This past year, I served as the Peer Educator for both English 14 with Dr. Brown and English 16 with Dr. Lueck. Being a Peer Educator offers a unique perspective on both teaching and learning. I offered feedback on lesson planning and assignment structure for the course, but I was also enrolled in the course and participated in class. While taking any class a second time invites a deeper understanding of the course material, working as a Peer Educator offers a special opportunity to engage with the material, and the students, on a level different from taking the course as a student or teaching it as an instructor. Instead of turning papers in, I helped guide students through their own writing processes with assignments that I had done myself, which helped me to encourage their thinking as well as reflect on my own.
Since I worked so closely with both the professor and the students in these classes, I could see what worked; which discussion question, reading, or writing assignment engaged students the most. Both courses, though on very different topics, incorporated a multimedia element in a final ePortfolio where the students could revise, reflect, and add creative insights to their work from the quarter. The ePortfolio assignment involves using a type of composition not always used in classrooms. Using an online platform, students can reproduce their coursework with videos, memes, digital paintings, photos, Instagram accounts and anything on the Internet. Working on the ePortfolio assignment allowed students to redesign their work from the quarter using an interactive method of composition that they used every day, only outside the classroom.
If I was ever lucky enough to see a “light bulb moment” when working with students as a Peer Educator, it was definitely when they were working on their ePortfolios. One student showed the power of rhetoric with memes pulled from Redditt. Another created an essay fused with Anime comic strips and another created an interactive word bubble that required countless clicks to read the paper. And while composing these projects, the students were completely engaged with the subject. Our meetings were full of brainstorming, technology test runs, and excitement about the project that drafting a literature review just didn’t bring.
This isn’t to say that writing literature reviews isn’t valuable, but we have so many new methods of composing that can be just as valuable. With the creation and widespread accessibility of the Internet as well as social media platforms, we are no longer restricted to the spoken or written word. Novels are no longer bound to printed pages and movies are no longer only in theaters. We can buy, read, and watch a story all from our couch just as we can communicate with friends about an assignment or watch a YouTube video for homework help. Friends utilize emojis and screenshots just as much, if not more, than text in group messages to produce narratives that help them communicate with each other. A video on Facebook can tell the story of a premature baby hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo with nothing but video taken on an iPhone and a catchy song playing in the background. Within 45 seconds, we know the story of Fiona, the little hippo that went viral. Clothing companies now market, not in magazines, but on Instagram using models to post short videos on their Instagram stories with links to their online store. We identify with the story the models are telling and want to join in, so we swipe up to purchase. Using a device that fits in your pocket, you can simultaneously read, view, create, and share compositions to everyone connected to your network of social media applications. There are no covers binding the story in a neat package. The classroom doesn’t have to have walls. Composing is becoming limitless.