Chapter 1: Transfer across Media

1.3 Digital Video as a Site for Transfer across Media

The learning experiences of first-year writers that I describe and analyze in the coming chapters took place in different classrooms with various instructors at two institutions. One common aspect, however, is that transfer across media became observable as students drafted, revised, or reflected on composing videos. Video composition, embedded within first-year writing curricula that asked students to compose across various media and via different modes, was a productive site for transfer across media.

Video and transfer work well together for many reasons, some of which come to light through analysis of the data in this study. Many students enjoy video composition and find it motivating and fun, and this makes it a great method for learning. In fact, students in this study used the following terms to describe their video composition experiences: fun (27 instances across the data set), motivating (23 instances), exciting (12 instances), enjoyable (11 instances), interesting (9 instances), new (7 instances), attention-catching (4 instances), creative, fast (2 instances each), appealing, essential, eye-opening, free, hands-on, and interactive (1 instance each). In total, students used 103 positive descriptors for video composition.

That said, students also described video composition neutrally or negatively 62 times, far less often than they used the positive descriptors listed above. According to students, video was initially surprising (10 instances), time-consuming, different (9 instances each), frustrating, disorienting (8 instances each), challenging (6 instances), hard work, overwhelming, scary, terrifying (2 instances each), all right, annoying, brutal, and unfamiliar (1 instance each). Even as I list these descriptors as neutral or negative, some of them indicate that video provides a useful method for learning and transfer, as challenge, disorientation, hard work, and unfamiliarity can at times spark effort and interest that leads to motivation, as John Dewey reminds us (Interest 49-63). Unfamiliarity also positions students as novice authors, and such a stance can encourage some to rethink and relearn their compositional processes and techniques.

In addition to providing an enjoyable and challenging space for learning, the experiences of the students in this study reveal that video explicitly involves multiple senses and modes of communication as it requires authors to use words, images, sounds, and movements to compose. This use of multiple senses and modes was part of the fun and interactivity many students described. Video also opens up the concept of audience for students as they envision different kinds of people, not just their instructor and their in-class peers, interacting with their video work online. For all these reasons, I have found that when looking and listening for transfer across media, video is a great place to start.

While I use video composition to explore transfer across media, the following video presents an overview of how video composition has been used in writing courses in other ways by teachers and scholars and how it has been used more broadly across the field of Rhetoric and Composition.

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This video provides an overview of how video composition has been used in Rhetoric and Composition.

