“Narrative identity takes part in the story’s movement, in the dialectic between order and disorder.” -Paul Ricoeur
My first year composition (FYC) students are on the cusp of solidifying their narrative identities, or so they think. They are schlepping through disorder, dialectically exploring the spaces which we organize, give meaning to, and understand structure. The fragments of our class discussions and the circumstances through which they create their self-identities has reached a dynamic peak. No more nudging for participation is needed on my part – their involvement with blog development and idea exploration is on auto-drive. And now that they are coasting through disorder at a comfortable pace, I’m prepping for the digital undermining because, after all, narrative identities are never solidified. As disorder becomes order, additional disorder is needed to keep them within the discomforting proximity of leveling activities.
Enter the digital undercurrent.
I’ve long held the belief that FYC’s biggest obstacle is in teaching students how to develop unique writing voices and perspectives. Beyond topic selection, thesis development, and proper mechanics, first year writers have to learn what they have to contribute to a writing conversation. “I have something to say to the world, so I took English Composition to say it well” (Du Bois). What do student writers have to say to the world? My students have chewed on this question for the past six weeks, and now that they grasp the importance of voice and perspective (confirmed via their midterm self-evaluations), they will modify their literacy development with a multimodal writing assignment.
Digital storytelling will expand their writing repertoire and continue the dynamic process of narrative exploration they have become familiar with thus far. The discomfort of organizing and experiencing their lifeworlds (New London Group, 1996) in a visual format, one which will require the same organizational methods used for traditional essay assignments, will push them to undiscovered areas (a part of my pedagogy of hope). Their stories will form, inform, and re-form their understood sources of knowledge, contributing to what they have to say to the world. This is always an exciting shift to make and take during the semester. Unsettling preconceptions of narrative writing is why I love FYC. Fear not – progress of the digital shift will be posted as they occur.
For an example of a student’s digital storytelling project which embodies a narrative lifeworld, check out the following. You can also find digital storytelling resources here and by following #digstory on Twitter. For integrating digital storytelling in your writing classroom, checkout “Using Digital Storytelling in the Classroom” This semester’s student submissions will also be posted when the semester concludes.
New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Review 66.1 (Spring 1996(: 60-92.