For my English 101 class, I created a digital portfolio to showcase my work and what concepts I learned throughout “The Secret Language of Comics” course. Professor Morgen asked us all to create a WordPress website through which we would deliver all of our assignments after which, we would write a small reflection of our work and what we learned from doing said project. This proved to be an effective method of collecting all our work in one place and visualizing how much we have progressed. In this essay, I will explain how I fulfilled all learning outcomes set by the professor and discuss the multiple projects I learned these outcomes from.
The first objective set out in class is rhetorical compositions. That is, to compose texts in multiple genres, using multiple mediums like oral, nonverbal, digital, and written presentations. Small oral and digital presentations were given daily in class. After a Sunday sketch, the professor would showcase everyone’s work and ask questions about their thought process when creating the specific piece. These Sunday sketches were very unlike other assignment given out during this course, for they requested students to step out of their comfort zone each time. Through these assignments, I realized quickly where my weaknesses and strengths laid. Assignments such as Sunday sketch and combo photo which required some type of technological use instead of the archaic pencil and paper posed a great challenge for me. The Sunday sketch required students to notice commonplace items and assemble an entirely different object. For my example, I used one of the dorm hall’s exterior lamps and created an astronaut helmet along with the astronaut’s body. I used my touchscreen laptop to fill in color and lines for my picture. For the combo photo, I used a picture I shot of steamed sausages at the Dobbs Common Place Table and attempted to photoshop them as fingers. My frustration is best observed when I wrote, “I do not have the steadiest of hands, so I had to redo most of the outlines again and again until I was satisfied with them” and “The process of creating this image took more brainpower than I anticipated. If it were not for my feud with technology, I am sure this would have been more smooth sailing”.
Written compositions were required three times during the semester. Two for a personal narrative and one for an analysis essay comparing two graphic novels. The most memorable digital presentation was the Hafla Kucha. Derived from the Pecha Kucha, which is a format that uses twenty slides or images that are displayed for twenty seconds each in hopes of delivering concise, fast paced content, a Halfa-Kucha is a presentation with ten slides to present instead of twenty but still the same number of seconds spent on each. The literary comparison was the portion of the assignment that took the most amount of time. I created my Halfa Kucha using the novels, “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel and “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler. In my reflection post, I noted that it was laborious process, but wrote it “in a similar fashion as I would an essay. I grouped scenes between “Kindred” and “Fun Home”” that had distinctive similarities in the story line such as generational trauma, identity crisis, loss, and healing. I was later able to apply an akin mode of deliver for other classes, such as my Sociology Freshmen Seminar where I had to inform the student body and professor of my potential essay topic would be, resulting in a more succinct and to the point presentation for my audience. Skills practiced and developed leading up to the presentation such as delivery, visual and written communication, as well as self-awareness where highly used during these outside presentations and positively received.
The second objective is for critical thinking and reading resulting in writing. This intends for students to summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the ideas of others as you undertake scholarly inquiry in order to produce your own arguments. Because this class functioned very similarly to a seminar, much of our analysis and commentary built off from previous analysis. Exchanges such as, “I agree with what John said previously but…” or “I do not agree with what John said because of these reasons…” were common. This does not mean that we also did not bring up our own points, but simply that there was a constant evaluation of other’s ideas.
The third learning outcome was to practice writing as a process, recursively implementing strategies of research, drafting revision, editing, and reflection. When writing the personal narrative, I stated that two essays were required for this. One was a written and illustrated draft to be turned in and peer reviewed by our peers and the second one the final to be turned into a comic. During the instruction period of the first narrative draft, my instructor expressed his opinion regarding the constraints of five paragraph essays. I tried to create an essay that was different from the same x,y,z template I had used throughout my education, however, almost instinctually I followed the format. In one of the meetings following up the assignment, I was able to recognize points in which I had to work with along with recognition that I was making the right steps towards a good narrative essay thanks to Professor Morgen. To aid with the editing and revising process, a class period was dedicated to us being seated in a group of four and read each other’s narrative after which feedback and commentary were offered. The same was done for my personal narrative. Constructive criticism from my peers helped me understand the areas I lacked in my reading and as for the illustrative criticism, it helped me fortify the panel structure that would be best suited for my essay. When turning in my final essay turned comic. I had various sources to turn back to incase I found myself in a tough spot. I was able to correct scenes that causes misunderstandings, drew illustrative inspiration from peers and other works we had read previously, particularly “Stitches” by David Small whose simplistic panel design suited my limited drawing experience the best.
The fourth objective involves visual thinking. This means students must demonstrate visual thinking strategies to analyze and interpret visual information and experiment, assemble, and arrange visual and written documents of our own. One assignment that comes to mind is a quadriptych. This four-panel drawing fulfilled the objective of practicing to arrange visual and written documents. In my reflection, I noted the difficulty of setting up the story but acknowledged that it was easier than a three-story panel because I had another opportunity to explain the events that happened and give further perspective. I later used this learnt skill in my Sociology Seminar and club to create infographics.
The fifth objective is digital citizenship/digital identity. More broadly speaking, this objective was created in the hopes that students learn to use technology appropriately and engage responsibly in online spaces. This objective mostly revolved around the use of WordPress. Uploading work and writing paragraph blocks seemed like a burdensome task every time I was forced to associate with this technology, I was unfamiliar with. Still, now at the ends of April, I am now familiar with the makings of a website and have proven to engage responsibly in online spaces.
At the end of spring semester, I have successfully understood how to write rhetorical compositions, critical thinking and reading resulting in writing, writing as a process, visual thinking, and digital citizenship/digital identity. Although the STEM field is not highly associated with the liberal arts such as English, the skill I learned after taking this class can be applied to several aspects of my future education and career. From reading and writing research proposals to memorizing through visual thinking and maintaining a good digital presence in the internet, my future outlook appears brighter than before.