Slatin Prize

The John Slatin Prize for “Mastery of Electronic Media in Education” (MEME) was established in 2003 to encourage the effective integration of pedagogy and technology. In 2008, it was renamed for the first director of the DWRL, John Slatin, whose work inspired and continues to inspire so many in this goal.

The Slatin Prize recognizes assistant instructors—both lab staffers and graduate students teaching in DWRL classrooms—who have designed teaching and learning activities, such as a particular assignment or project in the computer classroom, that originally and effectively integrate pedagogy and technology. Instructors submit their activity as a handout, description, URL, podcast, or other electronic form, accompanied by a short (no longer than 300 words) rationale describing their pedagogical goal in the exercise and how that goal was enabled or enhanced by a particular classroom technology.

Exercises are judged by the following criteria: creativity, successful integration of pedagogy and technology, pedagogical foundation or rationale, and adherence to the DWRL’s commitment to accessibility. As advanced design is not a criterion of this award, we have encouraged submissions by instructors with all levels of experience working in computer classrooms. Winners of the Slatin Prize are announced at the Department of Rhetoric and Writing’s annual luncheon, as are the winners of the department’s other prizes: the Maxine Hairston Prize for Excellence in Teaching and the James L. Kinneavy Prize for Scholarship in Rhetoric and Composition.

Past Winners

The list below includes all past winners of the Slatin Prize. Click on the plus signs to expand individual entries and read more about each year’s winning submission.

Rhiannon Goad won the 2015 Slatin Prize for an assignment that required students to make supercuts. She describes the assignment as follows:

“The goal of this project is to allow students to articulate and demonstrate the function of monsters in popular discourse. Most importantly, this project allows students the opportunity to produce a multimedia project in order to contemplate the concepts of audience, style, and structure.

The assignment consists of two parts: a supercut and written argument. The supercut project requires students to identify and isolate a trope from various television shows, movies, and news footage. From this footage, students clearly and originally identify a trope associated with a particular monster. To accompany their supercut, students also provide a 2-paragraph explanation.”

You can watch and read some of Goad’s students’ projects here.

Throughout her 306 course, Lily Zhu’s students engaged with the multifaceted rhetorical potential of video games and concluded their semester with a month long, group project to make their own argumentative video game. To demonstrate their understanding of, and proficiency with, the visual, aural, and verbal rhetorics of game design, students had to create a rudimentary flash game with a straightforward, unifying message meant to persuade the player. Though this group assignment relied on specific conventions of video games and video game culture, it also emphasized and reviewed basic, integral lessons of rhetoric and writing. Students were told to not only consider their roles as rhetoricians, but the minds of their potential audience, and the environment – the kairos – surrounding them all.

Students were confined to a specific, simple website that limited their creative influence to certain pre-set conditions. Rather than starting from scratch, they were given “choices” in manipulating the world setting, tools, weapons, non-playable characters, bosses, bonuses, and music. These constraints allowed her students to focus on utilizing in-game, blank slate, dialogue options, and general atmosphere (verbal and visual rhetoric) to make and reiterate their persuasive points.

Rhetorical effectiveness was evaluated based on two components:

  1. How other groups perceived the intentions behind the game (each group demonstrated its game by inviting a member from a different group to play).
  2. A final, publicly presented, 500-word essay in which the group explained what its goals were and what specific methods (e.g. types of logos, pathos, ethos, etc.) it used to accomplish them.

By the end of the project, students were acutely aware that though rhetoric may begin as a semi-private creation, drawn from the mind of an individual (or set of individuals), it develops, grows, and influences as a public force. The full lesson plan is available here.​ Included in the page are links to a couple of particularly creative projects.

In 2012, Steven LeMieux was invited to host a workshop at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. The workshop took place in former lab member Dr. Jim Brown’s Inter-L&S 102: Writing and Coding: Composition, Computation, and New Media Studies. It jump-started a unit in which students modified games they made using Scratch, an educational programing language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, by incorporating PicoBoards into their design. PicoBoards are simple microcontrollers with several built-in sensors (light, sound, resistance) and control mechanisms (a button and a slider).

