Blog,  Literary blogs

Explore the World (through the Web)

My online Journey

This past summer, I was supposed to take my two penultimate English classes at Oxford University. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Or… almost a twice in a lifetime opportunity. I had been accepted into another English study abroad at Oxford the summer before, but I had ended up turning it down because of a family emergency. 

So when I found out that I could work my classes around another study abroad for the summer of 2020, I was ecstatic. I worked my entire schedule around taking the two classes that I wanted in Oxford – a Jane Austen class and a Shakespeare class. What was even more incredible, was that I applied for and received a scholarship that covered the entirety of the trip, discounting the plane ticket. 

And then… 2020 happened. Coronavirus happened. Quarantine happened. Lockdown happened. Study abroad trips… did not happen. I finally learned that my courses would be offered online with Oxford professors, but the trip itself would not happen. 

Such a blow was difficult to deal with while I was quarantined at home, without the hope of going anywhere anytime soon. As the initiation of my class period approached, I tried to swallow my disappointment and enjoy the classes online. Although, I definitely had a pity party the day my plane was supposed to leave, I also dove into reading and preparation for the classes. It certainly wasn’t what I had dreamed it would be for so long, but as my classes begin, I truly did enjoy them. 

Navigating the struggles of dropping WiFi, Teams, Skype, and Zoom was not easy, but at times I would sit and marvel at the fact that I was able to learn from an Oxford tutor who was sitting in a different country and different time zone through technology. I’m sure every student, employee, and just person in general has grown a new appreciation in the past seven months for the way we are able to connect over long distances through almost instantaneous video calls. 

Traveling through Space and Web

The confines of space have been broken down through connections over the internet. In fact, the internet has a space of its own. We go to the ‘explore’ page, and then we come back ‘home’. We ‘surf’ or ‘browse’ the web, and we talk about ‘webspace’ all with an awareness that the internet has a different spacial reckoning than we do in our physical atmosphere. 

In honor of the Shakespeare class I was meant to take in Oxford, I have enjoyed exploring a digital text, Focus On “Henry V” which was created by Dr. Sujata Iyengar and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin. This multimodal creation is more than just an online book – it is an experience. It literally feels like you are traveling through the pages. 

As I explore the digital book and its non-linear organization, it reminds me that digital resources hold the key to new ways of learning. This book for instance, is multimodal in the fact that it includes audio, visuals, paratexts, source studies, stage notes, teaching guides, and so much more. 

Future of Education?

The exploration that is opened by this type of book makes me excited as a student. I love teaching myself new things and in new ways. My imagination jumps ahead to see how this type of resource could serve teachers and students. I have a background in being homeschooled and taking online classes, so I know that having skills of being able to explore and retain new information is paramount to being self-taught. 

I believe that this type of open educational resource could become a part of every level of the educational system. In some ways, the open resource could help to level out disparities between students of different backgrounds. While at the same time, there are issues for students who do not have the same access to the internet. Nevertheless, the hope is that schools and libraries open doors for those students as well. 

One of the things that excites me the most about this type of multimodal book, is that it is so easy to learn once your interest is piqued. Not every person/student/student-of-life would find the same topics interesting, but that is the incredible thing about these resources: they can become such an individualized and self-guided teaching method. 

We know that a traditional classroom setting is not catered to any student, instead it is aiming to meet the greatest number of students where they are. In doing so, though, their unique learning methods are not engaged. I see this type of resource becoming commonly used to allow students to learn that they can enjoy learning. People are hardwired to learn new things and to seek more information about the things they are interested in; they need only to learn what it is they are interested in. 

Design of Focus on “Henry V”

This book is created with aesthetic experience, story, interaction, and design in mind, just as the Designs of Message advises. The aesthetic experience is beautifully designed. There are fixed parallax images on the scroll in the Overview of the book. This book is a piece of moving artwork. There are beautiful background images throughout, but the thing that impresses me the most, is the visualizations tab. There are seven different ways to visualize the content, including the Connections which is a mind-bending tab to say the least. 

The story itself is consistent with Shakespeare’s “Henry V” along with additional course information that has to do with his source material, critic’s responses, and scholarly articles. This combination of different materials also creates a new story in and of itself – showing that the medium creates a message. 

In fact, the digital book is ever-evolving, because it is literally changed by the interaction of audience. When viewing the Paths tab under visualization, the viewer can see how others travel a path through the book to get to their desired destination.

One of my favorite aspects of Focus on “Henry V” is the design and they way it helps the reader envision Shakespeare’s work in a three-dimensional way. Having a multimedia source allows the book to escape the constraints of one medium and make the best use of the space it is in. 

It is an adventure to “travel” through the book, because it uses space creatively. In a way, the book is a transmedia composition, as it pulls in YouTube videos and audio from different sources. 

Conclusion

The Focus on “Henry V” is a great example of a multimodal digital resource. In looking at this, I am brainstorming ideas for how to include more multimedia in my own writing and on this blog! Stay tuned to {hopefully} see some creative communication of information!

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