CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses

Exploring Media Literacy, Rhetoric, and Composition with Joshua Taylor

Joshua Taylor

A first-year term lecturer in Iowa State University’s ISUComm Foundation Communication and Advanced Communication courses, Joshua Taylor’s approach to instruction, pedagogy, and technology integration is consistently driven by ideas of expression and media literacy; his research interests include the social and cultural implication of knowledge formation in digital spaces as well. This multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach to his work at Iowa State University can be traced back to his academic career: Taylor originally graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising. After deciding not to pursue a career in journalism, Taylor moved to North Carolina to attend Western Carolina University, where he received a master’s degree in technical and professional writing. There, he also experienced teaching for the first time, instructing sections of first- and second-year composition, as well as a renewed passion for creative writing. After exploring new pedagogical interests and completing his degree, people within Western Carolina University recommended he apply for Iowa State University’s PhD program in rhetoric in professional communication, emphasizing its multidisciplinary approach.

Taylor’s own multidisciplinary approach is centered in his work at Iowa State University as a (now graduated) PhD student and lecturer. Taylor knew he enjoyed teaching and helping students become better writers and communicators, encouraging individuals to pursue their personal research interests and find ways to express those interests in the formal space of academia. Beyond the elements of rhetoric present in composition courses, Taylor also focuses his research and pedagogy on sociolinguistics. In May of 2020, his co-authored article titled “Access and empowerment in digital language learning, maintenance, and revival: a critical literature review” was published in the Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education journal; the article’s research and findings state: “[the study] used 63 texts from 1990 to 2019 to explore how technologies have been used to empower marginalized indigenous language learners […] we recommend that additional initiatives – further inclusion of indigenous languages within, and increased funding for, mainstream linguistics research – are taken to further develop technology and marginalized populations’ access to them” (1). His Iowa State University PhD dissertation, titled “Digital Tools, Rhetoric, and Meaning-Making: A Critical Exploration of Addressing the Digital Divide and Accessibility to Improve Our Digital Landscape”, states: “My work seeks to ask what is being done within academia regarding critical, digital literacy when applied to student writing, sociolinguistics, and design. The three articles of my dissertation are: a present-day study of student writing to address digital literacy, a critical literature review regarding language inclusivity, and a qualitative analysis of a video game that seeks to explore accessibility through the lens of user experience and design” (vii).

Entering the Iowa State University program and department, he maintained his interest in critical rhetoric in relation to multiple genres and forms, as well as the importance of media literacy. Taylor’s approach to the curriculum in the communication courses maintains its integrity but works to challenge students to consider credibility more centrally in their work. For example, in the multimodal assignment, Taylor asks students to focus on a project where they can analyze information that misrepresents its argument, identifying how composition, communication, and rhetorical devices are central to building credibility. This approach encourages students to become “experts on various perspectives”, becoming informed citizens through academic writing, media and literary analysis, and extensive and well documented research. By emphasizing source legitimacy and media literacy in his instruction, as well as integrating intentional use of classroom space for individual student needs as they work on their projects, Taylor hopes to improve students’ content within their writing.

In the future, Taylor hopes to follow up on the article published in Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, considering how new AI tools could benefit diaspora or displaced populations. In the classroom space, Taylor is reflecting on how to use ChatGPT in a generative and developmental way, rather than using it to directly write content, an evolution and application of his interest in human computer interaction in academia. In the new digital and technological frontiers shifting even in his time researching the topics, Taylor also hopes to continue encouraging students to develop their interpretation and literacy skills through other genres and misinformation presented in them.

When not researching or teaching, Taylor enjoys getting to know the community within Iowa State University’s English Department, heading to Heaping Plato near the Parks Library (as a treat on teaching days), bicycling and hiking, and enjoying a wide range of science fiction and fantasy media.