P2 MEdiations Using the Personal & Pedagogical to Develop Functional Technological Abilities

Many instructors are open to the idea of bringing forms of digital writing into the classroom; however, they often hesitate because they lack a specific kind of technological expertise. But unless the class is an advanced course focused around a specific kind of medial practice, this technological expertise (or lack thereof) does not have to be the hurdle that it seems. For the primary contributions instructors make to most courses are matters of rhetorical sophistication and/or content expertise. Which means that one does not need to know how to do every single thing in After Effects or Photoshop, for example, to be able to offer meaningful feedback on what students produce. Rather, in most contexts instructors are capable of providing guidance and instruction in terms of the representation presented or the ways in which it engages with course content. Thus, all one really needs in order to start bringing a given technology into the classroom is an introductory understanding of how one makes that technology work (i.e., a knowledge of the basic operations of a technology and/or the central means/modes for a given mediating practice). And the reason for this is that what students need from most instructors when engaging in different digital writing activities is not an advanced skill set, but just enough of an introduction so that they (the students) can (a) make some things work and (b) figure out how to phrase questions. The former allows for learning by doing; the latter allows for searching for guides, tips, and how-to instructions for specific tasks and practices (most of which already exist as part of the archive of the digital ether).

Just enough of an introduction to make some things work and to ask questions

As a particular example of this approach, when I introduce Photoshop in my classes, I tell students that I am going to give them the 8 Crayons of Photoshop, but I expect them to paint Picasso with those crayons. It is an unreal expectation, to be sure, but it consistently is effective. By giving them just enough of an orientation to get stuck and figure out how to ask questions, they begin to learn how to learn, to figure out the technology (and its options) by leveraging their resources. Granted, my understanding of Photoshop is a bit beyond this introductory level, but any advanced knowledge I possess is only relevant to students when (and if) they reach a contextual point where those abilities matters. And in many cases, students never reach a point where they need these more advanced kinds of training from me as they accomplish the tasks and/or course/assignment goals quite well (and often in sophisticated ways) with those basic steps.

The challenge, of course, comes not in figuring out how to bring the technology into the classroom, but rather how to develop an introductory understanding of a tool or technology (and finding time to do such things). To this end, I encourage an approach I call P2 MEdiation: a practice by which instructors use personal or pedagogical matters of importance to them as the content basis for learning a technology. Jenny Edbauer Rice, building on Margaret Syverson’s exploratory pedagogy, has extended a similar line in her work as well (using her own research as a vehicle) (see “Rhetoric’s Mechanics”), but at its core the premise is simple: use your own personal/professional life/context as the content/exigence for making something. As a personal example, my own video editing and production skills began with my making a series of small projects featuring my first born child; I created a series of short video snippets that I could share, via a blog platform, with my extended family. Eventually, this learning activity/practice grew into a bit more than just a side project and I passed the blog site off to my wife (who maintained the site for a few years longer). But the basic premise remained: I wanted to learn different video editing tricks and develop different abilities in various software, so I began messing around with low-stakes, personal activities. This led to my wanting to do more sophisticated things, which led to further research and practice, which led, eventually, to where I stand now (somewhere between novice and expert). And this process works the same for students. They do not need us to be technological experts (at least not in the vast majority of instances); rather, they just need an introduction to the practices at the core of the mediation and a reason (an exigence) to begin figuring things out. Thus, if an instructor is considering bringing in some form of digital writing practice into his/her class, I encourage them to decide on the kind of project they have in mind (webtext, video, digital story, etc.) early on and then spend some time (perhaps a month or even semester) trying to create one of that thing (or something similar) on his/her own.

As a basic extension of this principle, I genuinely encourage instructors to also try grounding the MEdiation approach in the pedagogical. Meaning, one might begin by turning a course assignment into a Spark Page or create a video (talking head or otherwise) in which the he/she introduces an assignment to the students. What matters in these early trials is not the content itself (personal or pedagogical), but that individuals take a shot at working with the kinds of technologies with which they want to engage. For even if they do not go on to develop any specific expertise, they will at least be able to empathize with the students' struggles as they work to recolor an image, crop and zoom a video, align audio clips, and the like.

To offer at least one way in, I’ve included a brief set of steps/prompts below by which one might make his/her way into learning some technologies through this P2 MEdiation approach.

Some Introductory Steps (via a Personal MEdiation)

Step 1: Make a Spark Post to share to a social media feed (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Step 2a: Try to recreate the same Spark Post creation in Photoshop.

Step 2b: Make a card (valentine’s day, b-day, x-mas, etc.) using Photoshop or InDesign (or a combination of both).

Step 3: Make a short video using images, video, and audio from your phone (or a social media feed). [As a suggestion, you might try Adobe Premiere Rush with this activity.]

Step 4: Create an audio mashup/mix (via Audition, Audacity, GarageBand, or other)

Step 5: Combine 3 & 4 to create a music video

Some Introductory Steps (via a Pedagogical MEdiation)

Step 1: Make a Spark Page of one course assignment.

Step 2: Make a course flyer/poster using Photoshop.

Step 3: Record audio/video feedback for traditional assignments (instead of just providing written comments on the work).

Step 4: Make a short video introducing a course reading or unpacking one of its critical ideas (try to also add Intro/Outro elements to package your creation).

Step 5: Build a course website (via wordpress.com, wix.com, or some other basic web builder) and be sure to integrate visuals, texts, and interactive page elements.


Edbauer Rice, Jenny. "Rhetoric's Mechanics: Retooling the Equipment of Writing Production" CCC, 60.2, Dec 2008, pp. 366-87.

Created By
Justin Hodgson


Created with images by rawpixel - "untitled image" • DariuszSankowski - "iphone ios iphoto" • Avel Chuklanov - "Hardly Working" • geralt - "system web network" • StartupStockPhotos - "startup start-up notebooks creative computer company laptops" • Max Nelson - "untitled image"

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