Descriptive Transcript

[No audio]White text appears on a black screen, reading "Video Composition in Writing Courses and in Rhetoric and Composition".
Crystal: The use of video composition assignments in writing courses such as first-year writing is not a new phenomenon.Crystal is shown filming students in a computer lab-style classroom. Two students are sitting next to each other in front of a laptop, dicussing what is on the screen.
Student: Mm-kay. All right. Now let's watch it all over.
Crystal: Our field has been exploring video analysis and production in classrooms for years.
The view of the same two students working together is shown, but now from the view of the camera that Crystal was holding in the first shot. The students point to the screen and type as they work together.
Crystal: Jason Palmeri and Ben McCorkle demonstrate this in their exploration of articles published in English Journal between 1912 and 2012,A screenshot of Palmeri and McCorkle's journal article appears on the screen, focusing on the drop down header reading "Zooming In." The cursor hovers over this drop down tab, showing the options of Radio, Film/Video, Television, and Computer. Film/Video is highlighted in gray.
Crystal: and they point out that English teachers have long been using film and video. A black and white clip from the film "From Chalkboard to Films: A Lit Review" created by Palmeri and McCorkle is shown on the screen depicting a man using a chisel to etch writing into a tablet. The title of the film appears across the top left of the screen in yellow text. The name of the film and the creators appears in white text in the bottom left corner of the screen.
Palmeri: The teaching of writing has long been a technological act.A black and white clip from the same film appears on the screen, showing a school room with a teacher sitting at a desk and young children at their desks working on an assignment. The name of the film and its creators appear on the screen in white text in the bottom right corner.
Crystal: In fact, film was mentioned in the pages of English Journal as early as 1913, and interest in film and video production as shown via articles in the journal has risen and fallen in waves over the years as new video technologies have become available.A small zoom-in on a screenshot of a blue and yellow line graph from Palmeri and McCorkle's article is shown, pointing out the 1913 date mentioned in the audio. The same screenshot is shown again zoomed out, now showing the progression on the lines, hovering on a 2007 date toward the end of the graph. The yellow line of the graph represents video production, the blue, video reception. Both are shown to have many spikes across time.
Crystal: In her video book,A screenshot of Hidalgo's eBook is shown, Across the top of the screen reads "Camara Rhetorica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition."
Crystal: Alexandra Hidalgo summarizes how Rhetoric and Composition has used film and video production for research and scholarship,Yellow text reading "Chapter 3" appears on a black background. Underneath this reads "A Taxonomy of Rhetoricians' Film and Video Production" in purple text.
Crystal: not just pedagogy,A close-up clip from Hidalgo's eBook of a hand holding a video camera and recording is shown.
Crystal: and she categorizes different types of videos published in the field: video essays, remixes, documentaries, experimental and animated video, and alphabetic texts with supporting videos. A montage of footage from Hidalgo's video book is shown, featuring videos and text.
Crystal: Others have argued that video is a productive site for students to learn writing concepts that might be widely applicable. A black and white clip of a black man mouthing the words to Obama's speech is shown on the left half of the screen as Obama is shown giving the speech on the right half. The bottom left of the screen reads "Yes We Can — Barack Obama Music Video by WeCan08" in white text.
Crystal: Abby Dubisar and Jason Palmeri, for example,A screenshot of the first page of the article written by Abby Dubisar and Jason Palmeri is shown. The title is "Palin/Pathos/Petter Griffin: Political Video Remix and Compositon Pedagogy"
Crystal: have written about using political remix videos in a writing course as one avenue for learning about logos, pathos, ethos, and enthymeme; intellectual property; fair use; and public civic discourse. The black and white "Yes We Can" video continues to play as more men appear on the screen.
Crystal: Megan Adams demonstrates how digital storytelling can be an avenue for students to engage with place, A screenshot of Megan Adams' online article is shown.
Crystal: environment, and the community around them in personal and emotional ways.A montage of clips from Adams' article of an older farmer showing young people around his farm and explaining his home to them is shown. Text in the top right corner reads "Farm Narrative by Micah Johns and Megan Adams." Text across the bottom of the screen reads "He showed us his tools, what they were used for."
Crystal: Abby Dubisar, writing along with her students, A screenshot of Abby Dubisar's article "Haul, Parody Remix: Mobilizing Feminist Rhetorical Criticism with Video" is shown.
Crystal: illustrates how video can be a site for undergraduate research, feminist rhetorical criticism, identity enactment, and the communication of values to audiences.
Joanne: ...the luxury from here. I am just going to soak up the luxury.
A video from Dubisar et al.'s article of a woman holding a box of tampons and talking to the camera is shown. Text in the top right corner of the video reads "Luxurious Period by Joanne Meyers." On the left of the screen reads a handful of numbers that represent the cost of period items, totaling to $686.04.
Crystal: Paul Baepler and Thomas Reynolds analyze survey results and reflection essays collected in two writing courses,A screenshot of Baepler and Reynolds' article "The Digital Manifesto: Engaging Student Writers with Digital Video Assignments" is shown.
Crystal: and they conclude that when students compose videos and written texts in tandem, interchanges between the formats occur, student confidence in composing with different media types increases, and "in short, students increased their flexibility as writers."A montage of screenshots of Baepler and Reynolds' findings from the article is shown.
Crystal: Finally, Pearce Durst argues that film offers much to advanced writing courses, A screenshot of the article "Film in the Advanced Composition Classroom: A Tapestry of Style" by Pearce Durst is shown.
Crystal: including terms and language (like scale, angle, shot, transitions) and other technical, rhetorical, and cultural concepts like the use of montage, shown here through the Odessa steps sequence in the 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, which Durst discusses in his article. Stylistic knowledge like that of montage, Durst claims, can then be applied "across new media."A clip from the black and white movie "Battleship Potemkin" is shown. The title of the movie appears on the bottom right corner of the screen with the words "directed by Sergei Eisenstein" following.
[Audio from Battleship Potemkin continues.]White text appears on a black screen reading "Video Composition in Writing Courses and in Rhetoric and Composition

Our field uses video for various purposes, some of which, like Baepler and Reynolds' increased flexibility, and Durst's stylistic knowledge, align with my use of video to examine transfer.

