Narrative Branding Remix

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I have been using a remix assignment as the major project in my Writing and Digital Media class for a several semesters now. I still like the assignment, but I have recently been trying to make the activity a little more demanding. Some of the options and the related tools don’t lead to the best work. For instance, the tools to create fake Facebook profiles and timelines show a dated Facebook interface and don’t match the functionality of Facebook timelines.

I was still exploring alternatives, thinking I might give up and just repeat the assignment as it stood, when one of my students shared a video that she made for her marketing class. Their project was to create a short personal branding video that could be used as part of a job search. They posted the videos on YouTube and incorporated them in personal profile websites, made using Strikingly. Here’s her video:

Video Link : 1586

Hours after she showed me the project, I was still thinking about it and how I might use it in class. I wrote and asked if I could use her video in class for a short project, and with her permission, I began planning.

There are some limitations on what I can do. I am not teaching marketing or public relations, and I want to avoid wandering into another department’s territory. That said, we began the term with an online profile statement and talked about branding and how people represent themselves online. The idea behind this video would tie in nicely with that starting point and create some nice unity and closure for the course.

To maintain the digital storytelling and remix concepts from the original assignment, I decided to ask students to create branding statement videos not for themselves but for a fictional character or historical figure. So for the fictional side, I might see 60-second branding videos from Hester Prynne, Janie Crawford, Daisy Buchanan, Jane Eyre, Lady MacBeth, Sula, or Lena Younger (Mama). Animal characters and monsters would work as well, like Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web or Grendel’s Mother from Beowulf. For historical figures, I might see videos for Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Blackwell, Helen Keller, Marian Anderson, Leslie Marmon Silko, or Mae Jemison.

Once I dreamed up a list of possible characters and people, I realized there was no reason to stick to characters and people. Why not add branding for a specific place, group, or cause? I would love to see branding videos for tours at Pemberley and for the latest designs from Folkspants, Unlimited (Miss Celie’s business). Students interested in a historical focus could focus on branding videos for topics like Victoria Woodhull’s presidential campaign or Ida B. Wells’s newspaper Free Speech and Headlight.

I’m excited about the many wonderful possibilities this assignment has. The branding videos will be one of several items students create in a multigenre narrative remix, but more on those ideas next month. Do you have any suggestions for the project? Can you share advice on using videos in the writing classroom? Tell me more by leaving a comment below.

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.