Using Segue Inside and Outside of a Multimodal Composition Classroom
Contributor: Martha Althea Webber
School Affiliation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Segue is an open source content management system (CMS) created in 2002 at Middlebury College and designed to foster collaborative learning over instructor-centered CMSs like WebCT and Blackboard. Individual Segue sites can have multiple content editors and the possibilities for content now include blogging and podcasting. I used Segue for the first time in the fall of 2006 when I taught Writing With Video, a multimodal composition course with an emphasis on video production and writing, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The university’s computing staff installed and host Segue on their server space, so I approached it from a user’s perspective. I wanted to use a CMS where students with a range of web-publishing skills could create their own sites without making web-publishing a central feature of the class and-more importantly-so that peer response and interaction in the classroom would continue outside of it. What I have come to appreciate about Segue is that its technical features encourage the theoretical premises of my class: compositions cross media forms and modalities; they interact with networks of genres, objects, and authors; and they are constantly revised, both directly and contextually.
Before the first class of the semester, I composed a Segue site that created space for the class syllabus, schedule, main assignment descriptions, my blog, class discussion, resources and links, and a page to link to individual student sites they would create during the semester. Content is so easy to edit on Segue; during classes we would enter the editing mode of the class site and compose assignment descriptions and expectations together. After an initial ten-minute demonstration on how to set up their own Segue site, I encouraged students to create a site by our next meeting where they introduced themselves and played around with some of the content features (enabling discussion features, embedding images or video, uploading files, etc.). They could access a tutorial for Segue hosted on Middlebury College’s website if they needed additional help, but they all were able to create basic sites that would host their work for the semester. For the most part, they chose from the seven themed templates Segue provides, but a handful chose to customize their sites further by writing in html. When students returned, the variety of results was joyously broad and after peer sharing, I encouraged students who had experimented with more advanced features on Segue to give mini-tutorials to the rest of the class. The student Segue sites functioned as a portfolio for the work they completed during the semester-the class was basically paperless-and I even assessed student work directly on their sites with the private assessment content feature.
Since Segue fosters both revision and collaboration, I created the Video Manifesto assignment sequence to structure the class and draw on the content editing features of Segue. First, students accessed Dziga Vertov’s early twentieth century film manifestos in my Segue media library and composed a response to questions I posted in the class discussion section. These questions, inspired by the claims in Vertov’s manifestos, pushed students to think about media forms, how they relate to one another, the role of media producers, and concepts like objectivity, truth, access, and materiality. During the next class, we discussed student responses to the manifestos and then I shifted the discussion for them to consider what it would entail to compose their own video manifestos. In class we generated a list of characteristics for the manifesto genre and I posted these in a new content section on my Segue site. Students returned to their own sites and created video manifestos: my intention was that, in creating these manifestos, students would not only begin to think about how to talk about their video work and what it does, but also begin to think about the decisions they would make during the video filming and editing process.
After they composed a manifesto, students read and responded to a number of other manifestos on student Segue sites and, afterwards, I encouraged them to consider revisiting and editing their own. Through the course of the rest of the semester, students returned to their manifestos after they completed video projects. I prompted them to consider their video productions in relation to their manifestos and connect specific video and textual elements together to show how the video exemplified the tenets of their manifestos. For example, one student wrote about his final video project, “I combined interviews with academics to form one long conversation, or statement, about the political system … this simple and direct approach agrees with my manifesto since it stresses strength in content with an unrelenting focus.” Overall, with the video manifesto assignment, Segue created a space of reflection where students could see how media forms they composed for the class connected to their own work, their peers’ work, and to the course content.
Editor's Note: Segue was decommissioned on August 31st, 2012 and is no longer available for use. The LIS program at Middlebury college maintains a historical description of the system.