Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Project Proposals: Slides and Text

Next week, you'll be presenting your project proposals to your classmates.  To give you a better idea of what these proposals should look like, I'm putting together a slideshow of what your proposals should include.  Please don't feel limited to PowerPoint - you can certainly create slides, videos, text, or Prezis to propose your project.  However, do make sure to provide information on all the Major Proposal Requirements.

Unit 4 / Project 4 Proposal Guidelines - Uploading PowerPoint to Facebook
The purpose of your proposals is to tell your classmates the topic you've taken up and the ways you would like to "sell" that topic to a hostile or indifference audience.  To illustrate this, I've put together a short slideshow meant to describe how I would convince non-writers that writing can be an important component of learning.

Note that each slide here is also supported with a paragraph or two of text. The slide itself is only meant to give a visual anchor for each of my points - the text contains the reasoning behind each slide as well as the points I'm trying to make. You'll need to provide similar text with your own slides so that your classmates can read and respond to you proposal before the workshop.

You can see the finished results of this presentation on my 12Writing fan page: How to Propose Project 4.

Image of a pencil being stabbed through a bullet.
Text: "If the pen is mightier than the sword, then is it true that graphite can stop lead?"

It's important to provide context. Before describing what kind of project you're putting together, you'll want to introduce your classmates to the social issue you're addressing. For this slideshow, I'll be using humor and some research in order to show how writing can help students learn more effectively in fields outside English.

Meta-Document: The Example Presentation
Image of a cup of coffee.
Text: "When they aren't duking it out for control of the PowerPoint, lead and graphite can usually be found chilling at Starbucks."

Bear in mind that this combination of slideshow and text that I'm putting together is a kind of meta-document. When we say that something is "meta," we mean that it refers to itself. Metafiction, for example, would be a fictional story in which the characters talk about the fact that they are fictional. Metacognition is when we use thinking in order to figure out what it means to think (i.e. cognition on the nature of cognition.) The example blog I prepared earlier in the semester is another example of a meta-document - the blog itself provides information about how to blog while simultaneously serving as an example of what a blog might look like.

The problem with meta-documents is that they sometimes don't have the same goals and audiences as the kinds of documents they are meant to illustrate. In this case, I'm pitching my slideshow to you, my students, and all of you are already using writing as a way to learn. You aren't exactly a hostile audience (at least, I hope you're not...I'm probably not doing my job very well if you are...) To work around this, I'm limiting the scope of the slideshow to audiences who may not be using writing in the classroom - students and teachers in math, science, and engineering. The meta-portion of this document is directed toward you, my audience of students. The persuasive portion, however, is directed toward individuals who aren't already writing as a way to further their learning.

Title: "A Basic Proposal Outline."
Text: (summarize topics from below)

In this frame, I'm introducing a basic outline of how my meta-presentation will work. Although you'll find that your own presentations will vary from this outline depending on your topics, the choice of jokes, and your use of slideware (e.g. PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.), I would like your proposals to address each of these main categories.

(Note that this slide is also meant as a reference slide. I hope you'll refer to this one frequently in considering the overall structure of your presentation.)

Introducing Your Topic
Why This Topic or Position Matters to You
Why This Topic is Undervalued or Misunderstood by Some Audiences
The Project You'll Produce to Shift Public Opinion
- Why You Prefer This Approach
- Why Audiences Will Respond to Your Approach
- Why Other Approaches Wouldn't Work As Well
How Much Work Is This Gonna Take?
The Research You'll Need to Support Your Points
The Expected Trajectory of Your Project

Title: "Introducing Your Topic"
Text: "Writing Helps Everyone Learn"
Image: Smiling Superheroic Pencil.

I did introduce this topic earlier. But note that this image provides a different tone. Taking out the bullet and adding a smiley face gives my topic a friendlier feel. Although we're still in the proposal stage, you'll want to consider how you present your topic in terms of how your audience will receive it.

As a writer, I believe that everyone can benefit from the process of writing. I see writing as a way to reinforce what we've learned while also sharing new ideas with others.

Title: "Why This Topic or Position Matters to You."
Text: "Writing Helps Me Express Who I Am and What I Feel."
Image: Person slaving away at a writing desk while weird and/or terrible things are going on in the background.

I chose to go into writing because I found that stories helped me better understand my own life and the world around me. Although I mostly write fiction, I've found that poetry allows me to express certain feelings and emotions which I would not able to share otherwise. I might talk about the fact that "I'm a guy," and guys are taught to hide their emotions - since there are many emotions which I've been taught never to mention, I feel that creative writing has allowed me to share thoughts which might otherwise remain hidden from the world.

Title: "Why This Topic is Undervalued or Misunderstood by Some Audiences."
Image: Someone holding out a rake. Someone else with a calculator. Someone else with a beaker. Sift through clipart to find images of people doing things that we don't normally associate with writing.

Who is your audience? What does your audience currently believe? And how do you know?

Growing up, I was often told to never major in English. My parents held the very common belief that writing never pays well, and that there are no long-term careers for writers. Clearly, misperceptions like this do affect some individuals, and it's important to figure out why this is. There are of course valid points of view on both sides - for example, it is true that engineering majors do, on average, earn more than English majors in the years after graduation. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that writing doesn't have a place in education - I believe that engineers who can write well tend do do better both academically and financially.

Title: "The Project You'll Produce to Shift Public Opinion"
Text: "I have three projects in mind: a Persuasive Essay, a Video, and a Slideshow"
Images: Pen and Paper, Video Camera, and a Projection Screen.

