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CCCC 2006 in Review

A25 Network Literacies: First-Year Composition Instruction for the Digital 21st Century

This panel was comprised of three members of the first-year composition program at Purdue University and who shared their vision for 21st century composition, or composition in the digital age.

In her presentation, "Networking: Realizing the Composed Self," session chair Mary Godwin discussed her belief that the world must be brought into students' writing in order to realize better writers in the composition classroom. Here, Godwin relied on the notion of critical literacy that sees students as agents making sense of the world; therefore, they must be writing about it. Further, Godwin believes that digital networks empower student writers toward such critical literacy ends, and that these networks explore all four worlds of writing: personal, academic, professional, and civic or public. Bringing these ideas together, Godwin poses, "What does it mean to write oneself into meaning?" As members of the digital age, Godwin responds that students are writers realizing themselves as composed texts in search for connections as part of, borrowing the term from John Trimbur, the call to write and as part of the rhetorical triangle. Further, Godwin notes that these realizations result best from explorations of digital networks as the "interconnected architecture of participation" that allow students to realize their multiple (digital) identities, again based on notions of critical and computer literacy. Godwin then applies her theoretical talk to the digital design of her composition course along with student responses to it. In these student voices, Godwin believes that she has achieved her goal-realizing better writers writing in the digital age.

Following Godwin, Alice D'Amore presented her own awareness narrative, but this awareness was a realization of a much different sort. In stark contrast to Godwin's positive assessment of digital technologies in the teaching of writing, D'Amore presents, in her own words, "the pessimistic view of new media and digital literacy," especially for the composition classroom. Technologies such as blogs, D'Amore argues, fail to develop the sense of community idealized in the literature of digital rhetoric as well as fail to provide a heightened sense of student ownership of writing. To illustrate this point, D'Amore details her experiences or attempts at involving digital and visual media into her composition classroom. At first, D'Amore notes that these technologies were somewhat successful at fostering community until issues of sexuality became a focus and then an immovable force. D'Amore provides several poignant examples of new media gone wrong as she laments that students today are unable to distinguish images and advertisements on the web from the manipulation of them. Further, the focus on network communication and students' comfort with it combined with the lack of face-to-face communication creates a resistance to both critically analyzing and taking ownership of writing. As she argues, "Blogs and other technologies have been assignments, not opportunities." D'Amore concludes that community was not achieved through the use of digital networks in her composition course, though it may be more appropriate to state that the community that was achieved or realized was not at all what D'Amore wanted.

Marc C. Santos concludes the session by recasting these narratives through his own theoretical approach to the networked classroom. Santos begins by noting that he chooses to achieve his goals in the composition classroom through images, as they are more open to analysis (much like they were in D'Amore's class). Santos then focuses the rest of his presentation on his current project-having composition students revise previous students' digital compositions. Such a project is built on the hermeneutic aspirations of rhetoric and the ethical dimensions of knowledge, and it is further reliant on notions of time and space, kairos, and situatedness, according to Santos. Networked environments create a space, an ambiance, an ethics of decision for students composing in the digital age; therefore, Santos' composition classroom relies on these environments and expands the boundaries of how teachers and students realize and write themselves in them.

—Randall McClure

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.