Another spring, another syllabus. This time it’s the latest iteration of my “Digital Media and Composition Pedagogy” graduate seminar. The last time I taught this course was in spring 2011, so my first question was whether much had changed technologically since then. These days a three-year span can mean a significant change in the adoption of a new technology or a cultural shift in how we think about technology and literacy.
Yet in thinking about my syllabus for the course this time it’s not so much a question of what has changed technologically, but whether there is sense in a course titled “Digital Media and Composition Pedagogy.” For, really, is there much composition pedagogy happening out there that isn’t mediated by digital hardware and software? If that’s the case, then what does a course such as this imply? Does it mean I’m going to focus on digital media that create non-print-on-paper texts, and so be different from the comp pedagogy I started teaching when the students were writing on typewriters? Is it going to be about how the digital has made us filmmakers and calligraphers and sound designers? Or, am I going to try to make explicit how the digital mediates every thing we do, from our discussions of rhetoric – audience, genre, style – to our questions of process — invention, revision, and so on? And what about how ideas of critical pedagogy, that began in a pre-digital era, have changed – or not- today? What about WAC and Writing Centers and Creative Writing? And where do I talk about the influence of material conditions and institutional ideologies?
Composition pedagogy is inextricable from digital media, just as it is from theory. We’re always talking about both, even if we’re not clear that we’re talking about both.
Designing such a course also gets all the more complicated in the way all courses about pedagogy get complicated. On the one hand, I want to address the questions of theory and research that shape our teaching; yet I also understand that many in the class will want to leave with clear sense of what they can do in their courses with this material. How do they teach with it? All of this in a 14-week semester. There was never enough time to cover what I wanted when I started teaching in the typewriter age. And now?
It’s all musings, I realize, with no clear answers. Designing a course is always a matter of compromise and deletion. And I know that, as always, I assign more reading than I should because I just can’t make all the cuts I ought too. Still, I’ve made my choices for the course and it will be what it is. As always, I am on the eve of teaching and excited about what it will bring, and even more so about how the students will take the course to places I haven’t even considered. I’ll try to keep up with that some on the blog (though, with a spring of busy job searches and the like, I’m not making blog promises…..)