Digital Scene Books
At Bucknell University, Theatre 240 students traditionally compile Director’s Books for two projects during their semester: a short scene and then a longer production. As part of Library and Information Technology’s 2015 Beginning Digital Pedagogy workshop–a workshop that I created and ran–Professor Anjalee Hutchinson designed a template for her students to create their director’s books using WordPress. The template provides instructions and rubrics for each element of the assignment. Students import the template to their WordPress site, replacing the instructions with content as they move through the assignment.
Throughout the process, students learn the various components of directing a play. The scaffolded nature of the assignment–the smaller scene site followed by the more complex final production site–allows students to gain familiarity with the tool and components during the first iteration and then expand their design in the latter project. The digital medium provides them with the ability to incorporate a range of multi-media research and design concepts. Moving from a traditional notebook assignment to a digital one facilitates the development of digital literacy skills, a central concern for Professor Hutchinson as she thinks about skills that theatre students need to acquire to be competitive in the industry after they graduate. The digital Director’s Book also allows students the opportunity to create an artifact of their work as a director that can be readily shared beyond the classroom whether applying for MFA programs, internships, directing programs, or a job with a theatre company.
The assignment has run three semesters, with increasing success. Now, with a cohort of theatre students who have been through the course, we have seen an increase in the quality of the sites. Part of this is due to our continue development of the instructions and rubrics and part of the success lies in the fact that current students seek out help from their colleagues who have been through the process. For me, it has been exciting to see the students develop a critical eye for website design–a skill they apply later when developing their own actor websites. As we think about the skills that students need, I think it is exciting that the theatre department has embraced the need for students to engage in public writing and digital tools.