Students and Multi-Media Narrative

One of my students from last year’s Contemporary Ireland first-year seminar is runner up for Middlebury’s Ward Prize in First Year Writing. Amanda Tavel’s project, “From the Frontier of Writing”, on writers from the North of Ireland, is, I believe, the first web-based project to do so well in this competition.

I am delighted for her because she is a splendid and creative writer and deserves recognition for her work, and because she took some risks in this project. Many times students are so concerned about evaluation that they make decisions based on what they think will “play well” with the teacher. Of the three student works I nominated for the prize, Amanda’s was, on the one hand, the most conservative in terms of use of the multi-media Web medium: in essence she used links and embedded films and images into what otherwise looks quite a bit like a college essay handed in on paper (if you could hand in movies on paper, that is). But what distinguishes Amanda’s project from others, even those more daring than hers in terms of playing with the medium, is that she used digital stories in a way no one else has done around here: to interpret literature. She created a two-three minute film to interpret a Seamus Heaney poem. She also did a nice job of using links to fold in earlier work of the semester, her process, her reflection on the process, her classmates’ related work, and sources out in the world beyond the school. It is a lovely project, and it’s good to see that our school is beginning to value such projects as examples of exemplary writing.

Every little step…

On another note–
I now have a student research assistant (another one of our most creative and bold innovators) who is helping me look at how students at other institutions are using social software and multi-media applications in interesting, effective ways. I’d love to hear from anyone who reads this blog (if anyone actually does) who has students playing around with Web authoring to fulfill traditional assignments.