This course is a required advanced writing class for some majors at Illinois State University. It also fulfills a requirement for a minor in writing. As of Fall 2009, I have taught this class once.
**semesters & syllabi
**I taught English 246 as an Audio Essay class, in the spirit of radio stories and documentaries like those heard on This American Life. We started by making playlists of favorite songs to introduce each other through musical choices (in order to discuss the rhetoric of music and other forms of audio). We then worked on audio poems for Poetry Radio on WGLT (the local NPR station), moved onto 5-7 minute audio documentary-like stories, and concluded with This I Believe reflections about the class and learning experience.
- I installed Moodle, an open-source content-management system, for the first time on my personal server for students to use as a place to hold online discussions and to upload their audio files. I used about half the features in Moodle, students preferred it to Blackboard/WebCT, and so I may use it again, although the freely available ning platform, which was not available at the time, may be easier.
- This semester was the first time I used a blog platform for an entire syllabus. All schedules, policies, readings, resource links, and class news was posted to the class blog, which students seemed to like. (Still, however, I did not have students using their own blog; there wasn’t a purpose for that kind of blog-portfolio for this class.)
A challenge I faced in teaching this course had to do with the available hardware in my classroom. Because this course isn’t always taught in a computer lab, I had originally been assigned a “dumb” classroom, which is what my field calls a classroom with no technology, as opposed to a “smart” classroom, a common term in instructional technology that refers to a classroom with at least a teacher’s computer station and projection equipment. So I switched into a computer classroom with 27 older stations and furniture that was literally falling apart. (Given that the building was currently undergoing life-safety renovations and this particular classroom was being phased out for the following year, I was happy to have it.) Although the machines did not have CD burners, which would normally be a must for an audio essay class, we made do. (It turns out that despite students’ lack of technical production in multimodal composition, they know how to burn CDs on their home computers. :) However, I had another challenge with this room, which was both technological and ideological: It was built to house a large seminar instead of a smaller-sectioned writing class, but the room layout was too long and narrow to conduct discussions. Each of the 3 classes assigned to that room that last semester of its existence had less than 22 students, so (with permission) I removed 5 computer stations and the worst of the broken desks, which made the room feel more cozy and condusive to discussion.