I consider myself a teacher-scholar. To me, that means I remain curious, open-minded, and pursue my own intellectual growth in the same way that I want my students to.
And now I finally have the publication credit to back that identity up! Over the past year and a half, my Digital Writing grad class has worked to prepare a scholarly webtext on sonic rhetoric (i.e. composing with sound) for Kairos: A Journal of Technology, Rhetoric, and Pedagogy. This month, that webtext has been published at last as “Navigating the Soundscape, Composing with Audio.”
Even though I was a student myself when this project began, I actually learned a lot, especially from my professor, Tanya Rodrigue, about good teaching practice. Here are a few of those lessons:
- Collaboration with colleagues can be challenging, but it makes for stronger work.
Our webtext took collaboration to an extreme — we were nine students and one professor! We all had different ideas for and visions of this project that could have taken us in a number of different directions. Ultimately we had to reconcile these different visions to create one cohesive composition.
But along the way, we discovered that collectively we had a diversity of strengths that we could use strategically to improve the webtext. Some of those skills included web design, graphic design, copyediting, research, invention, and revision. By pooling our strengths, we composed a better webtext than any one of us could have done individually.
- It’s useful for students to see the teacher not as the “authority” but as another collaborator.
Even though she was the teacher and we were the students, our professor never
assumed an authoritative stance during the composing process. She insisted that she was, like the rest of us, another collaborator. This allowed us to value her individual expertise while feeling secure enough to venture our own ideas.
- The best writing is a result of a thorough process, including revision.
In my experience, student writers are often stubbornly resistant to viewing writing as a process. They want to crank out a first draft and hand it to me as-is. But this project brought home for me like never before the importance of the revision stage of composing. We revised our webtext more times than I can count as we worked on it over the course of a year. But it never felt superfluous or like a waste of time. Each revision felt like a real improvement on the last. I think we could have kept working on it if we hadn’t run up against our submission deadline!
- Students appreciate choosing what to work on based on their areas of interest.
This was a BIG webtext with a lot of moving parts. Clearly no one person could compose it alone in a timely manner. So our professor delegated. Once we settled on the idea of explicating our five main sonic strategies of silence, music, sound effects, voice, and sound interaction, we as student composers volunteered to write about the strategies that most interested us. This choice gave us a valuable sense of buy-in that can’t be underestimated in a classroom setting.
- Authentic writing assignments result in intrinsic motivation to compose.
Finally, this was just about the most authentic assignment a graduate class could ever hope for. We were writing something which we planned to share with the wider academic world. The high-stakes nature of this project was never daunting, though. Instead, we worked our hardest to make it something worth sharing.
I’m so grateful that “Navigating the Soundscape, Composing with Audio” has finally been published after a long 18 months of work. I hope you enjoy it, and I can’t wait to apply these lessons learned to my own classroom.