“English studies maintains a fixed point of view through a singular notion of writing as static, fixed, and individually composed (typically via the essay or exam), taking place in a unified realm of thought deemed ‘English'” (127) in 2006, this is what Jeff Rice poses and in 2012 I learned what he meant. He goes on to state that the coinciding definition of writing that accompanies this thought regarding English that is produced is not indicative of the digital society that we are entering, now (127).  Our technologically savvy world is producing technologically savvy students and we have to adapt as instructors. As educators, we are aware of the demands on students, especially regarding assessment, but we are doing a disservice to them if we don’t integrate technology into the composition classroom.
In the beginning of this class, I felt as though I wanted very much to be the type of teacher that had a novel classroom with tech savvy equipment, up-to-date multimedia, and changing modes and platforms. I still feel this way, but now I realize that it takes more than just the desire to want to be this instructor. In order to make our students comfortable with using this material in the class, we must illustrate that we are comfortable with doing so as well. This may entail filtering in a new or unfamiliar program, and we need to be open-minded enough to allow our students to see that we aren’t all that savvy at some things. We talk, talk, talk, about how we are working to make the web our friend and tool, but when it comes to walking the walk, we trip and stumble.
It isn’t necessarily our fault, because some of us were brought up during a point in education where we truly believed that literacy consisted of reading and writing, as though thinking does not fall into that category, “The network, therefore, does not require learning the truths of ideas, but rather how ideas fluctuate in specific types of spaces and contexts” (131). Rice is pointing this out, but we missed the point for some time. I touched on this point in my Ignite presentation and it was even more apparent to me how interpretations not only change from person to person, but sometimes for the same piece, being interpreted by the same person on a different day. At the start of this course, I was insecure about how technology was going to fit in my classroom, I didn’t sound as though I was, but I know now that I was and I blogged about it.

Looking back on my post, there is an aspect of emotion in that blog that I don’t seem to see right away, if I ever seen it at all. It’s fear. I once thought the problem with what we are looking at regarding digitally in the classroom was power, or the inherent power associated with instruction, but it’s not the power, it’s the fear we feel when we admit we don’t know something that we somehow internalize as a loss of power when we cannot explain our way through web tutorial. In the blog entitled, “Network and New Media” I talk about Rice’s idea of what college English should be. I articulate the power I mention above, and I even talk about the forms of control associated with that power, but what I don’t identify is how that power still maintains control over me, professionally, “The reason the paradox applied so naturally to what Rice calls ‘The Network’ is because institutionally, a body of power cannot control the web”, so isn’t the field of education a body of power? Of course it is! We are the ones in control in this field, administration and legislators tell us what we can and cannot do with regard to resources, but educators make the impacting decisions for students. With that said, because we have obtained a level of status and power, relinquishing this to something unknown to us is intimidating. I do not mean to imply that we all feel this way, and I do not mean to imply that we are control freaks, but as students ourselves, we have been conditioned to be, individually, responsible for our work, thus our expertise as well.

This idea implies that we believe an aspect of our identities are connected to the work we do, and if we embrace collaborative and/or web based composition, we also must be willing to embrace the sociality associated with it and let go of our identities as professionals. Some of us think this is wrong, but maybe it just feels wrong. Maybe it feels wrong, because for so long we have been convinced that reading and writing has been approached as an activity solely for ourselves. It has been sold to us, by those who came before and we believed knew more, that composition is a skill obtained through rigorous study and practice, and if I didn’t believe this, I wouldn’t be teaching. However, this idea needs qualification, because composition was never an activity meant to keep individualized, if it was, we would have no such thing as publishers. “The world wide web is uncontrollable, and as such those in control will always fight to keep what they have controlled for eons under close watch”, when I made this statement, I did not take into account that I am one of “those” and I have to force myself to let go of this antiquated notion of control, because it is futile to believe I have control over composition. I can’t, the fluidity of it makes that crystal clear.


In light of the discussion above, I must remember that assuming control over any one teachable skill is a waste of time, precisely because of the changes those skills take on. In the third blog piece I would like to discuss, I mention this idea. I respond to Johnson-Eilola’s “The Database and the Essay”, but when I refer to the “fluid and shifting” concept I do not take into account that even though we recognize that our students learn in this fashion, and that educators ought to be open to teaching this way as well, I never articulate how. It is easy to imply that instructors need to be aware of the shifts in composition, designing innovative projects, but that is not enough. We have to push further, specifically push ourselves.

