This semester I’m taking a course called “Computers and Writing” and using this here blog to do some thinking and writing about those topics. So, technically I am a “digital native” or so my age and generational identity would seem to suggest. However, I am much more a consumer than a producer of digital media, and that fact makes me feel uncomfortable being labeled as someone who should know how to do things and make things with technology.
The most striking example of my consumery digital habits is that I unapologetically love
Facebook, and most anything else I’ve found and liked on the interwebs I encountered first through Facebook. I have a theory rolling around in my head about Facebook being a largely middle class phenomenon. That’s not to say that only people who identify as middle class use Facebook, rather the uses and conventions that have developed on Facebook fulfill some specifically middle class needs and desires. But I have lots of theories about different things (digital or not) being middle class phenomena. And that is one of my biggest concerns as I jump headlong into the topics surrounding computers and writing. How do I study these new things without simply cutting and pasting all the ways I’ve been studying print composing and print literacy practices?
I’m also a bit anxious ((and excited)) for how these computers and writing topics may influence my teaching. I’ve already been encouraging my students to explore these topics whenever possible or whenever they have seemed to take an interest in them. Last semester I assigned a “Writing Constructs” paper in my first-year composition class and about half of my students chose digital-y type topics to explore, mostly about how Facebook or Twitter or Texting or E-Readers or Word Processing programs have and are influencing writing. So many of them were interested in these kinds of topics that I sent around this “Myth of Digital Literacies” video, which I’m becoming a bit obsessed with (plus, it’s always good for the soul to get a good visual of Andrea Lunsford). Where did I first find this video you ask? Why, Facebook of course! So, it seems, I am encouraging my own digital consumer ways in my students.
I would love to encourage my students to instead PRODUCE some sort of digital assignment or argument, but that scares me a lot because I would be relinquishing my authority in the classroom in a very real way. They’d ask question and I’d have to answer with a lot of “I don’t know”s. And not the kind of teacherly “I don’t know, why don’t you go explore that for yourself” rhetorical trick where I really do know but don’t want to simply give them the answers. No, in this case, I genuinely would not know how to answer their questions about using and producing digital media. Also, I would want a digital project for them that could stand on its own and not just be the performative, cherry on top, add on to some traditionally, print-composed argument they had already written. So these are my goals for the semester: learn some new research and teaching methods that seem fitting to the topics of computers and writing.