Digital Presentations

I teach an early British literature course for sophomores.

When I arrived at my university, I was told that we were encouraging technological involvement as part of the classroom experience. As part of that, I created an iBook for the course. Also as part of that, I began requiring a digital presentation.

In its early iterations the digital presentation was part of a longer assignment. The students chose a character from the readings of the semester and created a musical playlist for that character. They wrote an essay explaining how each song related to the character. Then they created a video using audio, text, and images to remind the rest of their classmates about the character. They were supposed to use the songs they had come up with for their playlist as part of the audio.

This semester my British literature class decided to follow the class plans of two of my colleagues and we had weekly literary analyses as well as an increased number of exams. There were no longer essays required. When I introduced the digital presentations, I showed examples of the earlier iterations students had presented.

At some point, very early in the assignment (after I showed examples, but while we were still in class being taught how to use iMovie), one of the students asked if they had to focus on the music for their videos. I said no, particularly since we didn’t have the playlist assignment.

The great thing about the digital presentation assignment is that we watch these the final week before exams (so we just finished them this week) and the students have a great review for the final.

The range of videos I received this semester was impressive. A lot of them, probably even the majority, still followed the previous classes’ model. However, there were some that were very different.

One student covered Sir Gawain using Joseph Campbell’s mono myth, which I had introduced in the class during the Old English readings.

One student wrote out a script for Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and told the story of the play from Miranda’s point of view. Even better, she explained what life was like as the future queen of Naples/Italy, having grown up almost alone on an island.

Another student looked at Gulliver’s Travels using the Neoclassical exam question on Lilliput and Brobdingnag and compared Gulliver’s experiences in living accommodations, with royalty, and with showing off for and being shown off by his hosts.

One student made a video and did a modern rendition of Everyman using Death and Everyman as the only characters, but talking about quite a few of the other characters–so that the audience was able to reconnect ideas.

A different student presented a video on The Dream of the Rood with pictures that at least one student said helped them understand the poem for the first time.

Several students chose sonnets to read and illustrate. –One even managed to finagle one of my colleagues into being the reader for the poem, so that the student’s voice wasn’t on the video!

One student compared the values of the Old English and Middle English periods, using Judith and Sir Gawain as her examples.

Another student told The Wife’s Lament in a modern explanation, with amazingly beautiful images. The rendition she gave actually combined two of the scholarly readings of the poem. (There are at least three.)

One student took video clips off of youtube.com and added text and music to explain “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales. The other students really liked her use of video rather than still images to create her presentation.

Since I had 48 students in those two classes, there were lots of other examples.

I have to admit that I enjoyed this iteration of the assignment even more than the playlist version. While many of the students created a playlist digital presentation, they weren’t limited by that in scope and so their creativity was expressed.

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