Sample New and Alternative Media Assignments
Adapt your researched argument into an infographic. Just as a film adaptation of a novel does not necessarily include everything from the book—and may even change some parts of the story to better fit the new medium—so too should you feel free to loosely and selectively adapt your essay into an infographic.
I suggest you use Piktochart, a platform designed to allow the user to easily create infographics, though feel free to turn to other methods (such as Adobe InDesign) if you prefer and have that expertise. Note that you absolutely do not need to purchase a premium version of Piktochart to complete this assignment!
- Does the infographic have a clearly defined topic about which it’s trying to educate its audience? Is that topic derived from the student’s researched argument?
- Does the infographic include at least one data visualization: for example, a chart, graph, table, timeline, or map? Do these graphics present data clearly and ethically?
- Is the infographic’s overall organization logical and easy to follow? Does it use headings and subheadings to create distinct sections?
- Is the infographic visually appealing? Does it effectively employ design elements such as contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity, color, and typography?
- Is text used effectively? Does it provide sufficient context to the audience? Is it graceful and free of errors?
- Does the infographic avoid presenting too much information (and so feeling too tightly packed)?
- Are sources documented? Is the documentation of sources easily found? Are the sources reputable? Are the citations formatted correctly and consistently?
Sample Student Infographics
Create an audio essay for National Public Radio (NPR)’s This I Believe series—no more than three minutes and 500 words in length. Submit it to me as well as to NPR for review and possible publication.
Your essay should be, in the words of NPR’s This I Believe website, “a statement of your personal beliefs, of the values which rule your thought and action.” As the original invitation to this series puts it: “We want to know what you live by.”
First, identify what you believe about yourself, your values, your community, and the way you live your life. The assignment asks you to think your own beliefs and the roles they play in the life you live, the kinds of activities you engage in or don’t engage in, and the kind of person you are and want to be.
This task is no small matter—you are being asked to identify the affirmative principles by which you live in the hope that other people in this country will benefit from your insights. As the This I Believe website says:
We are sure the statement we ask from you can have wide and lasting influence. Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent. Your belief, simply and sincerely spoken, is sure to stimulate and help those who hear it.
Second, you will gain practical experience recording and working with audio, using Audacity to import, combine, edit, and export files.
Third, you will gain a greater understanding of the power of language, both written and spoken. You will be doing a great deal of reading, writing, and listening as you write and record your assignment. Recording your essay will force you to grapple with the question: What difference does the interface that I use make in my attempts to communicate with an audience?
Finally, as you compose this audio essay, you will be forced to think about your choices as a composer and rhetorician. You should consider the opportunities and constraints of your medium, your audience, your topic, your purpose for creating the piece, your strengths and weaknesses as a composer, and the context in which your work is created and received.
I will use the following criteria, taken in part from the This I Believe website, to grade your essay.
- Is it an affirmative, personal statement of belief?
- Is it intellectually engaging to others? Does it have import for a broader audience?
- Does it reveal careful thinking and preparation on the part of the author?
- Is this essay clear? Focused? Specific? Does it tell a story?
- Is the tone appropriate? Does the essay avoid preaching? Editorializing? Negativism?
- Are the production values (sound quality, volume, clarity, editing) high?
- Is it no more than 3 minutes and 500 words in length? Is it mechanically correct as appropriate for a public submission? Has the student followed directions in submitting the essay to NPR? To me?
To submit your work to NPR, use the organization’s website.
You will need the following materials to complete the assignment:
- A microphone. You may try using the built-in microphone on a laptop, but the sound quality may not be good enough. Microphones may be purchased for less than $20.00 each. You can also record audio on a smartphone and export it to a computer.
- Audacity or other audio editing software, such as GarageBand.
- “Classroom Blogging: Documenting Classroom Events.” The Inkwell, Florida State University, n.d.
- Kleinfeld, Elizabeth, and Amy Braziller. “Using Digital Stories in the Composition Classroom.” Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing, 24 Sept. 2015.