During the workshop, LeMieux pushed Brown’s students to begin thinking about what new possibilities PicoBoards afford for user interaction. Rather than centering the workshop around how PicoBoard sensors could be used as simple stand-ins for standard controllers (e.g. keyboards and computer mice), he guided students to always begin their explorations with the user’s embodied experience: How can we make someone get out of their chair? make noise? work in teams? draw on external materials? And how do these embodied situations affect the user? What arguments are they making? By focusing on the embodied actions students began to get a sense for how these small programs can make affective arguments by drawing attention to the technologies and environments in which these games are played.

In 2010, Will Burdette presented a Remixing Workshop for DWRL instructors at orientation. Also in 2010, Burdette presented the workshop to students in E314J Literature and Popular Music. In 2012, Burdette consulted with Emily Bloom to help her adapt the workshop into a classroom assignment for her E 314L Banned Books class. In that class she asked students to remix the poems “Howl” or “The Great Hunger” with three voices and one additional sound element.

In the workshops Burdette led in 2010, participants produced remixed ringtones. Participants took one musical track and one spoken word (literary or rhetorical) track and mixed them together live in DJay. Then they recorded the mixes and opened them in editing software to cut them down to 5-6 seconds, and exported them as ringtones. The Remixing Workshops are designed to introduce instructors and students to software and web-based tools for remixing, editing, and distributing audio content. The assignment gets participants acquainted with two audio interfaces: DJay and GarageBand. This move makes clear the difference between synchronous mixing and asynchronous editing. It also provides an opportunity to discuss juxtaposition, affect, copyright/copyleft, fair use, irony, and selection. Theoretically, the Remixing Workshops introduce students to remixing as a cultural (as opposed to a strictly musical) concept that offers a post-critical approach to texts.

The DWRL’s Immersive Environments Group (Scott Nelson, Marjorie Foley, Chris Ortiz y Prentice, Andrew Rechnitz, and Cleve Wiese) won the 2011 MEME prize for creating Battle Lines, an alternate reality game for use in the rhetoric classroom. For more on the game, see the group’s award-winning Kairos webtext.
Matt King received the 2010 Slatin Prize for his use of Rhetorical Peaks in his Rhetoric 312: Writing in Digital Environments class. Below is his description of the project.

Overview

This semester, my 312 students are using Rhetorical Peaks and working through a series of related assignments (outlined below). Through RP, I confront students with what Ian Bogost calls “procedural rhetoric,” the way that processes, logics, and systems of rules constitute a form of persuasion and expression. For Bogost, videogames make claims about “processes, which ones we celebrate, which ones we ignore, which ones we want to question.” All game design and game play is thus inherently rhetorical; a game’s processes and rules embody modes of persuasion and expression, and we can read them as such.

By playing RP, students examine and enact a new rhetorical mode, but they also get to switch the emphasis, considering the extent to which rhetoric is procedural. Through the assignments surrounding RP, students engage a range of rhetoric’s procedures – processes specific to particular skills (summary, analysis, website design, video production) and particular technologies and digital environments (Second Life, Wordle, iShowU, iMovie). At the same time, RP gives students the opportunity to question how rhetoric works. Ultimately, we can only define rhetoric according to specific processes if we recognize that any such definition will be incomplete and will shift in different contexts. In this sense, more than mastery of a particular set of processes, rhetoric requires the ability to negotiate and shift between processes. Rhetoric’s “win state” is less a particular outcome than an attitude characterized by the understanding that responsible rhetoric demands an ability to recognize and accommodate a range of perspectives.

RP asks students to confront the multiple and open-ended nature of rhetoric’s procedures by balancing a range of roles and identities, acting simultaneously as game designers and players, and negotiating their own attitudes, values, and beliefs through characters not entirely themselves and through communities comprised not only of their classmates and their characters but also future players of the game.