The author posits that ignoring database design makes the influence invisible, well I cannot argue that, but now I see that requires some examining. Database design’s influence is only seemingly invisible, because we ignore the impact that it has on us as instructors, not necessarily the students. There is a tension in this discussion: we are aware that our students are technologically advanced, because we watch their cell phone usage and ipod manipulation closely in our classrooms, yet when we apply curriculum to the same conversation, some of us tend to shy away. We are fully aware that students are tech savvy and that the concept to them is quite familiar. We see, everyday, that these gadgets are glued to their hips and are significant tools of communication within their social lives. However, we ignore the experience students obtain as valuable. We do not value what students have taught themselves in regards to technology, because sometimes we approach knowledge learned outside the classroom as inferior. It’s this mistake that makes database design’s influence seemingly invisible. The conflict resides in the fact that we know students are tech savvy, and we ourselves utilize this savviness with respect to our professional lives, or else we wouldn’t use programs or sites like Plato.com or Grammarly. Consequentially, we are addressing a paradox that many of us hesitate dealing with, because we are conflicted about confronting student who may very well be more advanced with technology than we are.

This is where I would like to infuse some of Jeff Rice’s “English <A>”, because the discussion is based on the premise above. Grammar A is the individualized education that most of us (with the exception of those born in the mid to late 80’s and after) have been exposed to in our academic lives. We have been convinced, or rather conditioned to believe that Grammar A is our tool to advancement, “This model, with its emphasis on standardization, rote performance, and subjection to the ‘great’ individual author also indicates the origins of non-social composing” (56). However, after having been exposed to so many examples of composition study, it is clear to me that composition is completely opposite to individualized thought. At best, individual study only invokes greater curiosity to be developed, and socializing is a key factor in developing this said curiosity. The one theme I argue is that intimidation of institutional breakdown is at the heart of why digitally is seemingly unstable. It is not the digital realm that is unstable. What is unstable is the idea that a standardized skill set is stable, the only thing stable in teaching writing to students is the student and even that is questionable at times, “To do that kind of work would make the user (or writer or course or subject) the individual at the center of all activity, not a part of the network. Instead, the network I imagine <A> creating is a flexible, shifting, never stable entity (or even entities)” (62). Thus, to teach with this in mind, we must allow the students to remain flexible, while we allow ourselves to be, as well.


Finally, I decided that the last post I wanted to include here had to be something that I was willing to go out on a limb to produce. I certainly cannot pretend to behave as though I am now a member of the professional web page designing world, just because I was able to navigate my way around Wix. Nevertheless, I opened an account some time ago, chose a design and format, and then abandoned it altogether. Why? Why would I go to such lengths to design this page and then leave it? Could it be that I felt like only playing bridge, thereby excluding myself from the experience of any other card game? (Weathers 135) or maybe I refrained from the fluidity that Johnson-Eilola cogently points out, or as Rice articulates, maybe I’m intimidated from the connections and links that <A> imposes on me and my antiquated ideas of learning? Whatever the reason, I did in fact move entirely away from the site and all the great resources it offers.

Ultimately, I identified what I was doing. I noticed that I wanted to remain in my comfort zone and keep what I know close and dear. But if there is any one thing I have learned through this semester, it is, that this notion robs my students. It robs them of an instructor willing to make errors in their presence. It robs them of an expanded and innovative curriculum. It robs them of the best example of composition, and that is that there is no best example, precisely because the examples change throughout time. I have to understand that the best part of learning to compose is composing in new and unfamiliar environments, because it allows me to situate myself as a writer and thinker, simultaneously. If I am going to demand that my students think for themselves, then I have to be willing to un-think what those before me embedded in my brain matter. Not all of it, but the portions that force me to believe in institutionalized learning, as opposed to free thinking. If I am free to think, make connections, socialize, and link ideas, I am also opening up a space where I am comfortable doing this even when I know little or nothing about the ideas I entertain. When I do this, it makes the learning experience of my students just as open, “The socialized experience makes writing always relational” (Rice 65). Thanks Jeff!