6120 Syllabus

English 6120     Writing in Material and Digital Spaces (Independent Study)   

Instructor: K. Shannon Howard

Office: Liberal Arts 144I

Email: khowar20@aum.edu

Phone: 334-394-5425

Office Hours: TBD with student

Classroom: 144I or online space designated by instructor


Completion of undergraduate degree and acceptance to a graduate program at AUM, particularly the new Master of Teaching Writing degree and certificate options. Offered in spring and summer semesters. This course may be cross-listed with 4120.

Course Description:

This course uses social media and physical locations as sites of writing potential and considers how content may be delivered across various platforms. In other words, how do spaces and tools affect the message a writer chooses to draft? What limitations and affordances exist in spaces like Facebook, classroom whiteboards, and abandoned buildings? This is not a comprehensive overview of ALL materials and tools; such a class would take several years rather than a semester. Rather, students will become acquainted with and interact with scholarly voices that have asked important questions about how materials and digital spaces offer various constraints and opportunities for people to make change in the world. Also important to this course is the ability to find ways to use material and digital spaces as a teacher or consultant in writing. In taking the course, students will demonstrate their membership in the field of Rhetoric and Composition by leading class discussion, preparing projects for this class that may be used for future conference presentations, and crafting a final project for their professional teaching or consulting portfolio.


David Sax’s The Revenge of Analog (either in ebook or paperback)

Required readings and/or links posted on Blackboard from journals in the field of Rhetoric and Composition

Objectives: By the end of the course, students will be able to

Identify ways that the platforms and spaces we encounter shape our rhetoric

Inform audiences about past inventions and historical changes in the world of digital and material tools

Understand recent scholarship in the field of material and digital rhetoric and apply its lessons to personal and professional writing tasks

Analyze content on both online and offline platforms (from graffiti on walls to Twitter feeds)

Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of different writing canvases and consider their uses for teaching and consulting

Propose a new space or digital platform for consumer and educator use (OR a new course with a digital/material emphasis for a future teaching job)

Grading Policy:

Graduate students are encouraged to use office hours and consult with me about their projects as they work through them. I will do my best to connect your professional goals with the goals of the given assignment. Assignments completed on the graduate level should show a sophistication and depth that undergraduate work lacks; consider that most projects should be longer and more attentive to nuance than undergraduate submissions.

Below are the major assignments required to complete the course. However, since the course is an independent study, specific adjustments will be made from time to time. All of these adjustments will be to the student’s benefit (at no point will extra work be assigned) and will be shared in advance.

Blog and Class Participation:

Graduate students must write unit blogs (approximately 500 words) inside which they identify parts of the reading or class that challenge them or make them think about personal and cultural experiences that resonate with the messages in the author’s work. In addition, they should consider how such ideas in the readings could shape their future classrooms or businesses as they become leaders in these areas in the future. This part of the class is worth 25 percent of the final grade.

Retro Space Investigation:

Students will investigate a social media or related platform from the early years of the internet and share their information with their classmates in the form of a multimedia presentation. They will also write up a report of 3 to 4 pages in which they engage with both scholarly and nonscholarly sources to describe why this platform no longer exists/is no longer in use. Students in 6120 must also consult the major journals in the field of Rhetoric and Composition and include scholarly perspectives from the late 1990s /early 2000s that provide insight on the affordances of these retro spaces. This assignment is worth 25 percent of the final grade.

Rhetorical Analysis:

Students will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a new application, social media site, or web program that was created in the past five years. In doing so, they will think about how this NEW tool solves and responds to the earlier challenges of the “retro space” they investigated in the first part of the course. They will also consider how content in this particular space is different from content on other sites due to its constraints and design. This assignment is worth 25 percent of the final grade.


Proposal for a New Space or Tool:

Students will explain why, in a proposal of 8 to 10 pages, a new tool or space is needed to meet a particular rhetorical need in 2017. This project is designed for students interested in pursuing careers as consultants for companies, both nonprofit and profit. In other words, students develop a new tool and justify its design using the readings from class as well as scholarly materials they locate in databases and online. At least 10 sources outside the course readings should be consulted in the construction of this proposal. This is worth 25 percent of the final grade.


Portfolio and Syllabus for Future Class on Digital and Material Emphasis in Composition, Business Writing, or Secondary Education Classrooms:

Students pursuing a career as full-time teachers on the community college or high school level will design a writing course with the theme of digital and material rhetoric. By creating a course plan from scratch, students will have valuable materials to include in their future teaching portfolios. This project will include a syllabus, schedule of the course, list of materials, teaching statement of philosophy, and an opening letter to students. The total page count will likely be 15-20 pages. This is worth 25 percent of the final grade. 

Major Assignments and Point Distribution:

Blog/Classroom Participation/Leadership:               50 points

Retro Space Investigation       (4 pgs)                        50 points

Rhetorical Analysis of Platform (4 pgs)                    50 points

Proposal for New Space OR alternative                    50 points       

TOTAL POINTS: 200                       PERCENTAGE: 100

Grades at AUM do not include plusses and minuses. Therefore, an A is anything between 90-100, a B is anything between 80-89, a C is 70-79, and so on. A midterm grade is posted seven weeks into the semester to let you know where you stand at that time. This grade will not affect your GPA but will act as an indicator of your progress. Please let me know if you ever have a question about your progress or your grade. Students are also encouraged to revise their work when the opportunity allows.

It is important to stress that graduate students, in pursuing an advanced degree, are expected to make A’s and B’s in their coursework in order to remain in good standing with the school. A GPA that begins to show evidence of ‘C’ work will likely place a student on probation or make it difficult for that student to obtain a letter of recommendation from the instructor of record.

Attendance and Participation:

Graduate student participation and attendance should be 100% whenever possible.  Independent studies will not take regular attendance, but full participation in all assignments is expected.  

Academic Honesty:

All work submitted to this class must be your own and written exclusively for this class. Don’t recycle or reuse work.  In cases where plagiarism or other academic dishonesty is clearly established, the penalty could be a grade of “F” in the class, regardless of the value of the assignment. Students who have plagiarized will also be reported to the AUM Committee on Discipline, which may choose to impose additional sanctions. Students given an “F” for plagiarism will also have an asterisk on their transcript notifying all future parties of academic dishonesty. For a full description of the plagiarism policy, please see the Student Handbook.

Special Needs:

Auburn University at Montgomery attempts to make reasonable accommodations to meet the special needs of its students with disabilities. Students requiring special services should notify me as soon as possible during office hours and via email. Assistance is available from the Center for Disability Services, which is located at Taylor 147. Reach them atcds@aum.edu or (334) 244-3631.