A nuanced approach to the multimodal transformation project in composition.
The "Tanked Presentation" is inspired by the ABC network's show "Shark Tank." The general idea of the presentation is that a team of students work together on a project that is broken up into three parts (product, marketing materials, and presentation) and is presented to four "Sharks" (outside representatives) in competition with the rest of their peers. The presentation model is typically broken into three parts: ~2 minute uninterrupted pitch, ~1 minute of distribution of materials, and ~8 minutes of Q&A with the Sharks. The product (in my composition class) has typically been a Twine game or a coded narrative created in Minecraft: Education Edition, but any number of completed projects can be used to fit the purpose of the course.
Scaffolding the Project: Giving Students the Tools to Compose
Since the the Tanked Presentation is the final project of the semester--often called the multimodal transformation project--it is important to make sure it doesn't feel thrown in at the end. Now, I am extremely fortunate in the fact that Clemson University provides the entire Adobe cloud to its students, staff, and faculty and we have full technical support on campus. However, you do not need to have Adobe products to do this. I have provided some links at the bottom of this page that might be useful when making media for this presentation through free and open-source technologies.
Throughout my semester (about once every two-three weeks) I do a demo in the classroom for a new technology that we will use throughout the semester. I typically start with Adobe Spark, GoogleDrive, and Adobe Behance to make sure all students are confident in their ability to post their work and create simple presentations and process logs. Within the first five weeks, they are introduced to video editing software--here, Adobe Premiere--and we work on cutting together assets in the class with minor transitions, discussion of editing to sound, and also speeding up/slowing down the asset. This gives them the skills to make their own videos each week and allows them to explore the capabilities of the program. Weeks later I would do a more advanced tutorial on Premiere, introduce Photoshop and Lightroom, and eventually InDesign.
Now, to keep students invested in their work, it is important to make sure you allow the students to continue to work on a sustained idea or topic throughout the semester. I have my students in FYC start with an exploratory assignment to find a topic, then the proposal, annotated bibliography, and the research guided essay. Once completed, they elect projects in class to work on in groups, divide themselves out based on interest and skills, and then create project teams around one of (typically) five projects. They start with the transmediation by creating graphic assets that represent the ideas in the project. I have done this in Minecraft: Education Edition, Adobe Illustrator, and have even done a makerspace workshop. This jumpstart visual rhetorical analysis (they exchange with groups for analysis) is a jumpstart to get the students working and thinking together as an affinity group. Finally, the students start to create the game to address their pressing issue and the marketing and presenting materials that will be used in the Tanked Presentation.
(Hint: If you are going to use Twine or ask for NPC and roleplaying elements in Minecraft, I highly recommend having students complete lessons in HTML or Java to learn basic coding syntax and grammar to better prepare them for their project. Oftentimes there is a student that already knows these basics and will do it for the team.)
Presentation Genre Analysis: Academic vs. Authentic Presentations
My first two semesters teacher were boring and uninspired. The final presentations at the end were also uninspired and boring. Nobody wanted to do these. I was lucky enough to be at Eastern Michigan University which had the Celebration of Student Writing (found HERE) which gave students an authentic audience to present to, but it still felt artificial. Students would write a script or just read the first two paragraphs of a project with minimal eye contact and would often shake all the way through because they were not confident in their work. They often expressed that they felt isolated and that all eyes were on them. They did not look forward to the presentation, and neither did I.
The Tanked Presentation integrates a project team-based presentation that can be found in many workplaces and some upper-level classes in STEM fields. Students work to their strengths and do not have to utter a word the day of the presentation if they supported their team's work before presentation day. There is a project leader, the charismatic presenter, the coder, and the media specialist (more on this below). They felt that they were contributing and became more invested in the group work. The project doesn't allow for one person to get stuck with it all because they sign a "project contract" where each member signs on for one or more responsibilities which are evenly distributed. The accountability and support from peers makes it feel authentic.
Their audience is still their peers, but they are not competing with the other teams to earn accolades from the "sharks." They aren't alone because they are standing at the front of the room with several others. They are only responsible for a two-minute presentation, so the entire focus isn't on the speaker. The eight-minute Q&A is more like a conversation which pushes the students on their knowledge of their own project. The investment is incredible. Most actually look forward to the presentation and are proud of their game and accomplishments.
Grouping Up: Creating a Project Team
The project teams are pretty easy to set up. Students will nominate their own projects to be transmediated and we take a class period to vote on projects that the class wants to work on. Then, students market their skills on a spreadsheet that align with the requirements of the projects. Some students don't write anything and just say they are willing to help in any way they can, which doesn't make them as marketable, but there is still a spot for them at the end. I typically ask students to check off boxes that have the following: Coding Skill; Game Design Skill; Public Speaking; Project Management/Leadership; Document Design; Poster Design; Creative Writing. I have sometimes allowed students to pick their own groups, and other times have assigned them groups based on their interest in a project and what skills are needed. Both worked beautifully.
Once they are together as a team, they explain visions for the project, their roles, and exchange contact information. From the first moment, you can see the fear, but also excitement for working on the project together. Most of them meet up daily (virtually or face-to-face) to discuss the game or marketing materials and projects rapidly form and change. One group, a year after their presentation, still talk and work on games together. The collegiality that is formed in about a month of work is amazing.
Below is an example (just one iteration) of the project and presentation. If you would like any other resources, please let me know via email: email@example.com.
The following must also accompany the text adventure:
Additional Marketing Materials:
Extra Credit Opportunities
The following must also accompany the text adventure:
Additional Marketing Materials:
Things to think about for the presentation:
- Overall goal/purpose of the game
- Target audience
- Guild motivation for making game (exigence)
- Use Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to persuade
Day of Presentation
The presentation will be broken into THREE parts:
- You will have up to Two Minutes to pitch the game to the sharks.
- Presentation materials will then be given to the Sharks (about 60 seconds)
- Up to Eight Minutes of Q&A from Sharks
Each presentation will total 10 minutes. We will start promptly at the start of class, and we will quickly move into the first presentation. Each team is expected to be on time and ready to present once the team before them finishes.
Resources and Examples
Here are some technologies I have used for this project:
- Adobe After Effects (Video Effects)
- Adobe Audition (Audio recording/editing)
- Adobe Behance (Image/video Hosting and Portfolio) [free]
- Adobe InDesign (Document Design)
- Adobe Lightroom (Photo Manipulation)
- Adobe Photoshop (Photo Manipulation)
- Adobe Premier (Video Editing)
- Adobe Spark (images, posters, websites, or videos) [free]
- Canva (posters) [free]
- MakeBeliefsComix (Make comic strips) [free]
- Minecraft: Education Edition (free trial/$5 a year)
- Plasq (make comics [free and pay models]
- Scratch (make simple games through programing) [free]
- Slack (team site) [free]
- Storyboarder (make storyboards) [free]
- Sway (Advanced presentations. Similar to Spark) [free]
- Teams (Microsoft teams software) [free]
- TimeLine (make timelines) [free]
- TinEye (reverse image search) [free]
- Trello (team site) [free]
- Twine (text-adventure software) [free]