Kathleen Blake Yancey comes to us with what seems like a magnificent step forward in writing – the general public is writing of their own volition outside of the classroom, completely unprompted (pun intended) by English teachers.
In fact, Yancey points out that people have chosen “a rhetorical situation, a purpose, a potentially worldwide audience, a choice of technology and medium – and they write” (302). This sounds like a marvelous accomplishment for writing, but Ohmann points out, in a more recent article, that there is a lot of baggage that comes along with this. Namely, Ohmann is concerned that through the marketing of computers and microcomputers, we are essentially being led in our literacy by corporations and political interest. Of course, I believe we all acknowledge that there are always outside influences going into the shaping of literacies in our world, but Ohmann points out that in classrooms, microcomputers are used for little more than a medium to construct texts, and a storage place for files.
Now, I believe it is up to us to bridge the gap between writing in a personal, self-chosen place, and the writing we see and strive for in the classroom. To its credit, the CCCC’s position statement on Technology has asked that classrooms with technology “provide students with opportunities to apply digital technologies to solve substantial problems common to the academic, professional, civic, and/or personal realm of their lives,” but simply stating this isn’t enough. How do we get students to utilize good Habits of Mind (please scroll if opened) outside of the classroom and think critically about all (realistically most) texts that they create? According to a survey conducted by Jeff Grabill (2010), students held the perception that writing done socially or for personal fulfillment is not valuable outside of its specific realm of personal gratification. I believe that we need to find a way to get students to see social media, blogging, and perhaps even texting, as something that is not only valuable for their own development, but also can have repercussions for the world. I recognize that this is a large problem to tackle, and know it will be a process to complete. Ideally, we as instructors must start to show the intellectual potential of technology platforms in our classrooms, while also remembering to draw attention to the biases and money-driven goals surrounding those platforms (a la Ohmann).
So now I pose some questions to all of you (I have opinions and at least somewhat formed answers to these, but for the sake of conversation I’d rather hear your thoughts):
- How do we incorporate social media based writing in a way that is both productive for our own classroom and will keep students more informed/intellectually engaged outside the classroom?
- How far should we push students into recognizing the academic and intellectual potential of the writing they do solely for enjoyment?
- How do we keep Composition relevant without losing the qualities in writing that we aspire to?
- Everyone talks about writing, but what about reading? How can we facilitate good reading habits of social media, etc? More importantly, do we, as instructors, even know the full scope of what “good reading” looks like for majority of personal writing platforms out there?