Kairos and Power

There is a story in Smith’s Rhetoric and Human Consciousness about Marin Luther causing an uprising months after he published a paper in an unexpected area. The Printing Press was very new technology, authors hadn’t considered circulation and kairos because circulating texts had been difficult and expensive so very few were circulated.

Today I read a post on Chronicle of Higher Ed about recent identity politics issues. While these are important discussions, what struck me were the examples of social media critique that stopped movements. Without self-reflection on the influence of our own subject positions, arguments may carry bias. With the internet publication cycle (anytime, anywhere), this can cause power issues in addition to the expected circulation issues.

As I’m beginning to formalize my plans for Web Writing and Content Management, this idea struck me as especially important today. In a course focused on the circulation of text, the plans to structure communication in meaningful ways, how do I address issues of power as they relate to the content.

Web Writing and Content Management is a course closely related to Technical Writing and Business Writing. While the impact of text and document design is briefly discussed by these fields (in textbooks – I’m focusing specifically on textbooks here not scholarship), it’s still just a brief discussion. Yet, Universal Design for Learning, Document Design for Social Justice, and the power of unconscious bias in text are important conversations directly related to all the assignments created for such a course.

In my current Advanced Writing course, the Document Design for Social Justice article resonated the most with students, but after the course conversation, most chose not to continue with this discussion in the papers they submitted. How do I not just design accessible content, but focus on teaching accessible content design, the importance of accessible content design as a primary concern?

In my composition courses I’ve begun to structure them based on key concepts, as an approach to learning composition through threshold concepts (organizing learning structure to support transfer and recall). What will this look like accounting for UDL and potential content bias? What key concept can support critically engaged thinking while teaching approaches to writing and structuring content in meaningful ways? What can a Content Management course look like structured by learning-based writing concepts modified to support content management specific writing so writers consider UDL and power?

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The New Twitter

Recently I posted on the value of Twitter in the classroom. As Twitter has fully embraced the extension to 280 characters, I’m wondering how this changes my use in the classroom.

In my last post I walked through my 5 “why I use Twitter in the classroom” ideas. Of those 5 reasons, brevity made my list at #5 with “focus on communicating the message”. Even at #5, and even as I mentioned, 280 characters is brief! For instance, this paragraph is 280 characters.

While I don’t love the decision, I liked how hard 140 characters made communicating (and I worry how much more drama will be possible with 280 characters), I want to shift the conversation to the possibilities for pedagogy.

This semester I worked on developing assignments that asked students to engage with analysis in their writing – to analyze articles in class, to extend conversations, to find the ongoing conversation, to add their own ideas and opinions. Getting students to extend conversations means hoping they read the article well enough that we could begin the conversation with a brief overview, then extend begin analysis. There were good days and bad days with the initial reading expectations with students. As we move into the later portion of the semester, the reading and willingness to discuss has decreased further.

This is where I think the 280 characters might actually add to pedagogy – where the additional length might serve educators.

First, I should begin with quizzes. I know a lot of faculty who give various reading quizzes. Basically, check-ins to ensure the students completed the reading to support discussion in class. I like this idea, but I hate quizzes.

Second, I know a lot of faculty who require written reading summaries. I hate building all the assignment submission links for students to upload summary writing. I feel I have to undo so much summary writing work to teach analysis in writing if I require these summaries regularly.

In the Fall semester I required students to post Summary Tweets (ST:) before class began – in addition to the required tweets for class – to facilitate discussion. For the most part this was successful, it increased engagement with the materials because an assignment was attached to the reading. The downside, students read conversation posts for the gist of the reading without actually reading the assignment. This is both good and bad:

  • Good: students read for conversation. Even if they didn’t read the article, in browsing through the posted summary tweets, students were able to read for conversation to determine the main themes of the reading. As a reading skill that will support good writing – this is amazing.
    • While I didn’t use the summary tweet approach this semester I want to investigate how this reading can support awareness of these reading. Can students summarize AND reflect on reading/writing practices now that Twitter has allowed for more writing?
    • Can students analyze and development mindful awareness of their writing when reflecting on the readings?
  • Bad: students didn’t read the assignment.
    • Students who did read the assignment struggled more with differentiating their post from peers than on engaging with the materials.
    • Students who did read the assignment read to post a summary, not to engage with the materials.
    • Can all of these bad be overcome with the mindfulness and reflection that could help students learn writing?

