As a professor of communication, rhetoric, and digital media, I design challenging, influential, and creative projects for students. In order for students to have a strong university education, I believe it is essential to develop cutting-edge rhetorical and productive skills to create experimental, but significant, digital and traditional texts. Since 2007, I have taught classes from freshman composition to upper-level courses on digital media, interactive productions, contemporary rhetoric and web design. Despite the difference in course objectives, there are three similar learning outcomes I want students to attain: a consistent habit of submitting quality work on time, the ability to cultivate critical thinking skills by effectively recognizing fundamental practices of rhetorical theory, and develop technical production skills for creatively communicating work that integrates communication with digital media.
In order for students to cultivate a consistent habit of submitting quality work, I implement two important exercises. The first is to instill a strong sense of responsibility by instilling a project showcase open to the community. During the Fall of 2017, for example, I founded, designed, and invited colleagues of the university as well as the community to watch, enjoy, and evaluate my students work in a session called, The Media Arts Showcase. This forces students to submit quality work, and on time, in order to effectively present their work to a diverse audience.
The second practice for students to develop in submitting quality work is to cultivate an academic habit of meeting with me. In my digital media production course, for example, I require students to meet with me at least three times during the semester. Each project in the class deals with a particular theory (procedural rhetoric, for example) they must put into practice. Setting up individual conferences allows me to make sure they understand the project’s goals as well as allow students to express any concerns related to the project. Furthermore, I design my courses as a studio workshop so that I, as well as fellow classmates, can monitor one another’s progress and have ample time learning fundamental features of video editing (Final Cut Pro/Camtasia). This method ensures that all students go through a step-by-step process in completing and polishing their projects to produce the best possible work as well as developing technical-software skills.
It is my pedagogical creed that critical thinking is best served when rhetorical theory is taught within a course’s curriculum. Regardless of subject matter, whether communication, media production, professional development, or web design, I always introduce an aspect of rhetoric in order for students to effectively improve critical thinking skills in completing their projects. Students in my web design class, for example, are challenged with redesigning a local restaurant. Besides conducting a usability test, they must explain during the unveiling of their newly designed site what rhetorical elements influenced the visual information, layout and navigational experience. In my evaluations, my web design students—ranging from English New Media to Game Design majors—have emphasized the influences rhetorical theory has had in their critical design of websites.
Lastly, in order for students to develop technical skills for communicating work, I design creative projects integrating visual communication with digital media. As a professor of communication, rhetoric, and digital media, it is crucial for students to learn how to creatively use various technologies and software when developing analytical, rhetorical, and media production skills. For example, in my Digital Media and Rhetoric class, I assign a mash-up video project. The project teaches students to perfect editing, cinematic, and presentation skills. Video techniques are taught in advance so that they may be able to complete the project. The video incorporates sfx, music tracks, message remixing, highlighting effects, as well as original screencasts making the video entertaining while instructional. Students in my course have produced videos from promo reels to virtual maps using Adobe After Effects. I invite you to check out my online portfolio to view projects from my students: http://www.walterjiriarte.site/works.html.