Relevant Assignments

  • Multimedia Identity Project: This page contains links to the assignment overview, specific instructions for different phases of the assignment, and links to my students’ sites. I was particularly impressed with the following project:
    http://darienfemal.jimdo.com/multimedia-identity-project/.
  • Video Project: This in-class activity will be open-ended, exploratory, and student-led. When students play RP in Second Life, they will simultaneously perform the characters they designed in their Multimedia Identity Projects and work toward establishing a sense of trust and community within Rhetorical Peaks.
Sean McCarthy received the 2009 Slatin Prize for Master of Electronic Media in Education for his use of Google Maps in Rhetoric 306: Introduction to Rhetoric and Writing class. Below is his description of the project.

Google Maps in the 306 Classroom

GoogleMaps is not simply a tool to direct you to your favorite restaurant. Organizations as diverse as Greenpeace and the New York Times are using GoogleMaps to create new kinds of interactive texts (called “mashups”) that present information, ideas and stories in innovative and interactive ways. GoogleMaps allows you to draw routes between diverse places and create place-markers in which you can write text and embed videos and pictures. It offers writers really fun ways of telling stories, making arguments and visualizing all kinds of information in appealing, informative and interactive ways.

What else is great about GoogleMaps?

It’s easy to use. What’s even better than that? It’s free! With no experience and lots of imagination you can join the most creative people currently delivering content on the web. We’ve seen how Urrea uses all sorts of references in The Devil’s Highway, such as pop songs, movies, mythology and colloquial language. You’ve encountered in your research how authors strategically use sources in many ways to build their arguments. In this assignment you’re going to research different kinds of evidence to build a story or argument and use GoogleMaps as a kind of writing tool to tell your story and present your research.

How do GoogleMaps work?

GoogleMaps are really easy to use. This introductory page will show you the basics. Here’s the page that gives you step-by-step instructions on how to build your map. This YouTube video shows you how to create interactive place markers. Finally, Google Maps Mania is a great blog that shows how people are using googlemaps around the world. It provides links to hundreds of maps and is a great place to start thinking about your own map. You will need to sign into your Google Account to start using the maps.

What kind of maps could I create?

Pretty much anything you want, as long as your map in some way engages with movement. Immigration obviously comes to mind, but your map can be about anything you want. Perhaps it would be useful to think about the scope of the assignment this way: chart the journey of a person, a group of people, an idea, a practice (such as a sport), or a kind of technology. The journey can be something that happens regularly, in the past, present, or future—it can even be fictional.

How big does my map have to be? How will it be evaluated?

  • This assignment is worth 10% of your final grade. Since this portion of the grade is equal to four research summaries, the amount of work you need to put into this assignment should be roughly equivalent to four pages of writing about four (or more) pieces of research.
  • There are a number of ways you can fill in your map. You can have ten place-markers with short analyses that will be worth 1% each; you can have four place-markers on your map that contain roughly a page of writing and some research. Another way of organizing your map is to have many markers on your map but select only two markers (or even one) that you want me to assess. In other words, it’s up to you how you want to design your map and spread out your work. I’ll be monitoring your progress in the coming weeks, so we can discuss how your map design is working out. The important thing to remember is that this is your map: you design it, you decide the kind of research you want to do, and you write it in your own style.
  • You will need to do some research, but that research could include your own photographs (or photos you find on the web); a podcast interview or short Youtube movie you make (or examples from the web); clips from really informative websites or blogs. It may turn out that you want to use your GoogleMap as an opportunity to do further research for your final paper. It’s entirely up to you. The only real rules are that the map must be informative (in other words, it shows research) and there must be writing to assess (in other words, don’t present me with just a bunch of photos or weblinks: it’s how you write about them that counts).

An opportunity to present your work

Along with a final paper, you are responsible for a presentation to the class of your work this semester. This presentation can focus on your final paper or your GoogleMap. If you decide to present on the map, a good idea would be to think of the rest of the class as the ideal audience for your project; ask yourself how you are going to present your story to them in a way that will be fun and informative.

Jillian Sayre and Nathan Kreuter received the 2008 Slatin Prize for the video projects they developed to use in Rhetoric 309K, Topics in Writing. Below is a description of their projects.