Ultimately, my major concerns are students need to read the assignments, but students also need less practice with summarizing the articles. Yes, summarizing, quickly, author points in essays is an important skill. But, analysis and doing something with that information is so much more important. How can the increased character count in Twitter support better writing about the readings?

I really think the key is in mindfulness and reflection. Having students not just tweet the summary, but reflect on why that part, how they read and found that section, why they find it important, what they learned about analyzing that information. In this way, students will be responsible for demonstrating their learning (less important), and be responsible to their own learning (super important).

Now, to actually develop an action plan for implementing this……Spring 2018 with Twitter at 280 character, here I come 🙂

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Twitter in the Classroom

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education post, Jason B Jones discusses Heather Froehlich’s steps for using Twitter. These pro-Twitter discussions inspired me to write a “why I assign Twitter in the Classroom”.

  1. Finding the conversation: in using a course hashtag students build consistent conversation, and students join ongoing conversation. A consistent place to find class discussion, and practice wading through who they choose to follow to find the content conversations builds so many important critical thinking and media literacy skills directly related to writing and composing!
  2. Entering the conversation: one of the key features of Twitter is public writing, all the time. In learning to join that conversation in productive ways for a composition course, students develop awareness of entering ongoing conversations. Again, a key learning feature of composition courses.
  3. Public writing: students often enter higher education with varying social media accounts. As younger generations continue to find digital tools that older generations don’t understand (hello Snapchat), the tools will change. Selecting a social media tool that students curate public intellectual writing for the duration of the semester could help them in their futures.
  4. Community building: the 140 (or 280 in new Twitter) character limit shifts the composing practices of students. It’s rare that students will use their 140 characters to communicate something inane like “I agree with what you’re saying here #coursehashtag”. I think the combination of entering ongoing course conversations (thanks course hashtag)
  5. Focus on communicating the message: Twitter only allows 140 characters! Even if the 280 trial run extends to all users, 280 characters is not much space for communicating clearly.

While students may push back a bit, or require some time to become accustomed to public conversations, the use of Twitter has real benefits for students too. Their public writing is practice for the public nature of the internet, and a space that allows students to curate their public social media profiles in meaningful ways for future employers. They can highlight the engaged ways they interact with others in a real social media archive. They can lock down other profiles, leaving just their course related public writing visible to potential employers – showcasing their writing strengths and ethos development.

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Supporting Writing

On Friday October 20th we celebrated National Day on Writing on campus. This NCTE supported day draws attention to writing, who writes and why I write (with #WhyIWrite). While I love the Twitter encouragement, the sticky notes and white board discussions, what else encourages writing?

At the celebration of writing, I worked with the George Street Press to host a table of origami, blackout poetry, collage poetry/writing, prompt writing, and coloring. During the crafting event I was asked by a writing studies colleague how collage making, coloring, and origami supported writing. A very fair question. For me, this resonates with ideas of mindfulness. Deliberately approaching thinking, thinking about thinking, and relaxing in thinking to support idea development and writing.

So, how did origami help me write:

I found out i’m not very good at origami when following vague directions (I’ve made a few ninja throwing stars for my son so this is NOT a new revelation). I do need guidance, and for someone to let me work, but also add intervention when helpful. While I started my crafting at National Day on Writing at this table, I really thought about revision while working through origami. When students wanted to work on their own pieces, I moved on to other tables, but was able and willing to return and revisit and revise my approaches to paper folding. As I read and talk to students about how tied they are to one-shot writing I see the need for this revisiting in spaces where students can develop comfort with the practice so they can develop connections to their writing practices.