From the University of Texas at Austin’s Digital Writing and Research Lab’s lesson plan library, Drawing Logos “asks students to map out logos with the aid of visualized arguments and, ultimately, to create and explain their own visualization of a textual argument that helps highlight the elements of logos within that textual argument.”
This resource is more of a lesson plan than full-blown assignment. Reinhard Mueller from the the Digital Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin walks us through a “first introduction to the basic digital skills working with Piktochart. Building on these skills, students will learn how to implement different media into Piktochart and how to critically reflect on using different media in their infographic.”
The lesson plan includes resources for peer review as well as a video of a skills workshop on “how to add media to your infographic in Piktochart.”
Mueller includes tips for both portfolio and traditional assessment.
In this chapter from The Archive as Classroom, Janelle Newman describes a digital literacy narrative assignment. Newman discusses both the how and the why and documents students’ reactions to the project.
Borrowed from the University of Connecticut’s Writing Across Technology resources:
Students read “Footwork,” an essay by Rebecca Solnit in which she describes a walk through a landscape, theorizes particular kinds of walking (e.g., pilgrimages), historicizes/culturally situates walking practices, links walking to thinking, and assigns political import to the acts of walking and thinking, finally labeling “walking” as “a cultural act”—all in about 3,200 words.
After reading, students annotate, create a word cloud, discuss the “keywords” of the text; identify (and discuss) the aims, methods, and materials the text presents; and use the word cloud to craft a “visual summary” of the text.
Students walk through their own town (using Google Earth or Maps to situate themselves in the landscape) and try to engage with the landscape as Solnit does with hers.
- What sort of thinking does your walking produce?
- What are the points in your own landscape?
- What are your own personal histories of those points?
- What other sorts of walking have been done in this area? Instrumental, like shopping or getting from one point to another for work? Recreational, like hiking? Religious, like visiting a shrine?
Adapted from an assignment sheet posted online by DePaul University:
A typical photo essay is a set or series of photographs that are intended to tell a story or evoke a series of emotions in the viewer (or both). You will be visually cataloguing some aspect of life here in Chicago or its suburbs—the subject could be yourself, your friends and family, a location you find interesting, or even strangers on the street: it’s your choice!
Whatever the case, I would like you to capture 10–15 images that pertain to a theme of your choosing. For example, if you spend a lot of time commuting, perhaps your theme could be “my life in transit,” a compilation of images from public transportation.
While this is not a course in photography, it is important to consider the composition of each photo you include in your essay. Read “10 Top Photography Composition Rules” for some basic tips on taking compelling photos.
- 10–15 carefully chosen photos that relate to a theme you’ve chosen
- 750–1000 words (in total) that expound on your photos and chosen theme
Choose if and how you want to break up the text with your photos. For instance, you might want to introduce the series with a 250-word introduction, and then provide short captions under each (or a grouping) that count toward the total.
Look at The New York Times (see Multimedia/Photos) or other publications for inspiration!
From the University of Texas at Austin’s Digital Writing and Research Lab, an assignment sequence that asks students to “complete their first major assignment in two forms: (1) an individual 3-page paper and (2) a 5–6 minute group podcast. In both, they describe a text and situate it in historical context.”
Adapted from an assignment prompt by Rob Stephens of the Ellender Memorial Library:
For this assignment, you will be considering how a text is composed by creating your own text that comments on the original. You will be working in groups for this project.
First, choose a text that you find interesting and worthy of discussion. The text doesn’t have to be written. It could be a video, scene from a movie or TV show, video game, meme, artwork, etc.
Watch or look at your chosen text with a critical eye. Consider the audience of the piece and the rhetorical choices that the author or creator of the text used. Why did they make the choices they made? Why did they use the specific color, texture, diction, sound, setting, etc.?
Then you will create your own text that will satirize, parody, criticize, praise, or otherwise comment on the original. However, your new text cannot be an essay; instead, you need to communicate your analysis through a different medium or form—a video, podcast, website, poster, infographic, skit, song, series of memes, social media campaign, etc.—something that uses media in a different way than we have thus far this semester.
