CUNY COMPosition & Rhetoric Community

3 Minute Movie Theoretical Rationale

Sean Molloy  21 Aug. 2014

I. Project Summary

The Movie Essay asks students to re-imagine and recreate a text essay as a video essay.   The text essay must center on a single thesis question. The movie must center on that same question,  However, the movie can cover the same discussion as the text essay, part of the same discussion, or different discussion.

II. Movie Essay Theoretical Rationale

We are now a full decade into a Web 2.0 world.  In 2004, the NCTE published guidelines for the teaching of writing which recognized that new tools are expanding the meaning of writing beyond print alone, such that writing means “more than scratching words with pen and paper” and urged that writing instruction “must accommodate the explosion in technology from the world around us”(7).  In 2009, Kathleen Yancy issued a “call for action” for writing teachers to develop new models of writing, new kinds of writing courses, and new theories about teaching writing in response to complex new forms of web composition and the explosion of new web writing practices among students (1).  There, Yancy urges all English teachers “to join the future and support all forms of 21st Century literacies, inside school and outside school.”(1).

In 2009, Will Richardson bemoaned the slow reaction of the education system to these rapidly changing realities. “Our students’ realities in terms of the way they communicate and learn is very different from our own.  By and large they are “out there” using a wide variety of technologies that they are told they can’t use when they come to school” (5).

In 2010, Liz Clark argued that we now face a “digital imperative” to teach new forms of composition:

Myopic, Luddite fantasies of returning to pencil and paper, the disavowal of the role of technology in the classroom, and the supposition that technology is a passing fad are tired arguments now giving way to a new era of digital rhetoric where, more than ever before, people are becoming authors every day, constructing digital profiles, public commentary, and using publicly available resources to research and inform their opinions (27).

The NCTE guidelines advise teachers to promote reading strategies that examine not merely what a text says but “how it is put together” (5).  Comparing and contrasting different ways of treating the same subject will require students to deconstruct their own creative processes.  As early as 2004, DeVoss, Cushman and Grabill asked students to recreate narrative essays in visual form (14).  The immediate power of approaching a topic and underlying themes using two different forms of composition as a way to better understand both the forms of composition and subject matter is manifest.  Other conversion assignments include the visual re-imagining of poems by Jeffrey Schwartz (2009) and the conversion of literacy blogs into multimodal presentations by Peter Kittle (2009).

The NCTE Guidelines call for “multiple strategies for approaching … typical problems writers face during composing, including…revision, and editing” (2).  The NCTE also advises teachers to understand the “kinds of new thinking that occur when writers revise (3). Video composition provides an excellent tool to visualize and explore revision and editing choices.  In addition, the shooting and recording process almost always involves multiple takes of each element, reinforcing the creative choices inherent in revision and editing.

By 2014, Kristine Blair observes a “tectonic shift from alphabetic to multimodal composing at all levels of the writing curriculum.”  At this point, we must ask if we are failing our students if we do not prepare our students for the challenges they will face as technology continues to change and develop the meanings of composition and the uses of rhetoric.  Anne Herrington and Charles Moran even assert that “new electronic texts…challenge our basic notions of written texts as linear, verbal, single author texts”(2).  Citing G.R. Kress, Herrington and Moran note that it may now be appropriate to think of student writers not as producers of written texts,, but as designers and composers using all available resources to make meaning.(4).  These changes are so profound that they may “blur the distinctions among the arts” (6).

The power of Web 2.0 publishing is an important element here too.  Anthony Ellerston, citing Michael Goldhaber, argues that the glut of available information has created an “attention economy” (7-9) where publishing to potential readers is ever easier but finding actual readers is ever harder.  Multimedia compositions attract more readers/viewers than print documents (Ellerston 9) and writers who hope to secure the attention of audience members must compete for that attention by promoting their work.  This assignment is intended to recognize that it is no longer enough to publish work to a potential real audience: publication now involves taking steps, such as networking and tagging, to reach an actual audience.  For example, publishing to Youtube presents a great opportunity to explore a sophisticated Web 2.0 style understanding of audience because it has many built in features for networking and promotion.  Youtube, owned by Google, also raises opportunities to consider critical intellectual property and data use questions in a real world context.

Works Cited

Blair, Kristine. “Spring 2014 – Editor’s Welcome” Computers and Composition. Spring 2014. Web. 24 June 2014.

Clark, Elizabeth J. “The Digital Imperative: Making the Case for a 21st Century Pedagogy.” Computers and Composition. 27 (2010) 27-35. ScienceDirect. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

DeVoss, Danielle Nicole, Ellen Cushman and Jeffrey T. Grabill. (2005) Infrastructure and Composing: The When of New Media Writing.  College Composition and Communication. 57, no. 1 (Sep. 2005) 14-44. Print.

Ellerston, Anthony. (2009) New Media Rhetorics in the Attention Economy. Computers and Composition Online. Bowling Green State University.  Web. 24 June 2014.

Herrington, Anne and Charles Moran. (2009) “Challenges for Writing Teachers: Evolving Technologies and Standardized Assessment.” In Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson and Charles Moran (Eds.)  Teaching the new Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom (pp 1-17). New York: Teachers College. Print.

Kittle, Peter. (2009) Student Engagement and Multimodality.  In Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson and Charles Moran (Eds.)  Teaching the new Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom (pp 164-180). New York: Teachers College. Print.

NCTE Executive Committee (2004) NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing.  Retrieved Septemebr 28, 2009 from

Richardson, Will. (2009) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press. Print.

Schwartz, Jeffrey. (2009) Integrating Video, Verbal and Audio Texts.  In Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson and Charles Moran (Eds.)  Teaching the new Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom (pp 92-123). New York: Teachers College. Print.

Yancy, Kathleen. (2009)  Writing in the 21st Century. A Report from the National Council of Teachers of English.  Retrieved July 28, 2009, from