Collage Poetry:

I next went to collage poetry. The students at this table wanted to talk extensively about writing, writing and their classes, writing and their majors, writing in general. Collage making is an activity that requires focus and planning (again solid practices for writing) but doesn’t always require complete focus (like black-out poetry). The space for discussion, for students to converse freely outside of class about writing concerns was amazing. I think the balance of attention, materials, physical interaction with objects, and ability to discuss with peers was the most appealing, important part of this activity. Writers need to talk about their ideas, they need to work through how they understand their process in meaningful ways so they can deploy their process effectively to suit their needs. As I observed this table off and on during the two hours, I saw so much productive conversation (even when it didn’t relate to writing). I’m really exploring all the ways this can be used in the classroom to support discussions about writing, as a major part of writing practices development.

Coloring:

This was by far the most popular table. As a Digital Media professor I try really hard to be aware of my digital choices, so I found open source coloring pages posted by various museums. This also meant that the coloring pages were really random. But, students seemed to really enjoy selecting and coloring the various flowers, images, and weird animals I found. Again, this is an activity that can support engaged discussion on any number of topics. During my summer grad writing class I used coloring activities while we discussed theories from the course textbook. At Day on Writing attendees could discuss whatever they wanted. With a little more direction, this could better support discussion of writing practices and writing theory. But, the mindfulness and relaxation should be considered in support of writing practices generally. Taking time to just color can be very beneficial for any number of reasons.

While none of this is backed with anything more than anecdotal evidence, I was really impressed with student engagement with non-writing activities, at an event they knew was designed to support writing. I think we can be more strategic with the table, and offer more seats, to help direct student mindfulness while crafting. But, on their own, students did amazing things about writing while crafting with no directions! I call that a win!

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Observing Teachers Teaching

This semester I’m Co-Chair of a committee in my department that observes the teaching of our non-tenured faculty. I want to spend some time consider what I’m learning about teaching from observing teaching (practicing my #meta pedagogy).

Scaffolding

Composition instructors spend amazing amounts of time developing strongly scaffolded assignments in their syllabi. To help students understand the connections we really need to be overt in discussing the connections between assignments – connections to the overall learning goals. I’ve noticed students in classes where the scaffolding was overt, where the connections were discussed, asked excellent questions about writing and their assignment. Questions to help guide and develop their thinking.

Awareness and Language

The advantage to these overt discussions was language development. Students in sections with discussions about the assignment connections developed richer language about assignments, learning, composition, writing practices, etc.

Students benefit from understanding the language that surrounds writing. When freshmen composition students ask questions about identifying arguments in persuasive opinion articles, and about the effectiveness of supporting detail, they are able to discuss how arguments develop. In aiding students with developing rich language surrounding writing, they can use that language to identify and understand writing in other classrooms, in other situations.

In my classroom observations I saw students ask more complex questions when they had language to support their questions. I know there are many different theories to support this approach to teaching writing. How do we share these results? What results will be most meaningful to faculty members to adjust their curriculum to support stronger student writing development including the language and metacongition that supports understanding of their own writing?

 

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Makerspaces at Conferences

This past weekend I presented at the Feminisms and Rhetorics 2017 conference. I presented a maker session on using coding robots (my ozobots) to support learning writing processes and theories (maker pedagogy with a focus on transfer).

The conference call for papers included a call for maker sessions, but for this conference it seemed very few presenters submitted to publish under that category. I attempted to attend a few maker sessions that didn’t happen, and generally did not see many listed in the program. Whatever the cause for fewer maker sessions, it caused interesting mindset reactions in my session.

I presented on Friday afternoon – after a largish lunch with our keynote speaker. The conference began on Wednesday, lasted all day and into late evening on Thursday, included activist sessions and workshops Friday morning, followed by our keynote address, then my session. By my session many attendees seemed a bit overwhelmed and tired. There was a lot of conference happening before my session. What I appreciated most was the joy and excitement in my session when I told attendees the point was to give them time to experience my theory pedagogy, they were going to play with robots.

