Last month, I published “Tumblr, Blogger, and Wikis in the Literature Classroom.” Today, I want to briefly discuss that post then share with you some of the products that students created in my literature survey courses. For the assignment, I gave each group (two students each) a term or historical event. Each group had to have three aspects to their presentation/Tumblr post.

  1. Define the concept, historical event, or cultural product
  2. Find two academic sources and summarize each one, discuss each one’s strengths and weaknesses, and discuss how each source relates to what we have read and discussed in class
  3. Provide an overall discussion of how the term and sources relate to other texts and concepts we have discussed in class throughout the semester

I did not require students to have a written portion, even though most did this as well; instead, I left the assignment open ended. Most of the groups created Prezis and PowerPoint presentations, which were engaging. Others took it a step further and created videos for their presentations.

Before students began their projects, I created a video to show students what they could do with their phones and a little bit of time. During a walk with my son one morning, I decided to video our trek through the “wilderness.” When I got home, I edited the videos I recorded together into one video, wrote a brief script on the wilderness, recorded the voice over, added some music that fit the mood, then finalized the video. Below, you will see the example I provided for students. Along with this example, I uploaded a text example of the annotated bibliography section (#2 above).

When we started the projects, the group working on the Indian Removal Act approached me and asked if I would be ok with them setting up Twitter accounts for the authors they would use and have those authors Tweet one another about the 1830 Act. When they asked me about this, I became intrigued, but also a little skeptical. My doubt went away, however, when I saw the video they created.

The group made Twitter accounts for Andrew Jackson, Mary Rowlandson, William Apess, Samson Occom, and Jeremiah Evarts. All of these authors were not alive in 1830, but since I organized the course around conversations, the group decided to have each of these authors speak to another across time. Each Tweet, except for a few, contains the authors’ exact words from their works. While the group could not cover everything possible with the Act, their project highlights the ways that authors, and movements, speak to one another across generations.

Another group explored the term Captivity Narrative or their project. Over the course of the semester, we only read two captivity narratives, Mary Rowlandson and John Marrant. The group chose to do a video with a voice over. While they did not cover the shift in captivity narratives from texts that presented personal growth and survival, as was the case with Rowlandson, to mere propaganda during the nineteenth century, they discussed the captivity narratives in relation to Puritan beliefs of God having his hand in everything. Along with this, they introduced the class to Fanny Kelly’s My Captivity Among the Sioux Indians (1871). This is where a discussion of the shifting focus of the narratives would prove beneficial.

What I like about this presentation is the way that the group decided to film it. They mostly show their feet walking over the leave covered ground. One pair of feet is the captive while the other is the captor. Beginning with the image of a house, the shots move towards the ground, giving the illusion of leaving “civilization,” and the video ultimately ends up back at the house, creating the symbolic return of the captive to “civilization.”

The final group chose to present on Transcendentalism, a broad topic indeed. Again, they chose to do a video. Using Emerson and Thoreau, the group focuses on Transcendentalism as a reaction against Unitarianism and as a way to achieve one’s spiritual enlightenment. Their video, again, sees them walking through nature, but while the other focused on mainly the travel with feet, this one shows the group members. What I like most about the visual aspect of this video is the movement. At times, the camera walks backwards, creating a different perspective in much the same that Emerson talks about in Nature when he discusses looking at the world with your head between your legs.

Overall, the projects turned out to be a way for students to explore the ideas we discussed in class in greater detail. While some items may have been left out here and there, as is always the case with a survey course, the groups dove into their projects and presented their classmates with material that they researched and compiled on their own. In this way, they contributed to the conversations that we were reading about throughout the course of the semester.

The next time I do this activity in class, I am thinking about tweaking it some. I plan to have students research academic sources, but instead of having them essentially create annotated bibliographies, I may have them do it more like a research paper like I did in my composition class. Right now, I’m not sure about this.

What are your thoughts? As usual, let me know in the comments below.

Note: I asked each of the groups for permission to share their work with you, and they each gave me permission to do so.


1 Comment on “Tumblr Projects in the Literature Classroom

  1. Pingback: Interminable Rambling

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