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A Justification for Composing with Video

posted: 9.11.12 by Traci Gardner

I have many reasons to teach composing with video. Video captures students’ attention faster than words, photos, or sounds do. Smart phones and tablets put video tools in the palms of students’ hands, literally. The free video editing tools Movie Maker and iMovie come installed on their Windows and Mac computers, respectively. I’ve even managed to get past my own perfectionism to realize that I can create video samples myself.

I still have a big issue to deal with however. Holly Pappas shared this comment on one of my previous posts:

I’m struggling a bit with how this will connect to the writing they do in class (or rather with taking time away from more traditional writing). What’s your take on that?

That question typically comes up when you bring digital media tools into the classroom, whether in the form of video, audio, photos, or something else. It’s time to think about pedagogy and share my justification for composing with video.

My answer has three parts. First, my definition of composition includes more than just putting words on paper or screens. I think of composition more broadly, as something that can include visual and aural components. One of my friends reminded me of this passage from William Costanzo’s Double Exposure: Composing through Writing and Film (1984), which sums up how I feel:

I’ve tried to make a case for a broader view of writing, a more inclusive definition of composing which can integrate writing with activities too often regarded as separate, even antithetical. Film, television, computers are too closely bound up with the modern world for us to dismiss them from the English classroom. And writing, the kind of writing most worth doing, is too important to be taught and practiced in isolation.

Composition, as Costanzo explains, can’t be taught in isolation, focusing on a single way of communicating. To my way of thinking, working with video isn’t taking time away from composition. It’s simply exploring another way of composing and communicating ideas.

Second, students’ composition with video involves what I think of as crossover concepts. The rhetorical techniques and critical thinking that student rely on to create their videos also apply to more traditional kinds of writing. Learning to tell a story with video will teach students things about narrative construction that they can apply to a narrative essay. Exploring transitions in video compositions can help students learn more about building transitions between ideas in their essays. Again, working with video doesn’t detract from teaching more traditional kinds of writing. In fact, it provides a way of differentiating composition instruction, giving visual and aural learners new ways to understand the concepts.

Third, students can complete many traditional writing assignments while they work on their video production. I can ask students to write proposals, reviews, planning documents, director’s notes, and more. Students can think about aspects of their video by freewriting. They can explore characters in the video by writing character sketches. Further, there are possibilities for writing that will go into the film itself, like script writing and captioning. I don’t think of video in the composition classroom as one side of an either/or decision. Students can both work on videos and do more traditional writing.

That’s my justification for teaching composition with videos. What would yours be? Why would you use video (or any medium, for that matter) to teach composition and rhetoric? I’d love to hear from you. Just leave me a comment below, or drop by my page on Facebook or Google+.


[Photo: taking a photo by xavi talleda, on Flickr]

Categories: Teaching with Technology, Traci Gardner
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2 Responses to “A Justification for Composing with Video”

  1. Ryan Trauman, U of Louisville Says:

    I posted a response to this entry at my own blog here:

  2. Kevin Hodgson Says:

    I know we teach at different levels (I teach sixth grade) but like you, I see the writing as being the core of video composition (I’ll use that term, too), and it is important to note that with the availability of so many tools for video, more and more of my students enter my classroom already shooting videos and publishing them to authentic audience. One of my tasks is to help them become more reflective of their video compositions, and show them how important the writing and reading process (yes, reading videos) is for quality. Of course, some of them think that kind of work sucks the fun out of it all.