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Multimodal Mondays: Community Writing and Community Engaged Projects

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356957_pastedImage_1.pngToday’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn, a Professor of English and Digital Writing at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning and critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy, and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at khaimesk@kennesaw.edu or visit her website: Acts of Composition

Overview

I recently attended the Conference on Community Writing in Philadelphia. This wonderful conference recognized many community engaged projects in which students move beyond the walls of the classroom to contribute to the greater good of their communities through writing. The vision of the Coalition for Community Writing supports:

Writing as a mindful, creative, and social practice, forged in community partnerships, to promote socially, economically, and environmentally resilient communities. We are reimagining how communities write themselves; how writing is used as a tool for public awareness and expression, for dialogue across difference, and for community building; and how higher education and communities can collaborate toward these ends. We envision a transformation of higher education to encourage impactful curricula and research as essential outputs of institutions that serve as a vital part of their communities.

I attended many thoughtful, passionate sessions in which teachers from a variety of institutions presented on writing projects that focused on immigration, homelessness, social justice and other important community partnerships. I was moved by understanding the impact we can make through including these kinds of hands-on learning opportunities in our writing classes. Many universities now include community engagement and service learning to promote this kind of involvement for their students as part of their institutional missions.

Digital writing and multimodal composition provide many opportunities for students to create artifacts that contribute to awareness campaigns for all kinds of community engagement. Students can work with their campus communities, community partners, and participate in online conversations through social media campaigns and participatory journalism. Some of these projects are ongoing and supported by our institutions and others are one time, limited projects that support an immediate community need. I have included examples in the resources section below for consideration and brainstorming. I have worked with many types of community-engaged projects (large and small) throughout my career that focused on different populations, organizations and community issues. Sometimes I have students come up with projects on their own and other times I come to them with established partnerships.

Here is one example of an ongoing partnership in which, over the past couple of years, my students have worked with an organization, Rescue Dog Games that brings awareness to the importance of pet adoption:

Rescue Dog Games brings these strong pet rescues and organizations together to bring awareness to the need in the Atlanta area “to adopt—not shop.”

This group works together with local and national rescue organizations to create partnerships and promote awareness for pet adoption along with an annual festival that “shines a light on the importance of pet adoption and encourages people to get outside and PLAY more with their dogs.”

For this project, my students collaborated with Rescue Dog Games and 20 of their community partners for a rescue dog event to promote awareness and create community connections between rescue organizations. Students created digital content for each organization to tell the stories of the organizations and to promote the festival. Each student created an interactive feature article and a digital story. The students worked in content design teams to organize, edit, and manage project components.

356929_RescueDogs screenshot.JPG

These stories now appear on the Rescue Dog Games website story page and are used by the partner organizations to showcase their stories and to promote their goals. This relationship with this organization has gone beyond this single class and semester as subsequent classes created digital stories of the event day and have started a digital story archive for adoption stories that feature individual dogs that have found their “fur-ever homes” in new families.

Background Readings and Resources

 

Assignment Overview:

Goal: To work with a community partner to create a human/dog interest digital story and interactive feature article written and produced to be used on the Rescue Dog Games website and in the Rescue Dog Games social media and other media outlets.

 

Interview and Visual Content Curation: Each student coordinates an interview with the community partner to research the group and curate visual content for the story.

 

Compose, Revise and Edit feature articles and digital stories

 

Content Design Teams will work together to give feedback, revise and edit the content to deliver to the client. Teams responsible for organizing communication, tasks, goals and deadlines. Teams create a Google drive team space to keep minutes of their meetings, curate images, storyboards, scripts, peer response and final deliverables.

 

Note: All content must adhere to professional communication practices including citation and attribution, sourcing of images (that are not original) and the use of copyright free music.

Reflections on the Activities

I have found that when students work with real-world community partners, their sense of engagement and ownership is increased. Not only are they contributing to larger conversations about important issues, they also get the opportunity to work in real professional settings that require them to shape strong professional communication and work ethics. They learn about deadlines, client feedback, style guides and professional collaboration. This kind of work also moves their classroom work into public spaces and allows them to create showcase pieces in their developing writing portfolios. More than ever, employers are looking for the kinds of skills students gain from these kinds of projects. What better use of our classroom time than engaging students to use their writing skills to contribute to the greater good?

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.