Open-Ended Technology Approach to Inquiry 4 (Jon)

Can’t decide what particular technologies to teach for Inquiry 4? Feeling unsure of how well prepared you are to teach students how to compose in a particular medium?

You might want to consider an open-ended approach that allows students to select their own technologies and media for composing for Inquiry 4. At first, this can seem scary: Will class be disorganized and chaotic? How will I structure useful activities for the entire group if everyone is working with different media? Also, a draw back of the open-ended approach is that you cannot be expected to support and be knowledgeable about every technology that students might choose to compose with.

However, an “open-ended approach” does not mean an “unstructured approach.” For this inquiry, whatever medium or technology chosen, think about grounding your class conversations around these core concepts:

  • Developing awareness of relationships between media and messages
  • Thinking rhetorically about affordances and constraints
  • Thinking reflectively about the writer’s own composing processes

Below are some ideas and questions to help you begin thinking through each of these concepts in an open-ended approach.

Awareness of Medium and Message:

An open-ended approach is particularly helpful here precisely because students are composing with different media.

  • Students select media appropriate to their arguments
  • Students have to think not only about what they are composing but why their selected media/technology are best suited to it
  • Student’s invention processes are deepened, allowing them to think about how their arguments are affected by different media and technologies

Whereas one student finds a particular rhetorical move incredibly effective in one medium, another student may find the same move unavailable in their chosen medium. One student may find different technologies better suited to composing for particular audiences and venues. Such differences can really help foster an understanding of how medium affects message (and vice versa).

Affordances and Constraints:

This may be the most important rhetorical knowledge generated through Inquiry 4. You may not feel confident about Prezi or iMovie yourself, but you can certainly engage your students in critical conversations about the affordances and constraints of these technologies.

  • What audiences and venues are appropriate for particular media?
  • What arguments are available in this medium and which ones simply will not work?
  • How do multimodal components affect rhetors’ usages of the rhetorical appeals?

Thinking Reflectively about Composing Processes:

One great outcome of Inquiry 4 is it allows for a retrospective understanding of how their invention, composing and communication was affected by the media they have been composing in all semester, such as Word or google docs.

  • Point out that they have been similarly working in a medium all along, making the same kinds of choices, though perhaps more intuitively than when in a new medium.
  • Ask students to consider how their processes of composing (such as invention and drafting) changed between the new medium and producing alphabetic texts.
  • Prompt students to speak from a point of experience as a composer in that medium, talking about the rhetorical decisions they made as well as offering advice to other creators in that medium.

Whatever your vision for the project, consider the following questions to help you focus your approach to Inquiry 4:

  • What do you hope your students learn through this experience?
  • What rhetorical moves do you hope students will enact?
  • What rhetorical knowledge do you expect to transfer from previous inquiries?
  • What skills do you hope students will take with them to future writing and rhetorical situations?

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