Others in the field, such as Bump Halbritter, Dan Anderson, and Geoffrey Carter and Sarah Arroyo, address video pedagogy directly, and I have drawn much from their approaches in designing and conducting the first-year writing study. Halbritter's “audio-visual writing” in composition courses—that is, moviemaking—is one way to help students realize learning goals such as “invoking the habits and awareness of writers” (199). Halbritter’s pedagogy addresses “the ‘multidimensional rhetoric’ of twenty-first century writing” (20) with a focus on the process of composing digital video, not the video products themselves. He explains, “[W]e are using moviemaking as a means to teach writing and, especially, to teach writers" (200). More important for Halbritter than the realization of publishable video is the realization of learning goals for an assignment, which may or may not be visible and audible in the product.

Similarly, Dan Anderson discusses “bridges over which one can walk further from a constrictive vision that equates composition with the production of alphabetic text” that might help students write in different sites and situations (52). Anderson argues that through engagement and allowing entry into the “flow of creativity,” videos can “serve not only as vehicles for familiar rhetorical concerns but also as transformative projects enabling new modes of composition and literacy including audio, visual, sequential, informational, and remix literacies” (56). Geoffrey V. Carter and Sarah J. Arroyo highlight the transformative nature of video as well, pointing to participatory video composition practices that involve proairetic (open-ended and experimental) invention, simultaneous critique and performance, and the evolution of new ideas through collaboration such as sharing and commenting. Arroyo further develops the notion of participatory composition in her 2013 book, demonstrating how practices within online video and YouTube culture such as sharing, networking, producing, inventing, and connecting illustrate a move in our culture from literacy to electracy.

Traces of these approaches to using video in the writing classroom can be seen throughout the first-year writing study. Following Halbritter's lead, I look and listen for student learning not only in products, but also through observing processes and listening to student voices. Building on Anderson's work, I pay attention to moments of engagement, creativity, and transformation through video. Keeping Carter and Arroyo's participatory practices in mind, I look and listen for non-traditional and nonlinear composing processes, remembering that new ideas often emerge in messy, unexpected ways.

Other scholarship in the field related to video pedagogy has pointed out the tendency to use digital video in classrooms to increase the learning of alphabetic essay-writing skills and literacies. In their English Journal study, Palmeri and McCorkle state that “teachers have consistently found the moving image to be ‘engaging for students’ and that they have sought to harness that engagement to enhance the teaching of traditional print reading and writing.” The authors speculate that this tendency might be a conservative force, limiting the “ability to engage students in composing persuasive multimodal texts that diverge from print conventions.” Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes launch a similar critique, suggesting that instead of using digital composition in service of print literacies, instructors should teach the rhetorical affordances of media formats like video. Megan Fulwiler and Kim Middleton likewise take some issue with the field’s use of the “digital storytelling” model for composition, arguing that it suggests a linear, sequential model of composing that ignores the “compositing” of visual, aural, and written modes of expression and the “new recursivity” afforded by digital media composing tools.

Reading these critiques of digital media pedagogy conducted in service of print writing has shaped my definition of transfer across media and the ways in which I have looked at and listened to the data here. I have been careful, for example, to define transfer across media in a way that highlights learning that becomes portable across and among media formats rather than being one-way only. In the data, I looked and listened for learning that transferred from video to print essay writing, but also for learning that transferred to and from other sites and contexts, such as from print writing to video, from video to online spaces, and from video to other aspects of video. I also looked for learning that might be site-specific, highly applicable to one type of media or one context. Put another way, Palmeri and McCorkle, Alexander and Rhodes, and Fulwiler and Middleton have all helped me to be open to and actively seek various kinds of reconstructive transfer across and among media tools and composing interfaces.

Digital video, as described by scholars in the field and as experienced by participants in this study, presents a useful site through which we might seek to better understand transfer across media. I now invite you into that site through the audio-visual and written narratives of study participants. Beginning in the next chapter, I use the lens of transfer across media to trace participants' learning experiences through video in FYW, and I describe and analyze what I observed in the classroom, through interviews, and in the products and documents students composed. I invite you to look upon and listen to the student participants as you read this analysis, making your own interpretations of the data. If I have learned anything through studying transfer with and through digital media, it is that student experiences are complex and layered. I hope that even a part of this complexity may be represented through the words, images, and sounds in the chapters to come.