Written by Brittany Cottrill Lloyd
In any classroom there is a spectrum of experience, preparation, and motivation. Through extensive genre analysis and discussions, studio reviews, and revision, however, the project came together as an example of the collaborative work that we had been reading and analyzing.
Acting as a guide, I did my best to assist the students, but they were asked to tackle hard questions and difficult situations. At the same time, I reassured them that I would help when they needed it. For example, when deciding on the design of the review, we had to talk about what would be realistic for a class that was only introducing students to multimodal composition (and which covered only the absolute basics of Dreamweaver). Because of that, I suggested we find pre-made templates and modify from there. When problems or concerns were raised, we worked together the best we could to solve them.
Even so, there were obvious missteps and struggles. One student withdrew from the class mid-semester, others worried about not knowing enough about design, and yet some struggled with understanding the content of the book. Learning how to write an academic book review can be challenging for anyone, but perhaps even more so for undergraduates who hadn't read many (or any) before the project. Even harder, about half of the class were not English majors, so the field of English studies was new to many.
Laura McGrath (2011) began the book by saying:
As a field concerned with the production, consumption, and analysis of texts, English studies is also necessarily and uniquely tied to the technologies that support those activities.… [F]orming collaborative partnerships is often the most productive way… to address research, professionalization, teaching, program development, and other challenges that arise as the field responds to digitality. (p. 1)
This review provided a unique opportunity for the collaborators to practice the traditional production, consumption, and analysis of the field, as well as the collaboration that McGrath argued for.
Writing is messy, and writing in new genres and new modes only adds to that mess. The students who took up this project took a risk, they "tinkered" with learning (as Sayers discussed in his chapter), took risks they might not have on their own, and worked with people outside of their areas of study—all modes of learning discussed in McGrath's collection. In working to develop their understanding, these students applied what this book advocates.