Multimedia Production as Revision Process

Pictures of two wine windows.
Wine windows. Images from @babaefirenze (IG) and @lagiostrafirenze (IG)

I read a news report the other day that in Florence, Italy, restaurants began to deliver their food through little portals called “wine-windows” in order to maintain social distancing between their servers and the patrons. These wine windows had been there for centuries, unused since the days of the Bubonic plague, and I imagine that they would have been rendered invisible by their anachronistic nature. But one thing that Covid-19 has done is recontextualize our surroundings. Now is a good time to try to harness the power of our new eyes, and look closer at the tools that we have learned to ignore.

As teachers, many of the tools at our disposal are in those odd places of our view, where like an old blender, we forget that they exist. Whether we are composing a document on Word, or an assignment in a learning management system, it becomes in our best interest to ignore the multitude of icons in our periphery. These, meant to provide a service, start to feel like noise when we are focused on the words on the page. But as I thought of new ways to engage students in their revision process, I was reminded of the media uploader tool.

We all know the value of reading one’s work out loud; however, in the past, all I could think to do was strongly encourage students to read their work out-loud while editing (in retrospect, it might have been interesting to have them simultaneously read their essays out-loud, but pursuing that cacophony did not occur to me at the time). So all I could do was try to drive home the value of reading their work out-loud and hope they would take it to-heart, but that was only because I had learned to ignore all of the tools that felt like more work to operate. During the quarantine, though, I became much more acquainted with the media uploader function on Canvas, so it occurred to me that I could create an assignment where the student could read their work aloud in our class’s online forum.

I created an assignment that asked the student to submit a video or audio recording by reading their existing draft of the final draft. In the instructions, I encouraged them to fix typos on the fly, and I also added a step where after the reading, they would discuss any changes they wanted to make. I had 23 students total, and I announced in class that I would not be taking off points for ignoring the assignment, since it was announced suddenly and close to the end of the term. Out of the twenty students who turned in a final draft, sixteen students completed the media assignment.

There are many things to address with this assignment moving forward. For one, the students experienced various degrees of technological difficulties. Only one student opted to use the video option, which she uploaded to Youtube and linked using the media embedding tool. This may be because there are issues with the video capture function or the uploader. Another student expressed that after having her computer open for an hour, she was unable to upload her recording (although I did not ask her whether it was a video or not). Opening another student’s assignment gives me a “loading” icon display. As with the previous student, I also don’t know if this student was trying to upload video.

But for those successful uploaders, something unexpected happened. Not to the students, but to me. They provided a dimension to the way that I see their work.

I forget the amount of resolve it takes to put words to paper. “Of course it’s hard for me,” I think, “but that’s because I have to compete against people of my level.” But then, so do they. So does everybody. So what I heard when I hit play on their recordings, even they did their usual mumbly voice, or they were outspoken and clear, was the sense of pride they had in their work. Whether or not they felt that it was their best work, I felt them standing by it, knowing that they were being represented by the words that they were speaking out loud.

It is, of course, hard to quantify to what degree this assignment helped my students. They were an unusual bunch, having opted to take summer school remotely (many of them were taking multiple classes), so the quality of their work and willingness to participate may have had a higher floor. However, in the way that it helped me to reframe my mindset when assessing their work, it was a powerful reminder of the amount of self that they put into their work and the amount of self they feel in their work, whatever level they are at.