Reviewing CW2K: C3 Pushing the Limits of the Pedagogical Arts of the Contact Zone in the Wired Writing Classroom

  • "Setting Fires in Wired Classrooms," Laurie George, University of Washington
  • "Hate and Persuasion vs. Free Speech and Ethics: Asking Students to Confront 'What's Not Good for them' in the Wired Classroom," Maggie McDowell, University of Washington
  • "When Contact Zones Become Twilight Zones: A LAN Classroom's Outer Limits," Sean Williams, Clemson University

This panel explored and analyzed various strategies for addressing potentially "incendiary" topics in computerized classrooms. Each presenter's work built wonderfully on the others' work to create a focused and illuminating discussion, powerfully situated within an examination of a writing pedagogy designed to use computer technologies to "spark" – and control, if possible – "incendiary" discussion.

Laurie George began with a good overview of how she has used computer-mediated forums (such as email discussion groups) to have students (often anonymously) engage and debate provocative material, such as racism. For her, the mix of such digital discussions with F2F is important in that each offers students different avenues to approach difficult material. Maggie McDowell's presentation, which Sean Williams read for us, continued this thread by arguing that students should be exposed to disturbing (e.g., racist) Web sites as a way to provoke them into grappling with this material. Sean William's work, which he delivered in an excellent Web-based presentation, explored how this could be done by having students rhetorically analyze several sites with pronounced racist content. In the process of going over this material, students become more aware of how the Web is a powerful communications medium, more adept at handling sensitive topics, and more acute in their criticism of highly assumptive and morally problematic rhetorical positions.

The vigorous discussion following the presentations revealed that George, McDowell, and Williams had offered us a challenging "call to arms," as it were; most of us walked away thinking more critically about how we can challenge our students and our own comfort levels by engaging problematic material, particularly since the presenters made an excellent claim for the increasing necessity to do so.

Go To: Reviewing CW2K Home