Overview

As developers for the visual rhetoric workgroup, we have been working on establishing a relationship between the CWRL and Digital Media Services (part of the Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment). We believe that the technical instruction and advanced equipment DMS can provide, coupled with the Rhetoric Department’s insight on compositional strategies, pedagogical implications, and classroom application, can further the Lab’s goal of investigating how current and emerging information technologies affect and transform “our oldest information technology,” writing itself. This affiliation not only provides us with extra resources for our regular classes (not computer-assisted), but also allows CWRL instructors to take full advantage of the technology at their disposal in order to explore new, non-traditional, or supplementary modes of composition. In order to test this relationship and in the hopes of establishing models for future instructors, Nate and I both assigned media projects in our RHE 309K classes. The projects and their pedagogical goals varied, so we have included two descriptions, one from each class.

Nathan Kreuter, The Rhetoric of Spying

In The Rhetoric of Spying, I gave students a multimedia assignment intended to demonstrate how people can interpret the same evidence differently. I separated my class into four groups and gave each group an identical information packet containing cryptic clues about a fictional terrorist threat. Each group was given the charge of making sense of the clues and basing a prediction, an argument, on their readings of the clues in a multimedia presentation. When each group gave their presentations, we saw as a group how radically different the interpretations of the evidence had been. Students came up with exceptionally sophisticated presentations which demonstrated how the assignment had forced them to master electronic media, which I consider more of an achievement than anything I myself could have done to serve the class through electronic media.

Jillian Sayre, Rhetoric of the Body

In Rhetoric of the Body, students in groups of four composed short documentaries (between 2 and 4 minutes) that looked at the role of body modification in community formation. Our text for the unit, Victoria Pitts’ In the Flesh, introduced this idea and the students were to complete their own research (interviews, or ‘ethnographies’ as we called them) in order to investigate Pitts’ claims. I was delighted to find a variety of conclusions among the groups, and the in-class viewings demonstrated to the students how arguments vary based on the evidence collected, that conclusions are often dependent on whom you speak to (the ‘texts’ at your disposal) and what questions you ask (how the author’s interests or approach might influence the results). We also used the opportunity as an impetus to explore new modes of composition; the students were to think critically about the topic at hand (body modification) but also writing itself, the ways in which arguments are communicated. We accomplished this by reviewing the discussion of film as composition from the 1971–1972 issues of College Composition and Communication. Students were encouraged to think about how the articles depict the projects of writing and the university in general, and to question how these definitions may have changed due to the proliferation and interactive qualities of media in the twenty-first century. After they finished their media projects and experienced first hand the method of creating a short film, they were asked to complete a short reflection paper that asked them to insert their experience into the discussion from CCC. I found that several students used the experience of creating films to think critically about their own writing and the role of writing instruction at the university. Many appreciated the creativity encouraged by the project, while others were interested in the ability to perform original research for the project. I was most impressed by those students that were inspired to incorporate filmic strategies into their writing process. One student, who previously dismissed outlining or pre-writing as unnecessary (because he perceived writing as an organic ‘event’), constructed a ‘story-board’ for the reflection paper and noted the facility of thinking critically about argument and structure before putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

The Visual Rhetoric Workgroup—John Jones, Nathan Kreuter, Tim Turner, and Vessela Valiavitcharska—received the MEME award in 2007 for their work on viz., a visual rhetoric website and blog.

Pedagogical Aims

The increasing interest in visual rhetoric in the composition classroom and its continuing importance in composition studies suggested that there needed to be a resource where composition instructors and students could find up-to-date information about this rhetorical practice. The aim of the workgroup was to create such a resource, with the dual goals of providing both instructors and students a context for understanding visual rhetoric as well as suggesting creative means of integrating visual studies in the composition classroom.

These aims were pursued by creating

  • introductions to the theoretical foundations of visual studies,
  • examples of assignments designed to illustrate the importance of the visual in communication and provide experience for students in crafting both arguments about visuals and visual arguments,
  • a forum for discussing contemporary visual culture through theory, analysis, and examples of visual communication, and
  • a general bibliography for exploring these themes in greater depth.

