Wrapping up Halbritter

Ugh, this is a tough week for to me to keep up with for some reason! Belatedly, this is where we’ll talk about the last chapter in Bump Halbritter’s Mics, Cameras, Symbolic Action. This is a chapter that is perhaps a little less applicable than ideal to our goals– once again, another reading really about teaching and not about what it means for “professional writers” to make multimedia!”

When Halbritter says on page 200 (and really, throughout the chapter) “As long as our learning goals are met, our assignments are working. Consequently, the products of our students’ efforts do not need to be scrutinized under the rubric of audience expectations for professional or publishable moviemaking,” I think he’s putting his finger on the difference for me between this class as a “learning experience” versus one that is “professionalizing.” It’s never one or the other, of course, especially at the advanced level: that is, while we’re trying to make projects that are as “real” and as actually useful as possible, our main goal is to learn and practice the process of making these videos. Still, it seems to me that there is some issue of “product” here too. In a more advanced class (though maybe this is true in less advanced classes as well), our “learning goals” aren’t met if we don’t make “decent” products.

Anyway, I appreciate and understand the goal of a chapter like this since we’re not really Halbritter’s ideal audience of folks looking at multimedia/new media from the point of view of teaching it. And what he’s saying here makes sense. I guess that’s been the case overall with Halbritter’s book: it doesn’t exactly fit our purposes and (for me at least) it doesn’t always “work” for a class for students focused not on teaching but on the professional practice of writing, but it’s as close of a book out there as far as I know. Personally, I’ve learned a lot about the “production issues” from what he’s discussing here, so that has definitely been a plus for me.

Any other last and overall thoughts?

16 thoughts on “Wrapping up Halbritter

  1. Molly McCord

    Well, for me, this chapter was somewhat applicable (I teach writing, so I guess I’m the odd one out in this group:)). I appreciate when Halbritter says to “Assess the lesson/learning goal(s), not the assignment” (200). Basically, he advocates focusing on the process as opposed to the final product. I can see how this notion applies to this class, as well. Halbritter states that “the products of our students’ efforts do not need to be scrutinized under the rubric of audience expectations for professional or publishable moviemaking” (200), and I think Dr. Krause would agree with that statement for the most part for this class (right?).

    While I respect Halbritter’s emphasis on the learning process and not on summative (product) assessment, especially for his first couple of assignments, I wonder how students feel about the ungraded aspect of the projects. Grading the kinds of assignments that Halbritter outlines seems like it would have a lot in common with grading words-in-a-row assignments. There’s an element of subjectivity involved, and neither kind of writing is ever really “finished.” But in my job, I am required to assign grades, as hard as it can be, and even when a student works really hard, it might not result in a “passing” product. I just had to mention the grading thing here since I struggle a lot with the process vs. final product issue and how to deal with the reality of assigning a final grade. If a student doesn’t demonstrate a command of standard English conventions, but obviously worked long and hard at producing an essay, how do I assess that student? Would Halbritter advise just assessing the level of effort?

    1. Lisa Pignotti

      Grading can be really tough in those situations, Molly. I just returned a major project back to my students yesterday and I felt so bad giving less than satisfactory grades to those who put in the effort, but didn’t get the results. However, my class is designed to make sure they are getting some credit for their process and effort, which helps.

      But I do agree that, especially at the beginning levels of learning, understanding and going through the processes is the best way to meet learning goals. You are establishing a foundation which can be built upon and then, eventually, you can begin refining the product.

  2. Danielle

    I can also appreciate Halbritter’s idea of focusing on meeting the learning goals rather than the finished product itself (though I think he could have been a little less “preachy” about it). As Krause points out, though, for a graduate-level class, it seems like we need to look with at least a little more scrutiny at the final product itself. I think this was exemplified when Krause said, in class, something along the lines that the PSAs we create should, in theory, be something that could be published on EMU’s website.

    As for the book overall…meh. It was okay. I remember a classmate of mine reviewed this book for 503 last year and wasn’t a huge fan of it, and I feel the same way. A lot of it may have to do with the fact that I’m not interested in teaching writing and this book is specifically targeted towards writing teachers, but I dunno. I definitely learned some things I didn’t know about video and audio recording, but I think a lot of it for me has also been trial and error–a lot of experimenting and self teaching as opposed to applying things straight from the book.

    1. Adam

      I will echo most of your comment, Danielle. It was said at the beginning of the course that this was not a production class, and so it’s always been a bit unclear to me how our projects were being evaluated… was it more the script writing itself (the “words”), the collaborative process, the “what I learned” memos? It hasn’t really been an issue yet, and I don’t think it will be, but as we near the end of the term I suppose this weighs on my mind a bit more and has me concerned that I might have missed the point this whole time. As Dr. Krause frequently points out, most of the readings weren’t applicable to what we’re “doing” which added complexity to processing them and trying to draw connections to our work. Personally, I think I’ve been fairly successful because I’ve found many of them quite useful in thinking about how to craft a message, but I think if Halbritter’s book does anything, it shows that technical/professional writing and the teaching of writing perhaps don’t have as much overlap as I thought at the beginning of the term. “Crafting the best message” may well be it.

      1. skrause Post author

        I think you’re touching on two conundrums for me about this course. The first is that while I want to situate it as a “professional writing” course most relevant for folks making new media texts in professional settings, just about all of the scholarship I know of in writing studies about new media/multimedia/digital media is about pedagogy. Some of this has overlapped okay, some of it not, and I guess it’s okay with the overall audience of the class since many of you are at least somewhat interested in pedagogy as well. But I would agree that the “fit” is not as quite as tight as I would prefer, and I would just as soon not venture out of writing studies to make that work.

