New Media and Composition Pedagogy – a course

This week is the first meeting of my graduate seminar on New Media and Composition Pedagogy.  First of all, I’m not thrilled about the title, but it wasn’t chosen by me, so I’ll just leave it at that.  Like all new preps, however, it has been an interesting process over the last few months of thinking through what this course could, should, and would be. This is a course that was high on the list of seminars graduate students wanted to see offered, and that hadn’t been offered here before, so  was happy to take it on. But that, in some ways, raised the stakes in my head as I began to think about how I should craft the course. My initial move, as it is with almost any new prep, was to think too big. I found myself thinking I would have to cover the history of computers and composition, current theories of multiliteracies, a good chunk of practical classroom material, new media theory, film theory, and so on and on and on. In short, I had the material for five or six courses, easy.

This realization brought with it the inevitable winnowing and reducing and, with luck, some sense of coherence. I realized that I had a problem with the kind of scholarship in computers and composition that focused on one kind of technology as the hottest new thing and the balm to all pedagogical ills. Having watched trendy new technologies or software packages rise and fall over the years (a topic for another post, perhaps), was wary of investing too much of the time and energy of the class on specific technologies and their applications. Instead, I decided that I needed to ground the course in some of the more abstract and theoretical things that digital technologies have changed in how we approach literacy and writing. What does digital technology actually allow or ask us to do differently than we might have done before, regardless of the platform or software? Again, there was more even in the answer to this question than I could cover in one semester, but I decided to focus on several key concepts, such as collaboration, multimodality, databases as texts, and the instability of texts.  We will read theoretical pieces that help us understand the implications of these shifting concepts, and then look at some current practical applications (and play with some of the toys ourselves). Yet, with luck, the theoretical work will allow us all to respond to the next new application or software that might come along (the next YouTube or Twitter or Wiki) and understand how it grows, and perhaps diverges, from current technologies. And, of course, it’s a course of mine, so we will also spend some time prowling around issues of identity and politics.

As with any class, I am dissatisfied with the syllabus as soon as I distribute it. But, I will be intrigued to see how this one shakes out and will be discussing it in this space.

The class starts tomorrow. Stay tuned…..

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