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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Using video prompts and responses in online creative writing courses

Podcast. One of the most effective approaches to elearning is to provide guided questions that bring together student experiences and the course content. In a creative writing class, the value of using prompts is to keep students focused on a specific technique, and making clear connections to personal experience.

An example is a series of video clips and "mini-lessons" that can be used as prompts in writing what I call "The Heart Journal."

What is the goal of the "Heart Journal"? To find a new way to connect to our "lost" selves, and to understand the hearts we have so assiduously avoided (and / or encased in scar tissue).

Why? Because living with a skinless, raw heart is fun. Think of a peeled grape. That is your heart, after confronting memories and mental images stored in the locked repositories of your mind.

Perhaps you've protected yourself so diligently that you can no longer feel spontaneous feelings. Instead, you process the thoughts, intellectualize your feelings, and then invent an emotional response that seems appropriate.

Perhaps that little survival tactic has served you well. It is probably the reason you're still alive and are gainfully employed (by a non-relative). At the same time, though, your communications with your loved ones are undoubtedly fraught with confusion and misunderstanding. You're missing the messages.

Get the message. Get your heart back.

The procedure is simple. Watch the videos, respond in a journal, and then share.

Students can share via discussion board. Best approach? Create a blogring on

Purpose, Goals, and Motivations 1:

Purpose, Goals, and Motivations 2:



Benefits of video prompts, and video peer responses:

1. Humanizes the learning space;

2. Opens one's mind to new ways of seeing and thinking about things;

3. Provides a sense of a real audience;

4. Engages learner in a more immediate and emotional "dialogue" between learner and facilitator;

5. Makes the writer more responsive to constructive comments by introducing the person;

6. Creates a desire to continue to act / react, and to make an emotional impact.

7. Constructs a feeling of the "real."

8. Makes connection between acting, being, speaking and the creative act of writing.

Typically, the prompts are provided in class. The student takes them home and produces writing to share with the instructor and with fellow writers, who then respond with their own reactions. They share their responses.

Pitfalls to avoid:

1. Follows the model or sample writing too closely;

2. Does not engage the imagination;

3. Seeks cheap laughs or sensation with audience (is that bad?);

4. Avoids some of the deeper issues about human nature and the human condition;

5. Stays on the surface; stays superficial.

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