        So I don’t know. Maybe the next time I teach this, I’ll have to get a little more theoretical with writers like Manovich and folks who are really more in film/media studies rather than writing.

        As for the production piece of it: in the syllabus, I describe the “golden rule” of the class being to learn together and to teach each other when it comes to learning this stuff, though to also acknowledge that this is not a course in production. At the same time, I think we’ve always (well, I’ve always) stressed that we want to make as close to professional audio and video texts as possible under the circumstances– that is, “the effort” or “the process” is not enough. And for the most part, I think we (well, you) accomplished this, too.

        I think where Halbritter and some of the other things we read fit into this is to give us a bit more of a grammar and vocabulary for what we’re going to value in these “not words in a row” writing– I’m thinking specifically here of some of what he’s getting at in chapters 2 and 3. I think that is important to think about as teachers and as professional communicators. And for me, the most useful part of this book is the stuff in the middle that is very “how to” in terms of audio and video.

        But what isn’t as useful for us is Halbritter’s need to “sell” or “convince” an audience of writing teachers who are either skeptical of all of this or who need to convince others that this is a good idea. That gets a little old to me.

    2. Molly McCord

      I agree with your feelings about the book, Danielle. Even though I’m teaching writing, I’m not sure I could accomplish much of Halbritter’s assignments with my particular student population and in my particular workplace. When he says that “supplying students with identical video cameras or cameras with similar features…can streamline the delivery of this assignment” (205) and “you will need four to five documentary kits for each class of twenty to thirty students” (211), I just kind of laugh; I know that wouldn’t be possible for me, but I get that Halbritter is trying to emphasize that “problems are solutions” and that becoming a more multimedia focused institution doesn’t happen overnight, but requires institutional buy-in and a commitment to developing 21st century writing skills.

      I also feel like much of my learning in this class has come through trial and error and really just playing with the tools, rather than reading about how to use them.

      1. skrause Post author

        There’s a flip-side to that “supplying students with identical video cameras” bit too: several years ago, I put together an internal grant to buy something like a dozen Flip Video cameras, which were these very cheap video cameras that were quite popular before cell phones and standard digital cameras started taking video. Well, the request got held up for like a year because of stupid paperwork and other weird stuff. Anyway, I got these cameras to give out to my students, and by the time I had done that, they all had their own cameras or phones that could do video. Jeesh.

        As for the “trial and error” learning: I think that’s mostly true, though I still have learned a lot from Halbritter about this, not to mention the KDMC tutorials and the Wistia Learning Center stuff.

        1. Tracey Sonntag

          Agreed; I can’t even imagine the complications in getting this type of A/V equipment and/or software in students’ hands, especially for a writing class. I can see that getting shot down with a quickness.

          And yeah, I loved the KDMC tutorials and have those bookmarked for future use and reference.

          1. skrause Post author

            You’d be surprised. Five or six years ago, I would have probably agreed with you; but if you go to check out the “celebration of student writing” on Tuesday in the student center at 4:30 pm (this is tied to the fycomp program), I think you’ll see what I mean. Students can even check out video cameras from the library nowadays.

  3. Danielle

    Also, was the discussion for this reading not posted until today? I checked around 10PM last night and saw nothing, so I’m assuming that’s the case but I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

  4. Adam

    Tough week for most of us, too, I’m sure, wrapping up the PSAs and doing interviews. (It has been for me, anyway.) Speaking of which, can we make a decision about how our interview footage will be shared? I’d like to get started putting the project together before next Wednesday if at all possible. Even if there can just be a new blog post for us to post links to the clips in our Dropbox accounts or something so we can download them from each other and then upload them to our respective WeVideo accounts as needed since, as I recall, the WeVideo sharing didn’t pan out.

  5. Seth Taylor

    Like some of you have said, I don’t teach writing and I don’t really intend to in the future (not that my intentions tend to pan out generally). But, also like most of you, I learned a lot about production methods and equipment, and had the chance to use that knowledge. When Molly and I did our interview at HFCC, our interviewee sat down with her keys jingling around her wrist on a rubber key chain. I instantly recalled Halbritter’s first story and I confiscated them. So even though we shot with a smartphone, I think we felt very equipped in terms of getting the best shot and angle, and essentially just getting the best results with what we had. I always had the feeling, reading this book, that Halbritter had a special intuition for that.

    I know Kenneth Burke’s work is vast and probably brilliant, but don’t think I ever fully absorbed the parallels Halbritter tried to maintain, probably because I struggle with Burke in general. Anyway, I did find my self wishing Halbritter had hitched his wagon to someone a little more accessible (to me). Ultimately I think the book was very useful, and I’ll keep it on the shelf.

  6. Tracey Sonntag

    I am interested in teaching writing, and I am also (thereby) interested in pedagogy, so my intention in taking this class was to explore new ways of crafting digital writing that I can either use personally (in distributing texts to students) or base student assignments around. With that in mind, I think the class has absolutely been a success. I learned so much more about how to explain “how to” with software than I would have guessed, and I think I actually even learned much more about the tools themselves than I thought I would.

    I can totally see how some of the readings wouldn’t have been so engaging for professional writing folks. Others didn’t actually grab me. But I think that all in all, we’ve definitely created some stuff in here of which we can be proud.

    So, Halbritter: having just gone back and re-read the 6th chapter, I think I’m prepared to say that while I liked his approach and specific ideas, I’m not convinced about the need for such technical quality, especially from high school or FY college students. I get that for writing to be effective, it needs to be clear and free of anything that detracts (and distracts) from the message. But shouldn’t the writing itself come first? Or can we even say that multimodal writing can be separated from the media?


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