While i’ll follow-up later with discussions of the theories, I want to take a short break to discuss the idea of maker time at conference to support good learning at conferences. Educators burn-out too. We become overwhelmed at conferences. My session now has me wondering if there should be more productive ways to organize conferences to build in experimental time, experience time, play time.

What i’m not arguing is that my format was the best. What I am considering is the way my play-based format, using the ozobots and some keynote theory slides, but focusing on spending time with the theories as experiential learning offered time for attendees to process some of their learning. Even if attendees never use robots (I understand the cost prohibitive nature of this tech – I only have 4 which influences how I design some of my pedagogy), even if attendees don’t process my theories but some of what they’ve learned from other sessions, could there be benefits to makerspaces at conferences where all attendees work through their own learning in experiential ways that are meaningful to them?

With a focus on transfer (I’m reading How People Learn, I highly recommend these ideas), I’m also wondering how makerspaces can aid learning transfer. How can attendees use these maker practices in new spaces to continue to support their own development. While being overloaded with ideas for new projects is great, it’s also exhausting. Can makerspaces help information processing in meaningful ways?

I feel this post has even fewer answers than I normally provide, I’m epically failing as an education blogger by just adding more questions to an already complex field, but I’m really happy with these ideas. I’m also considering possible applications in the classroom. Yes, I use robots, but with course times, regularly engaging maker activities requires a lot of work (and areas where I need to improve my approach to flipping). How does the classroom need to be reimagined for this to work? This same question would apply to conferences too – how would a conference be reimagined to allow for maker learning processing space? How do we get student/attendee buy-in for such a different approach? I have tons of students who love lectures, they are comfortable with and familiar with lectures, modify that approach and students need guidance. I’m assuming conference attendees would be similarly mystified to new approaches to conference learning. How do we teach students/attendees how to learn in these new approaches?

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Digital Tools for Theory

This post is especially written for my ENGL 671 Participatory Culture and Social Media Studies class. Here are some tools to consider for your digitizing the article project. These may also offer ideas as you develop your digital methods. This is not a complete list, these are tools I’ve used with considerations for how they help you design learning. If these don’t meet the learning needs you imagined, let me know and we’ll search for the right tool. Focus on the learning, not just representing the ideas, but how a user/learner will interact with that digitized information for learning.

Text Analysis: https://voyant-tools.org/

  • This tool helps you create standard word clouds, and includes tools for some textual analysis. Consider what this tool can visualize from a text, and if those visualizations, those focuses on words, will help you digitally present your key ideas.

Word Cloud Generator: wordart.com

  • This tools has options for customizing word clouds. Consider what word clouds can show about text – the repetition of words, highlighting key phrases. You may need to manually manipulate this information (and design) to support your point.

Interactive Video/Images: https://www.thinglink.com/edu

  • This tools offers options for interactive video and images. Consider meaningful interaction for the learning you want to happen. Don’t just add cool tools, integrate meaningful interaction points (digital rhetoric) that help users (my DH focus on people) learn in meaningful ways. If a user can quickly click through everything without engaging they won’t learn. If a user can’t find where to click, they won’t learn.

Pin Boards: https://padlet.com/

  • This tool offers virtual sticky notes, shapes, and text tools to create a virtual pin board. Consider how to break up text, how to organize and visually display text. Messy organization and lengthy text blocks could make this unusable to viewers.

Annotate Images: http://www.szoter.com/

  • This tools offers ways of annotating images with text and shapes. Consider what images in combination with text in combination with annotations offers learners.

Comic Strip: https://www.canva.com/create/comic-strips/

  • This tool offers templates for comic strips. Consider how character interaction in short comic strips could help a learner engage with your ideas.

Infographics: https://piktochart.com/

  • This tool offers free templates for Infographics, Reports, and printables. Consider how to visually organize information. Similar to other digital tools – infographics with giant blocks of text are visually unappealing to learners. Integrate designs and shapes to help offset information and represent information with visuals.