As an instructor, I have to be careful that my own ideas for this project don't change your ideas in negative ways. Any of these three projects (and others I haven't thought of) can provide a very persuasive platform for your point of view. Rather than choosing the one that works best for me, Ryan Edel, I'd like you to choose the one which you feel would work best for you and for your audience.

Title: "Justify Your Approach"
- Why You Prefer This Approach
- Why Audiences Will Respond to Your Approach
- Why Other Approaches Wouldn't Work As Well
Image of someone scratching his or her head, thinking about stuff.

I don't have much information on this slide because there are many, many different approaches you can take here. A YouTube video might work really well for helping me reach high school and college students, but a persuasive essay with references to academic and scholarly articles would be far more effective if I'm trying to reach tenured professors and department chairs.

This is also a good place to discuss the tone and scope of your project. For example, any project I do should take into consideration the fact that many people already believe that writing is a very effective learning tool. If I address my audience with the words "None of you appreciate writing enough," then it's possible that the people who already agree with my point of view would feel somewhat insulted. Also, would it make sense for me to make a PowerPoint to tell third-graders the importance of writing? Who is the audience you're targeting?

Title: "How Much Work Is This Gonna Take?"
Text: "A proposal should identify not only a real need, but how much time, effort, and cash it will take to address this need."
More Text: "I expect you will need at least five-to-ten pages of double-spaced text. (The more visual your project, the less text you'll probably need.)"
Image of pieces of paper. And possibly someone freaking out. Or someone's brain on fire. While firefighters are rushing in to extinguish the blaze.

Convincing senior faculty at a university to adopt writing in their classrooms might require at least ten pages of diligent research, if not more. For our graduate courses, my classmates and I have have been reading twenty-to-forty page articles on the importance of writing in academia - and these are the types of articles our professors read as they decide how best to teach their courses.

However, if I'm addressing undergraduates, I probably wouldn't use ten pages of academic writing. Instead, I might have a three-page script for the five-minute YouTube video I'm preparing, and then I'd also write up two pages of outside resources for viewers who would like to learn more. If my audience is other grad students, I might be able to draw them in with a good ten-minute PowerPoint. In addition to the PowerPoint itself, I would probably need some pages of notes (though I wouldn't want to read straight off a script.) Since I would see my audience personally, I might also prepare a handout, or I might prepare a list of the questions and answers I expect to field at the end of the presentation.

This is also good place to estimate how long your project will take. Even better, draw up a schedule for when you'll complete the different sections of your project. Include your workshop deadlines on your calendar, and work out how you'll fit your project around the upcoming Thanksgiving Break. I don't like working during holidays, so I usually try to schedule my work in order to avoid that. (Doesn't always work, but I try...)

Title: "The Research You'll Need to Support Your Point"
Text: "Genre, Topic, Audience: Learning how my Essay/Slideshow/Movie can help non-writers appreciate the educational benefits of writing."
More Text: A good quote by Descartes or Derrida would be very fitting.
Image: (I'm not sure. Maybe someone selling ice to penguins? Or the person selling refrigerators to Eskimos?)

List some of the avenues of research you'll explore. Do you need to learn techniques of cinematography? Will you need to include quotes by scholars in the field? And if others have been advocating your position already, how will you research the work they've already done?

If I'm to persuade others that writing is an effective way to help students learn, then I'll need to reference studies on learning. Although the internet is a good place to do this research, it would probably be faster to go to the library to find a good textbook which talks about writing in the schools, and then check the bibliography to see which researchers are doing this kind of work. Also, many of my professors here at ISU are scholars in Composition Studies and Writing Across the Curriculum - I might ask them for advice on what to research, or I may even interview them in order to reference their expertise in the field. But since this is only the proposal, I haven't done this research just yet - the most important thing is to mention all the research you'd like to do.

Even if some of the research might not be possible during English 101 - for example, if you'd like to conduct a three-year study of how high school chemistry students write their lab reports - go ahead and bring it up in the proposal. Talk about what you would do if you had all the time and money needed. This is what proposals are for: bringing up all the possible avenues, and then telling us why you will or won't use those avenues. (e.g. "Afraid I don't have the funding or Internal Review Board permission to interview high school chemistry students...")

Title: "The Expected Trajectory of Your Project"
Text: "More Students and Faculty at ISU will begin introducing writing into their classrooms."
Image of many, many students sitting at desks while writing. Or maybe a picture of a pencil used to draw the outline of a building with Reggie the Redbird standing out front.

This is the place to talk about what you'd like your project to accomplish. Notice that here I've limited the geographic scope of my proposal - rather than trying to change the world, I've decided to focus strictly on Illinois State. Although the semester might end before you have a chance to distribute your projects to a wide audience, I'd like you to consider just how far you might reach with your work. And when you do reach your audience, what do you expect your audience to do?

Now, if I'm to encourage professors and instructors to implement more writing in their courses, I'll have to know just how much writing I hope they'll include. For example, a math professor isn't going to assign a five page essay every week - there wouldn't be enough time for the student to practice with actual math problems. However, maybe I could convince a math professor to have students submit a half-page write-up regarding the practical applications of each type of math problem, and at the end of the semester the students might work in groups to propose new ways to teach algebra using PowerPoint.

Don't forget: You can see the finished results of this presentation on my 12Writing fan page: How to Propose Project 4.

Unit 4 / Project 4 Proposal Guidelines - Uploading PowerPoint to Facebook


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