Appendix A

The Video Composition Unit—2012

The video composition unit I offered to instructors in 2012 consisted of asking students to produce a video composition as one of the major assignments in their first-year writing course. Below is an excerpt of the assignment directions I offered to instructors as part of the unit materials.

The Task:

For this assignment, you will compose a video composition intended for publication on the Web. You may choose the topic and content of the video, but the video must serve a rhetorical purpose and be directed to an audience. For example, you could compose an informational video about a product, event, person, place, or issue, or you could create an argumentative video that takes a stance and argues a position. You can remix and edit the work of others to create the video (as long as you use others’ work legally), you can shoot and edit original footage that you capture with a video camera, or you can do a combination of these.

The Requirements:

  • Rhetorical Purpose: Your video must have a purpose, a main point, a mission.
  • Audience Awareness: You should choose a specific audience for your video. All users of the World Wide Web is too large an audience. Address as specific an audience as possible.
  • Combination of Modes of Expression: At a minimum, your video must use one piece of music or sound, one still image, one moving image, and some language (written or spoken). Of course, you may use more than the minimum requirement if desired.
  • Length: 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Copyright: Because videos usually are published on the Internet, your video must be legally publishable on the Web and “copyright clean.” You may freely use images, music, sounds, and text that you create yourself, of course, or you may borrow others’ work that is in the public domain or licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.
  • Licensing: Your video must be licensed through Creative Commons. You may choose which type of license you would like to use for your video.
  • Publication and Feedback: You are encouraged but not required to publish your video to the Web through YouTube or another video distribution platform. You can earn extra credit for this assignment if you publish your video to the Web and obtain real-world audience feedback.

As these directions make clear, the assignment required that students compose a short video intended for publication on the Web that combined audio, visual, and linguistic modes of expression. Other requirements were fairly open: the video could be about any topic as long as the student had a clear purpose and audience.

This assignment was accompanied by eight lessons designed to support students not only in being able to compose videos, but also in achieving movement toward meta-awareness through actions and articulations and the development of functional, critical, and rhetorical literacies. Below is a summary of the eight lessons and their objectives.

Lesson Number and Title Lesson Objectives
Lesson 1—Making a Video: Ethics, Copyright, and Finding Materials Students will...
  • become familiar with copyright law, fair use of materials under copyright, the public domain, and creative commons licensing
  • learn how to find materials and media assets that they can reuse in their video compositions according to the uses they intend
  • find one image, one piece of music, and one video on the Web which they have express permission to reuse
  • troubleshoot problems with locating materials as they arise
Lesson 2—Video Editing Hardware and Software Students will...
  • familiarize themselves with the interface of the video editing software
  • learn how to import and manipulate still images, video clips, and music
  • learn how to rip and insert video from the web
  • learn how to use video cameras, webcams, or other recording devices to capture video or audio, import and manipulate it
  • learn to add and manipulate written text
  • learn to produce a video file
  • learn how to use one another, the instructor, and the Web as resources
Lesson 3—Analysis of Video Models and Building Metalanguage Students will...
  • discuss and analyze several video models
  • evaluate the use of the audio-visual composing techniques they see at work in the models
  • begin to develop metalanguage for audio-visual composing
Lesson 4—Techniques for Video Composing, Building Metalanguage, and Goal Setting Students will...
  • define and recognize video composing techniques
  • become more aware of the layers of media in video composing
  • critically analyze and evaluate the use of composing techniques
  • develop metalanguage for audio-visual composing
  • set goals for developing functional and rhetorical literacies
Lesson 5—Multimedia Box Students will...
  • compose a “multimedia box” using images, sounds, written words, and video
  • use and recognize video composition techniques
  • interact with, evaluate, and discuss their own work and the work of their peers using metalanguage
  • consider ways to apply the video composition techniques to their video assignment
Lesson 6 - Small-Group Workshop; Goal Revisit Students will...
  • view and interact with their own and one another's video composition drafts
  • critically analyze their own and one another's drafts and participate in discussion about the drafts, giving and receiving critical feedback on one another's drafts and using metalanguage
  • reflect on goals and progress, revising and adding to goals
Lesson 7—Conference with the Instructor Students will...
  • critically analyze their video draft, ask questions about the draft, and reflect on choices and the rationales for those choices
  • participate in discussion about the draft
  • listen to and respond to feedback from the instructor
  • reflect on next steps in composing the draft and ways to improve it
Lesson 8—Submission of Final Draft and Reflection Students will...
  • reflect on goals and progress, explaining a rationale for the goals
  • reflect on composition process, chosen purpose and audience, use of AV strategies, and use of rhetorical and technical features
  • articulate rationales for choices
  • consider ways to connect the learning they experienced in this assignment to future assignments or writing contexts

The teachers’ use of these lessons was not necessarily about observing and testing how the specific curriculum provided might serve (or not) to support students in working toward particular ends. Instead, because the instructors were willing to adopt and adapt the unit for their own purposes, it provided a “space between,” or a means through which I could start to look for and more specifically define movement toward meta-awareness about composition and transfer through digital media. Angie and Kelly adapted these lessons in different ways according to their needs and pedagogical values.

Angie's Video Lesson Sequence

Angie chose to make the video unit the final unit in her course, which met three times weekly for fifty minutes. The assignments leading up to the unit included four prose essays that centered on the course theme of social media. Angie taught the unit over a four week period, and her lesson sequence was as follows:

  • Lesson 1: Introduction to Video Composing and the Assignment
  • Lesson 2: Ethics, Copyright, and Finding Materials
  • Lesson 3: Video Editing Hardware and Software
  • Lesson 4: Techniques for Video Composing, Discussion and Analysis of Models
  • Lesson 5: Analysis of Video Models; Pair Mini-Workshop; Technical Problem Troubleshooting
  • Lesson 6: Discussion of Video Composing Techniques and Analysis of Student-Authored Model
  • Lesson 7: Discussion and Analysis of Video Model
  • Lesson 8: Full Class Workshop of Two Student-Authored Drafts
  • Lesson 9: One-on-One Conferences with Instructor

Kelly's Video Lesson Sequence

Kelly adopted the video unit as part of the curriculum for two first-year courses she taught simultaneously in the fall semester of 2012, teaching the unit as the last major assignment in each course. The assignment sequence for Kelly’s courses included four projects: three prose essays followed by the video unit. Kelly’s sections met twice weekly for eighty minutes. She included all eight lessons from the video unit materials in her curriculum, teaching the unit over a five-week period, and she made a change only to Lesson 7, electing to conference with students in small groups of three instead of one-on-one. Kelly’s lesson sequence was as follows:

  • Lesson 1: Ethics, Copyright, and Finding Materials
  • Lesson 2: Video Editing Hardware and Software
  • Lesson 3: Analysis of Video Models and Building Metalanguage
  • Lesson 4: Techniques for Video Composing, Building Metalanguage, and Goal Setting
  • Lesson 5: Multimedia Box
  • Lesson 6: Small-Group Workshop and Goal Revisit
  • Lesson 7: Small-Group Conferences with Instructor
  • Lesson 8: Reflection Essay