Digital Media and Composition Institute Recap

Ahoy! I’ve recently returned from two-weeks in Columbus, Ohio, and it was a better trip than I ever could have imagined. (How often do people say that? Never. No one has ever said that.) I was there to attend the Digital Media and Composition Institute put on by Ohio State University (, run by Cindy Selfe and Scott Wolfe, both geniuses who I had read but never met, and a number of additional consultants with fascinating specialities and lots to say about how they think about and work in digital media in the frame of teaching writing.

The DMAC site describes the institute better than I ever could:

“The Ohio State University’s Department of English and the Digital Media Project are proud to host a two-week institute on the effective use of digital media in college composition classrooms. Participants will explore a range of contemporary digital literacy practices—alphabetic, visual, audio, and multimodal—and apply what they learn to the design of meaningful assignments, syllabi, curricula, and programs. No previous experience with digital media is required… The goal of DMAC is to suggest and encourage innovative rhetorically–based approaches to composing that students and faculty can use as they employ digital media in support of their own educational and professional goals, in light of the specific context at their home institutions and within their varied personal experiences.“

Before I left for Ohio, I spoke briefly to a professor from another university who had attended DMAC several years ago, and he told me it was the single best professional development he’s ever undertaken. And I’m so thrilled to say that I agree with him. While it was one of the more intense learning experiences I’ve ever had (a new-found friend and I compared it, as we worked late one night on a DMAC assignment in my hotel room, to the bond soldiers feel, or maybe it was prisoners…), it was also one of the most successful. In the course of two weeks, I learned not only the technical skills to record and edit audio and video footage using programs like Audacity and iMovie, as well as captioning software, but I also had countless complex discussions about multimodal teaching and learning, creation, writing, and grading. (For a look at the “Concept in 90” video I created, see below!)

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty, the grading of multimodal compositions in particular was one of my hesitations going into the institute, as I kept thinking, “How do I account for varying technical skill levels? How can I make such complicated comparisons in a way that ends with a B, or a C, or an A?” While I’m still certainly sorting out my feelings on this, I came away realizing that it’s not only doable, but that there are some really wonderful and interesting ways to think about setting up this kind of assessment. (For a great read on the subject, I recommend “Toward a Rhetorically Sensitive Assessment Model for New Media Composition” by Crystal VanKooten. She’s smart; it’s smart–and genuinely a reasonable path, I think.)

I’ll cut myself off here, but if you have any interest or questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know, either by email. ( or in the comments section!    Concept in 90 Seconds: What is Professional Writing? What is it not?

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