Professor Miles Britton received the 2015-16 Aportfolio Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The award recognizes a faculty member who has effectively integrated the use of Digication ePortfolios into his/her instructional program for purposes of assessing, showcasing, and encouraging reflection on students' work. Read more about the process for applying for the award here.
Bio: Miles Britton is a lecturer of Rhetoric and Composition in the Department of English. He holds a BA in English from Tulane University (2001) and an MA in Journalism from Temple University (2008). He received an MA in English from Appalachian State University in 2015, during which he was the recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award. His fiction and nonfiction writings have appeared in a number of publications, including MAGNET magazine, Philadelphia Weekly, Our State, and The Future Embodied anthology.
Aportfolio has quickly come to play a large and integral role in my Rhetoric & Composition courses, both as an assessment tool as well as an extension of students’ multimodal and digital literacy learning. Before I started using Aportfolio, my courses resembled traditional writing courses, in which students wrote papers, printed them out, then assembled their portfolio material at the end of the semester into a folder or spiral binder. Thanks to Aportfolio, though, I’ve been able to completely transform my courses from this traditional writing model into true composition courses, in which students create and share multimodal texts that combine words with images, photos, sounds, music, and other modes and media (all of which more closely align to the types of writing and composing that take place nowadays on the Web). On top of that, the students’ Aportfolios are themselves a type of multimodal text that they create, one similar to a website (which is another useful skill for students to learn for the future). Overall, I feel that my course now much better prepares students for the types of composing that they will actually do both in and after college, which has made my course much more engaging to students because they can now tangibly see how the work they do in the classroom directly connects to their future.
Because of Aportfolio, each one of the major projects I now assign include some aspect of multimodality, from asking students to include images, photos, and other media into their narratives or research papers, to asking students to “remix” a written product into a new visual, digital, or audial medium. For example, for the literacy narrative project I was able to add a new requirement that asks students to step beyond just telling their story with words by incorporating multimodal elements like pictures or images in order to enhance their narratives for the reader, which more accurately mirrors the types of composing students are typically exposed to on the Web through blogs, webpages, and social media sites. I was also able to add a completely new assignment that I was not able to include in years past—the Multimodal Remix. For my students, this new assignment is often one of the most exciting—and most rewarding—for them. It asks students to tell a story through a different medium other than the printed page (e.g., a video, audio essay, comic strip, zine, interactive website, video game, etc.), and to upload it and share it with their classmates on their Aportfolio page. Some of the projects that they have created have honestly amazed me, from text-based video games and interactive, choose-your-own-adventure-type videos, to multimedia websites and professional-grade audio essays (similar to ones you might hear on NPR).
Beyond the multimodal projects, I also encourage students to fully design and personalize their Aportfolios. I spend multiple class periods giving hands-on workshops about Aportfolio, taking students through the initial creation of their Aportfolios all the way to the design stage, where they create personalized banner images and consistent color schemes. This pushes students to think more deeply about their visual rhetorical choices in the digital age, since students have to fully consider how their use of color, images, fonts, and other stylistic elements contributes to the overall tone of their portfolios. Students seem to enjoy learning about these digital design resources and some of the important aspects of design literacy, especially since they can use these skills outside of academia for their own websites, blogs, and social media sites, which again provides a more “real-world” application to a Gen Ed writing class.