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Today’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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website: Acts of Composition
[Generational] cohorts give researchers a tool to analyze changes in views over time; they can provide a way to understand how different formative experiences interact with the life-cycle and aging process to shape people’s view of the world. (Pew Research 2020)
This post is the first in a three-part series through which I detail a rather expansive Generation Project with multimodal components and sub-projects. I broke down the project into concurrent parts that can also be used as stand-alone activities. Stay tuned as I present these assignments over the next couple of posts. In this first post, I present the project overview and the historical context, the second post I detail the popular culture component and the third is the collaborative presentations. These assignments are easily modified for all teaching modalities (online, f2f, and hybrid).
This series demonstrates that we can integrate multimodal composition in thoughtful ways throughout assignments and processes and is not just about end products. In designing this project, I imagined something that involved students in deep research – both individual and collaborative – on a subject that is interesting and current. I wanted to offer opportunities throughout the project to engage in multimodal work – both the analysis and composition of multimodal artifacts. Students house the project on individual websites created through Google Sites to allow for composing and sharing of interactive and visual content.
Generation Project Overview
This generation project helps students move beyond their insular views and challenges them to understand the perspectives of others by immersing themselves in generational research. We live in a society with polarized discourse and this project will help students engage with ideas outside of their generational space. These ideas motivated me to design this generation project in which students work together to research one of the five living generations:
- The Silent Generation (born 1928–1945)
- Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964)
- Generation X (born 1965–1980)
- Millennials (born 1981–1995)
- Generation Z (born 1996–2010)
Students research both primary and secondary sources to define and create a portrait of their assigned generation. The purpose is to understand the historical context, popular culture artifacts, values, and cultural ideologies. Each student will individually research a couple of focus years within the generation and then contribute to a collaborative project in which they overview and interpret the generation.
Students will locate and analyze the following scholarly and popular sources:
- Historical context (timelines, historical portraits, economy, values, important figures, oral stories, theoretical perspectives, etc.)
- Media and Popular culture artifacts (images, music, advertisements, literature, film, fashion, food, etc.)
- Defining Moments (Headlines, Articles)
- Ideologies, ideas, behaviors, and values of the time
- Anything else that might be meaningful
Steps to the Assignment
This first part of the assignment orients students towards generational research and introduces them to definitions of the five living generations.
1. Background Resources: Understanding Generational Research
It is important for students to understand the nature of generational research and gain a general overview of the generations. This helps them understand the ways generations are constructed and the trends that affect them. I allow students to choose the generation research group they want to join so these background readings help them make those choices.
Generation Research Resources:
- The Whys and Hows of Generational Research Pew Research Center (2020)
- Generations Throughout History – Buzzfeed Video (2017)
- Fast Facts: American Generations – CNN (2022)
- Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen X Labels: Necessary or Nonsense The Conversation (2020)
2. Online Discussion - Students engage in an online discussion in which they choose a passage, idea or related ideas from the generation readings. I encourage them to speak about the characteristics they observed along with assumptions and stereotypes they might have about the different generations. I require them to also post one representative image (from Creative Commons or other copyright free sources).
3. Choose a Generation and Focus Years – After the initial background work, students choose the generation that they want to research as part of a team. I try to make sure that the groups are evenly distributed to have the same number of members. Students assemble in their teams (online or f2f) and then choose a couple of focus years within their generations. The focus years give students responsibility for individual research that they will contribute to their research team to create a representative span of their generation years.
4. Research Historical Context: Students compose an Historical Overview of their focus years. They should include events, defining moments, trends, important figures and ideas, observations about politics, economy and values. I encourage them to go beyond just listing facts and interpret and synthesize their findings. They search for academic and popular articles and learn how to attribute their sources.
5. Interactive Feature Article: Students compose their historical overview of their focus years as an interactive document that includes specific references, purposeful embedded links, and captioned multimodal components (images, video clips, etc.) to tell their stories and contextualize their research. They create a page on their site to host the post.
6. Teamwork: Defining Moments: Students get together with their teams and share their research. Each team creates a Google doc in which they list the defining moments and significant events of their focus years. Together, they discuss the overlaps and the ways their focus years fit together to define their generation.
7. Interactive Timeline: Data Visualization: As a team, students select the most important defining moments from their extensive list and create a multimodal timeline. There are many open-source platforms for creating interactive and visual timelines. I give them some resources but allow them to choose their own. They will include the defining moments along with representative images for each entry on the timeline. They will also use this timeline as part of their collaborative presentation later in the project.
Some timeline resources:
Reflections on the Activities
This generation project gives each student a research role and ways to contribute to the larger community knowledge on the subject. The level of individual responsibility creates genuine research teams that invite strong analysis and synthesis through collaboration. These activities engage students in a range of research, writing, and multimodal composition practices. I find that when students are asked to engage in meaningful curiosity and collaboration, they demonstrate a stronger sense of ownership and motivation.
Stay tuned – next post – Part 2: Generations through Popular Culture
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