Integration of pedagogy and technology

To achieve our pedagogical aims, the visual rhetoric workgroup has attempted to use the website to provide multiple technologies for teaching and learning about visual rhetoric. The site uses examples of video and still images to illustrate theoretical concepts, provides instructions for creating visual arguments in presentation and flow-charting software, and uses the Drupal blog module to create a forum for conversations about visual culture, theory, and pedagogy. By combining these different methods of visual and textual communication, the site has made great strides toward achieving its goal of being a resource for analyzing, theorizing, and teaching visual rhetoric. Further, in following the University of Texas’s guidelines for web accessibility, the site is an accessible, mobile resource that anyone can use whether they are in the classroom, dorm room, coffee shop, or anywhere else in the public or private spheres.

John Pedro Schwartz received the MEME award in 2006 for a mobile composition project he assigned students in a spring 2006 section of RHE 309M.

Pedagogical Assumptions

Instructors who teach writing as a cultural, situated act often craft assignments that presuppose a clean, well-lighted writing space like the library, dorm room, or coffee house. The problem is that these spaces homogenize the same material differences that instructors are trying to underscore. For example, a racial minority student writing at home is far more disembodied than she would be writing in the main hall of an art museum. Conversely, an affluent female student writing at a working-class, male-dominated bowling alley feels her status more poignantly than she would feel it writing in the library or the dorm room. Students can better perceive their social, cultural, and historical locations when they visit places of rhetorical activity (e.g., city parks, waiting rooms, shopping malls) and research, write, and even publish on location.

Pedagogical Ends

The project sought to help students:

  • understand the interdependency of agency and material structures by confronting students with the effects of these structures;
  • see that writing assignments, spaces, and technologies are mutually determining by separating writing from conventional assignments, spaces, and technologies;
  • realize that the material conditions shaping what they write and who they become through writing are fluid and changeable;
  • learn to compose using some combination of text, image, audio, and video; and
  • observe and interact with a wider range of environments.

Electronic Means

Wired and wireless devices and networks facilitated the mobile composition project, in which students researched, wrote, and even published in places of rhetorical activity. The following examples illustrate this claim.

  1. For her digital curation project, one student used a digital camera to take pictures, iPhoto to edit the pictures, iMovie to add effects, transitions, and a song, and iDVD to create a menu page and burn the files onto a DVD.
  2. For his soundseeing tour project, one student recorded commentary and ambient sound with a digital voice recorder, transferred the audio to a computer, then used a podcasting program called Audacity to convert raw wave files into MP3 format.
  3. For their digital curation projects, some students created moblogs using camera phones to capture images and video and send the files via MMS (multimedia messaging service) to their moblog accounts, provided free by such sites as Yafro.
  4. For their digital curation projects, some students built websites using Dreamweaver.
Olin Bjork and Matthew Russell received the MEME award at the 2004 Spring Colloquium for their food films website assignment.
John Pedro Schwartz received the 2003 MEME award for his “Bob Bullock Texas State History MOOseum” project. Students in his Fall 2002 RHE 309K “Rhetoric of Confidence Games” course either recreated or redesigned in the Silver Sea MOO two exhibits from the Bob Bullock Texas State History museum. Students then defended on paper what they created in the MOO. Those that recreated exhibits wrote an evaluative essay arguing that the Museum exhibits offer a fair and accurate representation of their subject matter. Those that redesigned exhibits wrote a proposal essay arguing that the Museum should redesign the exhibits in order to give a fairer and more accurate representation of their subject matter.

“The goal of the project was twofold,” Schwartz said, “to examine issues from multiple perspectives by adopting the position of devil’s advocate, and to gain awareness of how museum layout and design make meaning. Adopting the position of devil’s advocate, students produced good essays attentive to possible rebuttals. Some students mistakenly stored their images in the http volume, so their images were lost at the end of the semester. Otherwise, student MOOseum exhibits were an impressive lot, connected together through a MOO architecture designed by a student ‘Head Curator.'”