For the past three weeks, my students have been working on personal narrative essays–digital personal narrative essays. But, why? What does creating a digital version of this essay allow that a regular type-on-paper essay does not?
Let’s start, actually, with what we’re giving up by doing this. The truth is–there is very little loss. In the past, I would introduce the topic, run a session on generating the topic, allow for a bit of drafting and revising, and then we’d call it done. All in the same three-week span because I filled the space with a movie, a quick grammar lesson, along with some other ideas. (Okay, okay–let me confess. For this assignment, we spend very little time on grammar and punctuation because, in the end, it just doesn’t matter for this particular form of writing.)
By using the digital essay format, my classes are going through the exact same process of writing an essay on paper–I introduce the topic, generate ideas, draft, revise–but, this time, we’re far from done.
- First, we record the voice. This allows us to focus on our speech patterns. Pauses in the reading allows the student to highlight an important moment. A fast reading by the student tells the reader that there is anxiety. It teaches us that how we use our voice to give emotion to the audience is meaningful.
- Then, we find and include photos that go along with the essay. Here, students are going through a deciphering process making sure that they communicate their essay the best they can. Students ask themselves if personal photos are the only way to go. Or, what if they pull some from the Internet? How can the essay work if video is included? They see their essay differently.
- After that, we add music–or not. Even the decision of adding music or not is an interesting choice. Some students think music adds to the tone of the essay (yes, they are now actually thinking about tone) while others think it distracts. They have to think about the mood they want to communicate to the audience and then follow through accordingly.
- Finally, the students have to manipulate all of these elements to tell the story they want to tell. They speed up video, hit a picture on a certain line of writing, use special effects–all to make a bigger impact on the audience.
Though students are well-versed in uploading pictures to social media and downloading music from iTunes, manipulating media to tell a story about themselves–sometimes silly, sometimes serious, ALWAYS REVEALING–simply results in a better piece of work.
The Essays (some essays do contain swearing):