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Rules, Games and Rhetorical Theory

Douglas Eyman Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice

In Chapter 2 of his book, Eyman reviews the applications of rhetorical theory to digital contexts as scholars work through the difficult question: ‘what is digital rhetoric?’. Eyman spends time discussing the way theorists have reimagined the rhetorical canon – notably Brooke’s Lingua Fracta: Toward a rhetoric of new media. While Eyman’s discussion is lengthy and detailed I want to focus on just one tiny detail here.

Eyman sites Porter and Sullivan (1994) saying “[b]ecause rhetoric is a situated and applied art, it generates principles, not rules. The difference is significant: principles are always interpreted and adjusted for situations (and rarely survive in pure form); rules circumscribe absolute boundaries (115)” (64 in Eyman’s text). Stated another way, context matters to rhetoric, and rhetoric must be understood in context. This is an important distinction for me, and seems to be my breaking point with Eyman – the digital in digital rhetoric cannot be the only context considered!

As a side note, I forgot my computer charger this morning, not noticing until I arrived at work. I began asking around to borrow a power cord – the IT department, Library, and Instructional Design team don’t lend chargers. While waiting for my cord to be delivered (thank you to my wonderful husband), I needed to find ways of completing digital work from my phone (an Android) – a much smaller screen, very different interface from my MacBook. I produced tweets – similar tweets to what I would’ve produced had I used my computer, but how I interfaced to create the tweets, my thought process for approaching my digital work was completely different. While this happened today as I was considering the content of this post was both frustrating and fortuitous, I am really noticing the lack of humans in digital rhetorical theory today.

As someone who studies new media, rhetoric and games, this play on principles and rules is really meaningful to me. In this chapter, Eyman’s goal is to work through existing discussions of digital rhetoric, the glows and the grows (a Lesson Study approach to showcasing praxis recently adopted by the Center for Academic Excellence at my institution – I love the terminology), specifically the ways the canon has been adapted to study production of digital texts more frequently than analysis.

This emphasis on how – production – makes sense. Interacting with interfaces is new, as interfaces continue to change, as new tools are developed, as new ways of communicating becomes possible through these interfaces and tools, users must determine how to deploy, users make choices in how they construct their digital communication acts. What is seen, what is viewable by the rhetorician, are the ‘final’ product choices (‘final’ because interfaces can and do and should change!). As Brooke points out, reimagining the canons can add to the fields understanding of rhetoric. But, the canons were designed by Aristotle in a time when oral rhetoric had a time and place for delivery. With digital tools, no digital communication is ever complete/done/delivered. Stale content on a website is an evil in the digital age – updating information to entice users to continue to visit the site is the expectation.

This is where I think a return to principles and rules – especially influenced by games and play – can add a lot to discussions of digital rhetoric. Eyman points out that Aristotle’s canon of rhetorical practice is heavy handed in rules. For example, Aristotle offers a discrete list of fallacies – of all possible arguments to be adapted to all situations. While useful during Aristotle’s time for the fixed audience and purpose of rhetorical education (democracy and public forum government), this approach is heavily rules based so constantly adapted to meet contemporary needs and contemporary understanding of the situatedness of rhetoric. For this reason, Eyman, very wisely, frames his approach in practices.

However, because I’ve played games (and become a competitive nightmare) like Fluxx where the rules and goals change with every turn, I think Eyman’s framing on principles needs to also account for the human element behind the decisions. In Fluxx games, the strategy is often to hold on to new goal cards until you can play the rule, action and keeper cards to win. This requires a combination of cards in your hand/deck, and a lack of cards in another players. Often this also requires in-play rules allowing/requiring players to play 3 or more cards per hand (long set-ups to playing new goals can be easily overridden by other players). The cards are shuffled, they will appear in the deck in any random order – it is up to the players (and their understanding of the game) to play the cards (to run the code in computer terms).

When discussing rules and principles of digital rhetorical theory, the principles and canonical adaptations need to account for human choice. While this leads to super messy theory – because we really can’t guess what a human will do – this accounting goes beyond invention (overall aligning my discussion with Eyman who similarly finds the canons binding).

