Camera stylo

In the French nouvelle vague, Alexandre Astruc coined the term camera stylo to refer to his generation of film critics’ elevation of cinema (particularly auteur directors) to a similar level of artistic and cultural importance as literature and literary authors.  Perhaps today we have to appreciate the value of contemporary media and the attendant modes of communication they foster.  Video is one such medium.  The thought of encouraging students to make videos may be a bit daunting to some teachers, as they fear they have neither the technology or technological knowhow to venture into this otherwise attractive option to essay writing.  However, today most mobile devices, from cell phones to mp3 players have the capacity to shoot video.  Moreover, video hosting sites such as Youtube, Vimeo and Google Videos are a treasure trove of stock footage for B-roll and mock-up videos.  All one needs are the following:

• paper and pen (or computer of course).  You’ll want to script and create shot lists.  Often documentaries start best from a short essay.

• editing software: (iMovie, free on the Mac; Windows MovieMaker, free on PC; Adobe Premier Elements is an inexpensive alternative that is cross platform and a little more robust)

• a an excellent resource for downloading Youtube and Vimeo videos

• Vimeo or Youtube: free hosting sites for students to post their videos

• WordPress: a free blogging service into which students can easily incorporate their videos


With video, teachers can explore many of the narrative and rhetorical devices they do in writing.  In addition to examining the use of conflict and resolution in short narrative videos, documentaries invite process, comparison, definition, cause/effect and persuasive argument patterns of development.

In addition to video, blogging and microblogging have real value for getting students to take ownership of their work and to consider their audience, and social networking invites students to examine are ideas developed and explored collaboratively.

Examples of video production students’ wordpress blogs:

Examples of an essays and class notes in WordPress from my students in History of Film Production (for 3D animation students):

Example of the social media site created by students in CinemaVideo and Communications:



Though derived from the Latin littera for letter, literacy has been hybridized to all manner of familiarities and facilities, from “visual” to “computer” literacy.  Likewise our conceptions of rhetoric, the art of persuasive public speaking, can be revised in the context of the many new media we have for imparting ideas and connecting to each other. In this light, this website explores some of the ways which this perspective may impact pedagogy.

Bazerman (1997) suggests that, “which kinds of readings and lectures and assignments work in any classroom circumstance depends on a negotiation among institutions, teacher, and students.”  I am interested in this “negotiation,” particularly in the face of new modalities and hence modes of communication.  Today social media, for example, are proving to have a radical impact on world politics.  Some suggest they were instrumental in making the Arab spring possible.   Likewise they present challenges to traditional prescriptions for genre and rhetoric in academic writing. Institutions and teachers are often threatened by Wikipedia, Facebook and cell phones in the classroom. My research explores approaches to the negotiation of new media in the classroom, engaging students in the critical analysis of types and modes of discourse. My aim is to nurture critical thinking through student-driven, self-reflexive models of communication.

Bazerman, C. (1997). The life of genre, the life in the classroom. In W. Bishop & H. Ostrom. (Eds.)

Some of my class websites:


lessons from linguistics

• recognize difference between mistakes and errors
– mistakes are the slips and inattentive gaffs we all make to some degree or other
– errors reflect real deficiencies in acquired knowledge (interlanguage)

• for teachers, it is not constructive to correct mistakes, it creates inhibition and demotivates

• it is useful, however, to have error awareness (by the teacher) as it is a good way to check the correlation between instruction and learning.  The question is how to apply that awareness to subsequent tasks

• the communicative language teaching revolution of the 1970 and 80s may inform an approach to WID

• Hymes (1972) challenged the prevailing structuralist model of language acquisition by stating that the goal of language teaching should be “communicative competence” rather than an an inventory of prescribed structures.  Is there an analogue for writing?

• What would communicative writing look like?

• Halliday (1975) suggested seven functions for learning a language:
-an instrumental function (to get things)
-a regulative function (to control things)
-an interactive function (to get along with others
-a personal function (to express oneself)
-a heuristic function (to learn and discover)
-an imaginative function (to create an imaginary world)
-a representational function (to convey information)

The above suggested a set of alternative objectives to language teachers than mere grammatical accuracy.  Indeed, imagine a student with near perfect grammatical accuracy who could not perform any the above communicative functions.  Likewise writing tasks (or any learning task,  for that matter) can be framed in a variety of manners before or instead of within structures.