How has the past year challenged or changed you?
I want to encourage you to reflect on this momentous time in history, and record and react to the dramatic events like the pandemic, the protests for racial justice, the 2020 election, the insurrection, the vaccine and other events that will define your generation– but I want you to think about them as they affect your everyday life. This is a big big time. Let’s hear what you have to say about it!
In this assignment, you will make a multimedia document (we’ll talk more about this later, but basically, it will need to have words and images, or words and sounds– or maybe all three) that answers one (or both) of the following questions:
- How has the past year challenged or changed you?
- What have you learned from the hardships of the past year that you would like to share with others?
Of course, this is a big question– so you’ll need to get specific. You’ll find some particular aspect of the year to focus on. If what you learned was how to bake bread– that’s great! If what you learned is that your grandpa’s stories are better than what’s on TV– that’s spectacular. Sometimes a small discovery like this is bigger than a huge statement like “love conquers all.”
There are a variety of options for what you might do for this assignment. We’ll look at a number of mentor texts below. Generally speaking, to pick the genre you want to compose in, you’ll want to consider your audience: what genres best reach the people you want to reach? You can also use this project as an opportunity to play to your strengths. If you’re an amazing comic book artist, then a comic would be great for you. If you’ve been collecting photos of your neighborhood since fall of 2019, perhaps a photo essay will be best.
How long should it be? This is a hard question to answer because everyone is writing in a different genre. But look, this unit is worth 10% of your grade– and the last big paper of the semester (and no real revisions except as you create it!) so it should be substantial– the equivalent of a 4-5 page paper.
In other words, if you do a one page infographic, that’s fine! But you’ll need to write an article of at least a few pages that gives that infographic some context. Creative artists of all kinds do this – what inspired them, what they were trying to do, who they were trying to reach… what the “why” is for their piece. So you’ll be doing that, too.
Tips (adapted from the New York Times)
- Create from who you are and what you really care about.
Something has happened to you during this past twelve months that only you can tell. It doesn’t have to be huge or tragic (although it might be). What readers are interested in – you’ll have to take my word on this – is what YOU have to offer, whether it’s your particular voice and experience, or your particular eye for research. When you care, your readers will care.
- Focus on something small to tell a larger story.
As I say above, your readers want to hear about YOU. And being invited into your life, your neighborhood, your home, can do more to tell a reader about life in 2020-2021 than any generalization or abstract “think” piece. It doesn’t have to be a personal story if you don’t want it to be. Even if you’re doing something on the protests last summer, try focusing on one particular neighborhood, one park, one precinct, and the things that happened there.
- Find a unique way to approach your topic by playing with genre, voice, tone, and the use of detail and other craft tools.
Amid a pandemic that is affecting the entire world, it’s hard to come up with a topic that’s original. The good news is that you don’t have to – you just need to put your own special spin on it.
Let’s look at some examples:
Video essay about Toilet Paper: funny video
Photo Essays :
Illustration: The Strange Lives of Objects in the Coronavirus Era
Infographic: 100 New Yorkers
- Audacity is great for all kinds of audio projects, even creating audio files to put over presentations. Easy to use (don’t let it intimidate you!), lots of tutorials and videos: https://www.audacityteam.org/
- Bensound royalty-free music: https://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music
- Freesound royalty-free sounds: https://freesound.org/
- More free music: https://www.purple-planet.com/
- More free sound effects: http://soundbible.com/free-sound-effects-1.html
- Copyright safe images (photos, clip art, etc): https://search.creativecommons.org/
- Here’s a review about free audio editing software https://www.techradar.com/news/the-best- free-audio-editor
- The New York Times has this great set of exercises and information especially for students to show you how to create a podcast, and it has student-created examples: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/learning/making-a-podcast-that-matters-a-guide-with-examples-from-23-students.html
- SoundCloud is what pretty much everybody uses to create short podcasts. Easy, free, lots of tutorials. https://community.soundcloud.com/
- Of course, Canva is everybody’s favorite: infographics, comic strips, brochures, posters, newsletters, presentations, even animated images. It’s free for the most part, especially if you upload our own images. https://www.canva.com/
- Storyboard That is a great comic strip (and storyboard) creator if you don’t draw. I have an account so if you want to use it, let me know and I’ll tell you how to get onto the site. https://www.storyboardthat.com/comic-maker
- For copyright-free images (both photos and clip art), search through Creative Commons. Be sure to see if what you choose needs to be given credit (you can do it in the written piece). Once you download things, you can upload them to Canva. https://search.creativecommons.org/
- Some odd business-oriented illustrations you can manipulate: https://undraw.co/illustrations
- Videopad video editor is free and great for beginners (lots of tutorials so, again, don’t be intimidated!): https://videopad-video-editor.en.softonic.com/
- YouTube Studio will also give you lots of tutorials about how to create videos.
- Screencast-o-matic is free if you want to do screen capture videos from your laptop. Word of warning: if you really want to do some close editing work, it will cost, but for the basics, it’s fine. You can upload the resulting video to YouTube. A lot of faculty use it. https://screencast-o-matic.com/
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