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- Bedford New Scholar Shannon Butts teaches her stud...
Bedford New Scholar Shannon Butts teaches her students about rhetorical ecology, and they teach her new ways to “hustle”
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Shannon Butts (recommended by Creed Greer) received her PhD in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at The University of Florida in August 2019. Shannon teaches courses on digital rhetoric, multimodal composition, professional communication, technofeminism, and first-year writing. She also serves as the Assistant Coordinator of First Year Writing and mentors graduate instructors. Shannon's research examines how digital and mobile writing technologies, such as augmented reality, locative media, and 3D printing, author new literacy practices for public writing and community advocacy.
How does the next generation of students inspire you?
The students coming through my courses seem to have a hustle that understands the larger ecology of work, play, and education. College is not necessarily their end game but part of a growing skill set that will position them for more opportunities in the future. And that looks different for different students. People coming in from high school are hustling to make grades, get internships, start businesses – hustling to participate in an economy that has diversified the paths that people can take to make money and be successful. Similarly, students coming back to school or working on graduate degrees are hustling to build a portfolio of experiences that will help them advance in their current careers or start new ones. The hustle can be tiring, or seem disorganized. Yet, most of the students that I see are working to create a well-rounded set of skills to be not only competitive but happy in their work and life. The hustle includes physical fitness, growing plants, joining clubs, taking days off, having families, developing apps, caring about public issues, and fighting for equality and balance in new ways. The students I see now inspire me to hustle for both myself and others.
What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students?
I want the students in my classroom to understand that writing is a process that grows and changes throughout their lives. As such, I want students to develop analytical skills that evaluate the nuances of any rhetorical situation or ecology. If students understand the complex components of an issue, then they can best evaluate how to respond and make change. Learning how to analyze arguments, identify evidence, and trace the connections between conversations can help students actively participate in the public sphere—where they not only receive or disseminate information but understand how to assemble new publics, to read and write for change, and to evaluate information for accuracy as well as applicability. If writers can map rhetorical ecologies and trace the relationships between evidence and argument, then I think they are better prepared to understand the complex systems that we all read, write, and participate in.
What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars?
Participating in the Bedford New Scholars programs provides a look behind the curtain of educational publishing. More than merely understanding how to test or market a text, the program has shown me how Bedford works to identify what is important to students, writers, and teachers in different schools and demographics. Through online resources, publishers have new opportunities to create platforms and curate content that works for diverse groups of students and instructors. While institutions may adopt one central text or program, Bedford has shown us how to work within the larger system to find what can best help students and instructors meet their goals for a classroom or course. By showing us multiple texts and platforms, the Bedford staff creates a forum for helping us understand the publishing process, but also gives a voice to the people who are in the classroom everyday. They not only wanted my feedback on existing projects but my critique and suggestions for change, and Bedford New Scholars offers an opportunity to participate in shaping emerging resources.
What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars?
I found the Bedford New Scholars experience empowering. Not only did I get the chance to meet some incredible teachers and scholars from different fields and institutions, but I also was challenged to continually evaluate my own teaching strategies and tools. By sitting down around a table and discussing the different dynamics of each Scholar’s school and experience, I was able to consider how my pedagogy might change while also affirming many of the common issues that instructors currently address: How can I make my classroom more inclusive and accessible? How can I empower my students through public writing? What kinds of emerging tools can help address inequality in the education system? The Bedford New Scholars offered a range of experience and insight and created a small community where instructors could share methods, critiques, tools, and camaraderie.
Shannon’s Assignment that Works
During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Shannon’s assignment. You can view the full details here: Know Your Meme: Finding the Exigence.
The “Know Your Meme” activity draws on research, analysis, evaluation, and remix skills to transform popular memes into detailed claims. Composing arguments requires an attunement to exigence—understanding an issue, problem, or situation and how best to address a public to motivate a response. For this activity, students are introduced to several popular memes asked to find the first time the meme was used as part of an argument. Instead of focusing on the isolated image, students should look to the rhetorical ecology of how a meme responded to a particular issue or idea. By asking questions like “What are the basic elements of the issue?” and “How does the meme engage a key component of an argument?,” students begin to define the exigence for the meme and the specifics of the rhetorical situation. Practicing good research skills, students can analyze the different arguments surrounding an issue and evaluate how their meme engages specific viewpoints.
After analyzing how a specific meme has responded to arguments in the public sphere, students gain a familiarity with the media as well as the details of the involved arguments. Memes are fairly simplistic in construction and can reduce complex arguments to pithy forms. The next step has participants evaluate memes for missing elements or logical fallacies and rewrite the media as a more complex claim with supportive details. Focusing on one specific use of their meme, students can ask, “What is missing to create a detailed response to the issue?” Drawing on their own research, students can then address the exigence of an issue by rewriting a meme as an argumentative claim with supportive details. Paying attention to research, exigence, and arguments, students learn to map the larger rhetorical ecology of public issues and craft detailed claims that participate in evolving conversations.
Learn more about the Bedford New Scholars advisory board on the Bedford New Scholars Community page.
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