No matter what you decide to do, everyone will need to complete the following:
1. A presentation of up to five minutes to the class during the last week of the course, time length depending on your chosen medium. You’ll want to show us your text (play it, perform it, display it, etc.), then explain how it comments upon the original.
2. A process memo. Each member of the group needs to write their own individual process memo. In this document, you should do the following:
- Explain how your new text comments upon the original. What rhetorical choices from the original did you choose to use in your new text? What was the goal of your new text? How did you take the audience of the old text into account in the new one? Does your text have the same audience or a different one?
- Discuss your part in the project, how you and your group went about completing the project, changes you would make if you had more time, and what you learned as a result of completing your project. You will also evaluate your and your peers’ participation, so make sure that everyone in each group is participating equally.
- Moore, Michael R. “Remixing The New York Times.” WRD 103: Composition and Rhetoric I, DePaul University, 2014.
- From the University of Texas, Austin’s Digital Writing and Research Lab’s lesson plan library is “Remixing Materials from the Public Domain.” The assignment’s description notes “students will learn about the literary and rhetorical aspects of selection and juxtaposition. This assignment introduces students to ways of finding public domain music and audio clips of literary and rhetorical value. It also briefs them on the ins and outs of fair use of copyrighted content. It gives them a chance to play with two audio interfaces (DJay and GarageBand). The work results in a short ringtone that can serve a work sample for their portfolio and fun novelty to take out of the classroom.”
- Freedman, Jenna. “ITP Collaborative Design: Zine Assignment.” CUNY Academic Commons, 21 Mar. 2018.
- Pagowsky, Nicole. “Using Zines as an Introduction to Library Research.” Pumped Librarian, 15 Dec. 2010.
- Peck, Monica. “Developing Instructional Writing with the ‘How-To’ Zine.” Department of Communication Studies, San José State University, n.d.
- Banville, Scott, and Erick Piller. “New and Alternative Media Projects.” Nicholls State University Writing Program, 29 Apr. 2020. Webinar.
- Kleinfeld, Elizabeth, and Amy Braziller. “Myths of Multimodal Composing.” Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing, 3 Sept. 2015.
- NCTE Executive Committee. “Position Statement: Multimodal Literacies.” National Council of Teachers of English, 17 Nov. 2005.
- Rodrigue, Tanya K. Kate Artz, Julia Bennett, M. P. Carver, Megan Grandmont, Dan Harris, Danah Hashem, Anne Mooney, Mike Rand, and Amy Zimmerman. “Navigating the Soundscape, Composing with Audio.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, vol. 21, no. 1, 2016.
- Selfe, Cynthia L. “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 60, no. 4, 2009, pp. 616–63.
- Supporting Multimodal Literacy, Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing, University of Michigan.
- Teaching Multimodal Composition, Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing, University of Michigan.
- Kleinfeld, Elizabeth, and Amy Braziller. “Creating Multimodal Assignments to Develop 21st Century Literacies.” Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing, 10 Sept. 2015.
- “Assessing Multimodal Student Work.” Department of English, Kent State University, n.d.
- Borton, Sonya C., and Brian Huot. “Responding and Assessing.” Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers, edited by Cynthia L. Selfe, Hampton Press, 2007, pp. 99–111.
- Kleinfeld, Elizabeth, and Amy Braziller. “Evaluating Multimodal Assignments.” Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing, 17 Sept. 2015.
- The Digital Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin’s YouTube Channel has videos on a wide range of topics—using Audacity, using iMovie, general audio recording tips, microphone placement, etc., as well as videos from their speaker series and workshops.
- Pandolfi, Nicco. “Podcast Brainstorming and More.” University of Michigan Library, 2018.
- University of Michigan. “Podcasting and Audio Storytelling,” n.d.
- Bakaitis, Elvis, and Sakina Laksimi-Morrow. “Zine: Developing a Socially Conscious Pedagogy.” Visible Pedagogy, City University New York, 16 May 2018.
- Walia, Dhipinder. “Stop, Collaborate, and Zine.” Visible Pedagogy, City University New York, 1 Apr. 2020.
- “Zines and Zine Making.” Cline Library, Northern Arizona University, 31 Mar. 2020.