Identifying Affordances and Constraints

Exploit All the ConstraintsSince the snow day interrupted our progress, rough drafts are now due next class period, February 20. The due date, deadline, and presentation dates will remain the same.

We’ll spend a few minutes talking about the dates and the class schedule at the beginning of the session as well as minor change in the class Scholar site. After that conversation, we’ll talk about affordances and constraints and how they apply to the handout we analyzed during the last class session. Finally, I’ll ask you to work in groups to redesign a portion of the handout.

Affordances and Constraints of the Handout

Get out your copies of the flyer titled What is the English Undergraduate Research Conference? and we’ll address these questions:

  1. What are the affordances of the handout?
    In other words, what does the handout allow or encourage you do? What does it make easy for you? What design choices and modes does it allow you to use?
  2. What are the constraints of the handout?
    In other words, how does the handout limit your ability to do things you want to do? What does it make difficult for you? Think about which features of the handout are intuitive and which features are “hidden” or only available to advanced users. What shortcomings are there to a handout?

Now a challenge: how could you redesign the handout, using the same basic tools (orange paper, a photocopier, and presumably a word processor)? What can you do to make the most of the affordances and exploit the constraints?

Redesigning the Text

(This activity will count as your Daily Writing for today)
I’m going to divide you into four groups, and ask each group to rethink the choices for a section of the handout and reconceive how to present the information in a way that makes the best use of reasonably-available resources. Your redesign has to follow these basic ground rules:

  • The redesigned text must fit the same audience and purpose.
  • The design can use any format or genre, except the original choices. In other words, the design cannot be photocopied handouts on orange paper.
  • The best designs will use more than one mode of communication.
  • The design will work within reasonable financial constraints. Look for low or no cost options, but remember that time and expertise are costs too.

As a group decide on a new presentation and think it through enough to be able to describe it to the class. Have someone in your group work as the recorder and post your redesign plan as well as the names of the people in your group in the General Discussion area of the Google+ Community. You can use sketches or a storyboard if you like, but be sure to put them on your Google Drive and share them with me so we can pull them up on the screen. Because of time constraints, your group won’t create the new texts. You are just creating a redesign plan.

At the end of today’s session, your group will present your redesign, explaining why you chose the modes you did and how you took advantage of the affordances and exploited the constraints. If time runs short, we can finish the presentations during next session.

Handout Assignments:

  • Group A: The FAQs on the front of the handout
  • Group B: What do I submit? (the first question on the back)
  • Group C: How do I present? (the second question on the back)
  • Group D: How do I submit? (the third question on the back)


Have a rough draft of Project 2 ready to share in class.