Saturday, December 10, 2005

Over and Out (for this project)

I like to keep up on my trucker lingo - just in case this rhetoric and comp thing doesn't work out. I am just taking a few min. to sign off for the semester.
The project that would not be focused final found its focus and I am really excited about the final design, which studies two classes to try to discover students' processes for selecting and placing images within traditional texts. I think this might make a terrific study - if there were world enough and time.
I am hopeful that much of my work will be useful in my dissertation. In fact, maybe I feel the diss. shifting in that direction entirely. This is the problem with reserach, one cool study or idea leads you to another. I have about 10 dissertation topic ideas, but that is another post for another blog.
I hope to use this strategy with future projects and research. The feedback I got from my research buddies was great - thanks guys. You rawk (here observing the 1980's spelling conventions of rock)! It really helped to "talk" my ideas through online and narrow a topic in a field I am far too fascinated by.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The research that would not focus

Ok, as a side note, this sounds very Harry Potter-ish ("the boy who lived" sort of thing). Enough about my children's lit obsessions.

I have been working on a draft of my reserach design and am finding the project is getting bigger, not smaller - as I would hope. In the shower it occurred to me that what I am most interested in is not really how images impact writing, but how real visual literacy impacts writing. To be trully visually literate students must be involved in a discussion of how images work and what sorts of meanings they can decode from and create using visuals.

My current research design has me looking at textual features of essays, students' attitude, teacher feedback, and overall performance. Sheesh - that's a lot. I am noticing, the more we read, that most studies are tighter, much smaller in scale.
For me then, I think it is back to the drawing board in a sense. Because I am not so interested in "correctness" as in overal performance and attitude I am considering scaling back.

I am considering a design that would look at two essays from two different classes. Both essays would encourage studetns to incoporate visuals into their traditional texts, but only one class would spend time studying the usage of visuals in meaning-making. Then, instead of looking at errors, I could simply look for image selection, image integration, and length on the given essays. I would retain the survey, but focus it on students' understanding of why images are important and how they can use them. Teacher comments still may be important - in tracking how instructors emphasize or don't the use of visuals, but maybe that is still overly ambitious.

My lit review will be streamlined then to focus on the obvious importance of visual literacy in our world (Kress, and comp scholars) and the push to integrate it into comp classrooms (discussion of several textbooks including Seeing&Learning, Living in a Visual Age, and another new one I just got from Erin).

I see the project's focus shifting from student performance to pedagogy and instructor privileging of text over visuals, vice versa, or a balance between the two. I am interested in seeing how much inate knowledge of visual literacy students have and how much impact true discussion of it may impact overall rhetorical skills. Do papers increase in length? Do visuals trully convey meaning in students' work? Should visual literacy be mandatory in all comp classrooms?

My question is, is this still too big? Also, am I just stating the obvious?
I'll keep mulling it over.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Researchin' On

As is always the way, while I was working on my lit review I stumbled across a couple of great new sources (books of course) and some OhioLink things finally came in, so I handed in a review I already expect to change/augment. Two new sources are from Gunther Kress - his work is becoming so important to my own. One book is Literacy in a Digital Age and the second is about literacy and images. Both are right up my alley.

My wonderful group was very helpful at our meeting yesterday. I got several names from Robin and continue to plan to add a Web source or two at the suggesting of James. Robin also really helped me see that I had tried to force in a study that didn't really fit. It's hard when you fall in love with findings and they don't really work. I'll put that study away for later - dissertation here I come.

I plan to spend some time trying to really focus my topic and reserach design. I fell that my literature review was a bit broad. I think I was finding things that fit my diss idea really well, but are beyond the scope of the project at hand. I'll be curious to see what others say.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Finding my footing

After working through my bib with my fabulous group members, I am planning to focuse on defining visual literacy and how exactly composition teachers, specifically, measure visual literacy. I am also interesting in focusing on "critical" visual literacy - are students really analyzing images and if not, how do we teach them to do so?
Since my study is focused on visual literacy it only makes since to include some visuals in my final bibliography. Per a suggestion from James, I intend to find a Web source that might provide a good overview for visual literacy and education. A Webpage from a university writing program that incorporates visual rhetoric would be ideal. I am currently searching for that source.
For my final project I intend to concentrate on some big names in visual rhetoric - Baudrillard, Chandler, Kress.
Moving toward a reseach project, I am playing around with the idea of a project that somehow measures critical visual literacy in students. I envision two classes of the same type looking at text with images and without and then doing some sort of assessment. I could also use one class and have them look at a text without images and one without and see how they react.
Maybe I am still thinking too small. I am also interested in how visuals control online spaces - and those in e-spaces. Do students need more skills to overcome the sometimes confining visuals online (this is borne of a super-cool session I went to about and other user-friendly and highly structured espaces)? Do we need to increase visual literacy so that students can subvert power structures in place as evidenced by online templates?
I don't know, I am still considering this issue.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My Reserach So Far

I am very much in the exploration phase of this reserach project. I am starting to circle in on a topic that I am interested in, but am not sure exactly how I will pursue it.

I am very interested in visual rhetoric right now - it's a phase, all the cool kids are doing it. I really want to know how it works and why. I mean everyone is raving about visual rhetoric and how good it is for the students, but why exactly? Does it aid in retention? Does it inspire engagement with material? Does it simply tap into our computer and television infested minds?

I am drawn to the idea of quantitative study at this point. I know it's not an either/or proposition, but I would like to look at a large-ish sampling of students to try and identify trends when it comes to how they interact with visually ehanced electronic spaces. At this point I imagine maybe two groups - one "control" group and one "test" group - who would visit an electronic space or spaces. I would like to measure, somehow, reactions to spaces with visuals and those without. Maybe I could do this with just one group then, having them visit two types of spaces.

My problem at this point is how do you measure retention or engagement? I could see which type of space might inspire longer "reader" responses or maybe devise some sort of content quiz for the information.

I am also wondering who might take part in this study. Grad students are a good bet because they will usually help people out, but it would be cool to get a freshman perspective. Maybe I could arrange to teach a class for a colleague utilizing a computer lab and some visually enhanced reading and response.

I hope that my reading over the next week or two will help me uncover what other types of studies may have been done in this area. I may try looking beyond comp studies and focus on psychology and computer design as well.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Who I am as a researcher

In my second year as a PhD student of rhetoric and writing, I have developed an interest in place - physical, psychological, virtual, and beyond. Ever since I opened my first commonplace book from a crafty Victorian, I have been fascinated by where and how we create knowledge.

With this in mind, I am very interested in virtual spaces and visual rhetoric. I think that learning environments that go beyond the traditional classroom or the traditional hard-copy composition may be very powerful for writing students.

For my reserach class, I am interested in investigating ways visually enhanced artifacts and writing spaces might impact student writers. I am thinking of focusing on how well students use visuals in their work, how much most composition teachers emphasize visuals, and if the addition of visual elements enhances writing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


This will be the home of my research ramblings.