Convergence in the Classroom: Exploring New Media in Composition

21st-century environments for reading and writing are continually expanding. With this expansion comes a growing variety of texts, few of which resemble what many students and teachers think of as a “traditional” essay. A critical understanding of the concepts of purpose, audience, context, and choice are vital for writers who take increasingly versatile approaches to composing. Rather than taking time away from the concerns of the composition classroom, critical engagement with digital technologies and multiple modes of communication enables students to access the concepts traditionally at the core of writing education.

The Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst sponsors a group of teachers who explore the convergence of new media and traditional writing pedagogy. These Technology Fellows encourage their students to develop an awareness of the conventions, material contexts, and possibilities of new media technologies and texts. In this workshop, Technology Fellows who have incorporated digital, multimedia, and new media components in their teaching will share insights from their work, lead discussions on classroom practices, and facilitate hands-on sessions in new media composition. Specifically, participants will work collaboratively to explore these questions:

  • What is new media and what can it offer to the teaching of writing?
  • How can critical engagement with new media promote effective classroom practices?
  • How can we teach students to analyze and produce new media texts, especially if we are not completely sure how to do this ourselves? How can we navigate various levels of expertise and access to technology?
  • How can we assess new media texts produced in the writing classroom?
  • How does bringing new media into the classroom help us re-imagine the act of writing and our own goals as teachers?

Throughout the workshop, we will model how new media enhances classroom activities such as discussion, analysis, and composition. Attendees will participate in a range of exercises designed for in-class use, culminating in the creation and assessment of their own new media texts. This workshop will provide us and our participants the opportunity to examine new media’s relationship to traditional classrooms; however, participants do not need prior expertise in digital technologies and multimedia composition.

This workshop was presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in St. Louis, March 2012.

[Photo by Flickr user Anthony Albright and used under Creative Commons License]