This is where game theory, play theory, can offer a lot to discussions of ‘what is digital rhetoric?’. In games, rules are meant to be played with, often players determine which rules to enact, which rules to enforce, which rules even become active in a given game. I played Life with my husband and son and they bought stock. I can’t remember ever buying stock in the game previously. In my family growing up, those rules never became active and we chose to ignore the game pieces provided. In Fluxx games the players actively choose to make rules and goals. In both situations, play depends more on principles than rules. Play theories account for and recognize the situatedness of rule enacting.

As I work through theories of play for a November presentation I’ll continue to refine this idea. Initially I see the moment in Eyman’s digital rhetorical theory discussion where play theory would further complicate the ideas, and also bring the users back into the discussion in important ways. What is digital rhetoric without the users? How can we reimagine the question ‘what is digital rhetoric?’ to also account for and acknowledge the users?

The consideration of what play theory can offer is still just a kernel of an idea……

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LMS and Critical Digital Pedagogy

I’m presenting at FemRhet 2017 in October on Ozobots and writing process. I love the idea of makerspaces, programming robots, but I want to be able to use the technologies available to meet the needs of composition learners. I want to use technology and colorful markers to help students engage with learning about their own writing process to facilitate transfer. So these theories of teaching composition tend to influence how I make meaning. I’ll come back to my coding bots, but I want to detour to theory for a minute.

Critical Digital Pedagogy, as discussed by Hybrid Pedagogy authors and recently in an post by Sean Morris titled “Reading the LMS against the backdrop of critical pedagogy, part one”, argues for critical engagement with digital technologies to understand/question in what ways power and control are reinforced. Difficult, but worthy questions about the digital technologies we use.

In Morris’ recent article, he encourages readers to question the tools provided by Learning Management Systems. Ultimately asking, in what ways are the tools provided data collectors instead of learning facilitators? Page views is an excellent example. LMS, like the one I use for my courses, tells me (the course shell owner) which students have visited a given page. I can even build alerts when students haven’t visited a page and they should have – or haven’t logged in to the system and they should have. But, and this is an important point made by Morris, content page view in no way indicates learning.

However, dismissing the page view also dismisses the students who did learn by engaging with the page and the page content. Dismissing the page view ignores the ways lack of page view can be an early indicator that a student needs help. Ultimately, critical digital pedagogy should ask us to consider all the alternatives, not just the ones that allow us to dismiss corporate technologies adopted and funded by universities to manage students.

Do LMS have issues? Yes, of course they do.

Do faculty often adopt tools and systems without critical engagement? Of course they do, but not everyone.

Morris calls for stepping back and analyzing the tool. I agree, we need to choose tools that meat pedagogical goals, not ones that are available, easy, or used by everyone. But we also don’t need to use tools in the way they are designed! We instructors and students are the ones asking these hard questions, so why do we have to answer philosophically? Why can’t we decide to subvert the use instead to meet our pedagogical needs?

Wholesale dismissal reduces the productive conversations that could occur from the questions Morris (and other critical digital pedagogy, critical pedagogy theorists) poses. And this is my struggle with critical digital pedagogy – instead of arguing for engaged pedagogical praxis that open classroom space for students to critically engage with digital systems, critical digital pedagogy dismisses the systems as anti-teaching. At one point Morris discusses, in an off-hand reference, that design can be subverted, but not time is spent on that discussion. The article focuses on raising questions about tool design, discussing the student behavior tracking (Skinner and behaviorism, yay), then dismissing LMS. Fine, the systems have issues, but students are real people, with real lives. Asking students to manage a myriad of new systems every semester as they navigate higher education seems cruel.

In this way, critical digital pedagogy ignores the humans using the systems, and the pedagogy of the teacher.

Which brings me back to my robots. I love Ozobots because they move, they dance, and they light up. These sensory cues offer real connection to represent writing and writing process differently. To create a path for the robot, students must draw a line (or use a code sequence) for the robot to follow. The students use different colored markers in wavy lines, circles, script, and so much more to find ways for the Ozobot to drive through their representation of the writing process.

