2018 Computers and Writing

The GIF that Keeps on Giving: Assignment Design with Looped Animations

This mini-workshop explores the potential to use GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) in meaningful ways for assignments within the composition classroom. While an older format (created in 1987), GIFs have experienced a resurgence in popularity and use in the past decade. Often used to convey reactions and emotions, GIFs are visual, moving, and silent looping animations. Eppink (2014) notes that GIFs have “an ethos, a utility, an evolving context, [and] a set of aesthetics” encountered in “physically private but socially public” contexts. The workshop considers various functions of GIFs with their playful ability to capture emotional responses (Posner 2013).

Due to the recent proliferation of digital platforms that host GIFs, the format as a means of communication and as act of composition has become naturalized and therefore invisible. The rise in their popularity makes GIFs important for scholars of digital literacy and composition to understand and utilize in their teaching and research.  We argue that their playful nature, ease of use, and delivery opens GIFs up for new avenues of research, inquiry, and analysis. As such, GIFs can be meaningfully incorporated into the composition classroom as critical components of assignment design and the feedback process.


Facilitators share GIF-based assignments, discussing the ways in which GIFs impacted student learning and response. From these examples, workshop facilitators and participants consider potential avenues for further research in relation to GIFs and composition pedagogy. Participants are then be asked to create GIFs of their own before spending time designing a low-stakes GIF activity. Finally, participants share their activities, creating a repository of GIF assignments for participants to later draw on.

Our slideshow is available at this link. 

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