Reflection on the Assignment

The Concepts in 60 assignment works as a playful way for students to dig deeper into both the content of my version of E110 and its goals regarding composition. Throughout the semester, we discussed YouTube. We read much of Anandam Kavoori’s Reading YouTube, which taxonomizes and historicizes the site, and looked at the work of scholars such as Henry Jenkins and YouTubers such as Anita Sarkeesian. In doing so, students wrote frequently about YouTube’s interests and mechanisms, writing which culminated in the researched, argumentative Critical Essay, where students brought forth and explored one of their own questions about the site. Concepts in 60 asked students to remediate this longer essay; in just a one minute video, students transformed their papers’ argument for a new audience, in a different genre, and with an adapted purpose. They accomplished this collaboratively or individually and did so under a rubric the class as a whole designed.

The assignment has two primary goals. The first is not only for students to rethink audience, genre, and purpose in relation to content (as they had done this throughout the semester), but also to put these differences in practice. By reconceptualizing their work, students can extend their understanding of writing processes – they can see where writing is collaborative, where it is responsive, where it anticipates, where it has gaps. Further, students can put this into their own words as they design the rubric for the assignment, putting forth their expanded understanding of composition and taking control over the work they accomplish.

The second goal is to prioritize the idea of play in writing. There is an element of experimentation and fun to YouTube that is relentlessly difficult to get students to find in traditional composition. The public audience, newness of video composing, and bit of resulting nerves create a different set of stakes for students that generate excitement. The process itself – which includes a visit to the Student Multimedia and Design Center, a script for peer review, and a storyboard workshop – introduces students to new and interesting work while still keeping the focus on E110’s goals and practices.

Concepts in 60 asks students to engage in critical reading, the writing process, rhetorical knowledge, and knowledge of conventions. This engagement in some ways is similar to the work they do in the Critical Essay. Students bring in primary and secondary material in addition to their own, they engage in a writing process (scripting, storyboarding, filming, editing), they pay careful attention to audience, genre, and purpose, and they consider what is expected of various types of YouTube videos. At the end of the semester, we have a YouTube film festival and students share this work and comment on its strengths, cementing the class community. For instance, a few students bonded over the blooper reels they made, which was entirely their own idea and not something I mentioned in class. This, to me, is such an important indicator of students’ ambition and ownership over their work for this assignment. The moments that didn’t work – the moments that were cut, where the composition failed to meet their expectations – were still of interest and importance to the authors and their audience. Concepts in 60, even within the final products, made the writing process visible and fascinating for students and, more importantly, allowed students to exercise their own creativity and innovation.