Ozobots were designed to teach kids to code, to teach them in a fun way that involves colors and markers so young kids could engage with the ideas. The ozobot website typically offer mazes to help young students engage with STEM based fields. I critically engaged with coded design, and decided the robots offer so many more possibilities. In subverting the robot design I create space for students to engage with writing process, to use colored markers (college students LOVE markers!), to work together to develop a path for the robot to embody their very real, lived struggles with writing. They have moments of catharsis, moments of transfer, and, importantly, so many moments of fun when they engage. This was made possible by critical pedagogy. This was made possible by subverting designed usage, and considering the ways students could engage differently to support better writing learning. When students present their maps they discuss the real struggles to use markers and a robot to represent their processes – they engage with subverting the technology.

As I continue to read critical digital pedagogy as I prepare my materials for my Ozobot presentation I continue to become frustrated with the missing human element in so many of these discussions. Why can’t we subvert from inside the system? Why can’t we allow technology management to be a little easier for our stressed out students? With questionable job prospects, increasing hours worked while attending school, and huge student loans, is critical digital pedagogy from within the system really such a horrible thing? #subvertthesystem

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Critical Attention and Digital Tech

Selfe, C.L. (1999). Technology and Literacy: A story about the perils of not paying attention. College Composition and Communication, 50(3), 411-436.

I haven’t read Selfe’s call for critical attention, critical awareness of technology since grad school. I had forgotten how much I like this article. I want to talk about why I assigned it, and why so many of her suggestions continue to be necessary reminders.

First, I assigned this article in my Social Media grad class that meets tonight as an introduction to the field of Rhetoric and Composition, specifically digital writing and social media. Most of the students in our program study and teach literature – so before we jump into digital rhetoric and digital humanities texts I really want to discuss the foundational ideas about literacies and technologies that shape so many of our research questions and influence public discussions of technologies. I’ve read one too many “ban all phones because teens are depressed” articles recently that never ask – are teens more depressed now? Do these teens have an outlet for discussing their experiences, their depression? Do they have people to help them work through these ideas who destigmatize mental health, take them seriously, and work to help them feel comfortable and confident? In most cases, the depression (causation error – thank you rhetoric training) linked to facebook results in a call for banning phones and facebook. While I don’t want to extoll the virtues of facebook (or my favorite twitter), and I’m not just arguing for the need to include digital technologies, I really do believe that to address the issues teens face we need to critically question the values influencing the cause and effect issues in our logic.

What I love about Selfe’s call is her focus on literacies and values, and her lengthy discussions of how school curriculum, public funding, values, and politics all influence what is taught and where it is taught. The inclusion or not of technology is always political – and in either case unless students are using and critically examining, we’re doing a disservice to our students. I’ve also been reading Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole where she draws attention to ALL. THE. THINGS that influence composing and a composing situation (lights, food, water, desk height, chair comfort, etc.). I want to discuss what Shipka’s call for paying attention to everything surrounding composing adds to Selfe’s call for critical awareness. Both are so important!

Second, I’ve also assigned the article to my undergrads. I want them to grapple with how we ask questions about critical awareness of technology in relation to writing and why writing. So often, students complete composition courses simply because they are ‘required’. We know that affects their mindset about the course (in some positive and some negative ways). My goal is to raise awareness of all the places they compose, and all the choices they subconsciously make when they compose.

I saw a link floating around facebook – a composition course with the theme of Master of None. While theme’d courses are a whole discussion themselves, as I read Selfe’s article and considered Shipka’s call for attention to contexts of writing I thought about all the episodes, all the jokes Aziz Ansari devotes to the amount of time he spends composing a message. We all get it – we all spend tons of time making these hard decisions, but it’s rare that we stop and consider that we’re making hard writing decisions. We notice the language choices, we pay attention to the audience and audience reception, the device and so many other things. But why do we know to write in those ways? I hope Selfe can help my undergrads ask these questions. The goal is to raise awareness of how they are better writes because of my course so they can start from a better place (transfer) in all their other classes.

With all these ideas floating around, I’m excited for my students to read and discuss this article!

 

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