA: DeWitt, S. L. (2013). Optimistic Reciprocities: The Literacy Narratives of First-Year Writing Students. In H. L. Ulman, S. L. DeWitt, & C. L. Selfe (Eds.), Stories that Speak to Us: Exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press.