In 2008, Dr. Cheryl Ball, associate professor of English at Illinois State University, took her Multimodal Composition class to the University of Louisville to participate in the Thomas R. Watson conference of Rhetoric and Composition as part of a class project. The students created multimedia presentations on their experiences at the conference. These presentations focused on the relationship between students, teachers, and technology. The class’ presentations were combined to form a chapter in the recently published digital collection from the conference, The New Work of Composition.
The works produced by the class vary from an interactive website, to multiple videos exploring the many themes and ideas present at the Watson conference. They are unique entries in the ongoing discussion regarding technology in the classroom, being the only webtexts in the publication done by undergraduate students—a rarity in any academic publishing field.
“Our portion of the project in particular centered around teacher involvement in social media,” said Matthew Wendling, one of the students involved in the project who has gone on to become a teacher of seventh and eighth grade. “At the time, this held a totally different meaning as it was largely geared at college professors stuck in ‘old school’ teaching practices. Fast forward several years and I find myself in a totally different world; I had not anticipated becoming a secondary teacher at the time of the conference so looking back at the assumptions we made, the project itself seems dated. However, the fundamental premise that educators should embrace and utilize the resources that will allow them to reach students on familiar ground is something I’ve carried into my professional practices.”
The chapter by The Normal Group, as Ball’s students dubbed themselves, is titled “Talking Back to Teachers: Undergraduate Research in Multimodal Composition.” The collection, co-edited by Dr. Ball, can be found here.