First Entry

I’m a rookie blogger. I’ve started blogs before, but mostly because I liked giving them names like Resurrection Man or Ballistic Jelly. Sort of like sitting around thinking up great punk band names. Some of my own favorites have been Needle Nose, Jacob’s Bladder, and 58102.

So… Technobstacles. Obviously, it’s a portmanteau of technology and obstacles. I’m going to investigate the ways digital technology both enhances and compromises the work done by college composition instructors. This is especially fascinating within the context of the available composition scholarship. Particularly, I’ve been reading a lot about multimodality in the composition classroom for the past two years, and the attitudes about media-rich technologies in the classrooms are overwhelmingly hopeful. Here is my initial perspective on the existing scholarship:

Digital technology already asserts a major influence on composition classrooms. While there can’t possibly still be instructors who oppose or resist its presence, there are still plenty who at least still hesitate to embrace it. On the other end of the spectrum (where I spend most of my pedagogical wonderings) are those instructors who work to keep up with those media most familiar to students and who work to incorporate those media into their classrooms. Still farther out into the pedagogical digital frontier are those instructors who not only assign digital texts for discussion, but as modes of composition as well. The existing scholarship focuses primarily on two aspects of this topic: student access and institutional resources.

As composition classrooms have always been sites where race, class, gender, and sexuality are present as subjects and influences, introducing more powerful composing strategies and technologies often (at best) serves to heighten these factors. At worst, digital classrooms run the risk of intensifying the divisions within and between students along these lines. Thus, access to these technologies is highly relevant.

Institutional resources, too, play a major role in determining the direction these strategies can and should take in the future. Our discipline is relatively dubious for high ratios of contract instructors to tenured faculty, and given the relatively large chunk of the university’s budget we inhabit, it’s easy to see why the resources we consume are under close and persistent scrutiny. That’s not to say that our discipline is consistently under-funded. I just want to note that it’s important that we continue to wrestle with and develop arguments about how to acquire and implement increasingly expensive technologies.

While access and institutional resources are both important, I recognize another body of scholarship that has yet to materialize in a substantial way. Very little research has been done on the day-to-day practices of individual instructors and how they conceptualize the choices they are forced to make about the roles technology plays in their own classrooms.

As I work through much of my reading for my SRA (Specialized Research Area) exam (November 2008), I’ll be reading books, articles, and webtexts that make up a discourse on this very topic. As I begin, I’ll be trying to focus on some of the seminal articles I see referenced most often. I doubt this pursuit will be very scientific. Just following my own interests and questions. So, now to start that reading…

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