Reviewing CCCC 2000: Electronic Conversation in the Composition Classroom: Barroom Brawls in the Burkean Parlor (A.16)

The three presenters -- M.J. Braun, Richard Hansberger and Randolph Acetta -- seemed to be inspired by Cynthia Selfe's assertion in her 1997 address to the 4Cs that teachers using technology in the classroom need to be critical of the technologies they are using. While Braun's critique was centered with historical facts, Hansberger's and Acetta's presentations focused on classroom practice. By far, Accetta's analysis was the most chilling.

Accetta's presentation seemed to posit the most dire dangers to both teachers and students. The fact that all MOO transcripts are recorded and saved poses a threat to teachers because administrators could use that data to discipline or deny tenure to teachers by taking certain comments out of the classroom context. On top of that, such structures work to counteract the "freedom" that MOO environments could and should encourage among students because the extent of teacher oversight may silence dissent, criticism or independent thinking among students. No presenters or audience members were able to think of any ways to counteract these dangers, and that is troubling since this seems to be one case in which awareness will not be enough to counteract the problem.

Operating from a decidedly Marxist perspective, Braun asserted that the ideologies of imperialist and capitalist economies are embedded in many of the digital technologies now being employed in our classrooms. She traced the evolution of computational technologies from the analog systems first employed in British imperialistic wars to the digital technology discovered in the research labs of World War II. She added that digital technology, because it is based on ones and zeros, is infinitely capable of expansion and thus ideal for an imperialistic or capitalistic enterprise.

Hansberger's presentation optimistically pointed out that MOOs, being linguistically and spatially open, make it necessary for students and teachers to take rhetorical responsibility for transforming their pedagogical context. However, he also raised questions as to whether those transformations are always worthwhile, and pointed out that productive transformations only happened when the students and the teachers recognized the existence of their traditional beliefs and their rhetorical responsibility to create a new space.

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