Brave New World (4): Pedagogical Considerations

The third concept I saw emerge in my review of the literature concerns the development and implementation of new or revised pedagogical considerations.

Stephanie Vie (2008) while not directly mentioning the rhetoric of social networking technologies, puts out a call to action with respect to changing how composition is taught in the classroom. The traditional approach using the academic essay as the central focus in the composition classroom, according to Vie, needs to be adapted to foster a technological literacy that is required to navigate and compose within and across the new Web 2.0 technologies. Shifts in the perception of authorship and audience and the extremely participatory nature of these technologies need to be addressed by instructors in order to remain relevant.

She outlines the digital divide not in terms of access versus no access to new communication technologies but rather frames it as a divide between students’ and composition instructors’ level of knowledge and technological expertise with Web 2.0 communication technologies. Vie argues that students of ‘Generation M’ have left composition instructors behind causing questions of authority.

According to Vie, ‘Generation M’ students posses the technological know-how to navigate and compose in social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and others, but they lack critical technological literacy skills. The textured literacy skills required, and in many cases mastered, for self-expression on these sites should not be underestimated. Multi-modal composition of a user profile necessitates a combination of new media composing and technological literacy skills that many composition instructors find intimidating. Jenkins (2006) names this phenomenon media convergence and contends that the importance of these social networking sites lies in their inherent call for user participation.

I interpret Vie’s call for a new approach to teaching composition that includes the teaching of critical technological literacy as a call to devise a rhetorical model that applies for today’s participatory social networking spaces. This is the point where traditional models of rhetoric have to be challenged and adapted to account for the new arrangement and invention that is required to succeed in this space, possibly not unlike the one proposed by Jeff Rice in ‘Urban Mappings: A Rhetoric of the Network .’

Lowe and Williams (2004) at the more tactical and practical level contend that there is a problem with creating artificial rhetorical situations for students on WebCT or Blackboard and that writing on a real blog is a real rhetorical situation because a real audience has access to it. They state that, “Many students today regularly email friends and family, converse via instant message daily, participate in multiplayer online games with people from around the web, and surf Internet sites much as earlier generations read magazines and newspapers. Students see the web as a public, playful place different from the writing spaces they typically work in within the classroom. Recognizing this, some composition teachers now assign individual hypertexts or group hypertext projects such as webzines, hoping to tap into the students’ sense of play and familiarity with online environments in order to stimulate investment in and engagement with their writing.”

Welch (1999), in her call for the Next Rhetoric, advocates Isocrates’ pedagogical theory which affords us an alternative to the discourse education that focuses heavily on handbooks, rote learning, and static formulae for discourse. Similar notions have been discovered in the realm of business communication. Reinsch and Turner (2006) in their article, ‘Ari R U there?’, call for business communication pedagogy to raise awareness among students (the future workforce) about rhetorical situations in business communication that have been reshaped by new communication media. Pedagogy must account for this in form and content, and according to Reinsch and Turner must also foster rhetorical thinking (p. 346).

Torning (2008), just like Kathleen Welch and others, recognizes that we are within a century of social transformation that requires careful examination of rhetorical concepts. He cites Peter Drucker, one of the great theorists in organizational management, as asserting that in today’s workplace with the emergence of the knowledge worker (KW) a new skill set is needed. Continual learning grounded in a formal education and “the ability to acquire and apply theoretical and analytical knowledge” are essential for the knowledge worker and the organization that employs the KW.

(Find the bibliography at


8 thoughts on “Brave New World (4): Pedagogical Considerations”

  1. Is there any chance you can post the bibliographic references that you cite in your posts at the end? Hmmm? Please? Or is there already a complete working bibliography for your research already on-site that we can go to and peruse?

  2. Bibliography:
    1.Lanham, Richard (1993) Digital Rhetoric and the Digital Arts. In The Electronic Word. Democracy, Technology and the Arts. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (pp. 29-52)
    2.Lowe, C. and Terra Williams (2004) Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom. In L.J. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff, & J. Reyman (Eds.), Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from
    3.Lunsford, A. and Lisa Ede (1984) On Distinctions between Classical and Modern Rhetoric. In R. J. Connors, L. S. Ede, A. A. Lunsford (Eds.) Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse, Southern Illinois University Press: 37 – 49.
    4.Miller, Carolyn R. and Dawn Shepherd (2004). Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog. In L.J. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff, & J. Reyman (Eds.), Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from
    5.Reinsch, N. Lamar, Jr. and Jaenine Warisse Turner (2006) Ari, R U There? Reorienting Business Communication for a Technological Era. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 20; 339-356
    6.Rice, Jeff (2008) “Urban Mappings: A Rhetoric of the Network.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 38.2 (Spring 2008): 198-218.
    7.Torning, Kristian (2008) The Rhetorical Situation for Knowledge Sharing of Best Practices in Corporate Online Environment
    8.Vie, Stephanie (2008) Digital Divide 2.0: “Generation M” and Online Social Networking Sites in the Composition Classroom. Computers and Composition 25, 9-23.
    9.Warnik, Barbara (2005) Looking to the Future: Electronic Texts and the Deepening Interface, Technical Communication Quarterly, 14(3), (pp. 327–333)
    10.Welch, Kathleen (1999). An Isocratic Literacy Theory: An Alternative Rhetoric of Oral/Aural Articulation. In Welch, Kathleen. Electric Rhetoric. Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy. (pp. 29-74) Cambridge: MIT Press.
    11.Zappen, James P. (2005). Digital Rhetoric: Toward an Integrated Theory. Technical Communication Quarterly, 14(3), (pp. 319-325)

  3. Konnie,

    Great post. I still think that many scholars are anxious to redefine the “digital divide” while older definitions/forms of the divide still apply in many areas of the U. S.

    One of the areas that I am focusing on is the idea that there is an ideal (read: mainstream) user on which the definition depends. If, as an educator, my population is not mainstream, many of the findings of these scholars do not apply to me and to my students. At least, not yet.

  4. Janie, I’d be interested to know the characteristics of your ‘ideal’ user. Perhaps, if your students are mainly adults, Vie’s definition might not hold.

  5. And thanks for posting the bib, Konnie!. Janie, I’m doing something mildly similar right now–it continues to surprise me (and I suppose it shouldn’t; shame on me!) how few of my students meet the ideal or even mainstream construction of Digital Native–and my students are a lot more “mainstream” (if one must use that term) than yours way down there in el sur.

  6. Your posts, Janie, Chris, reflect the fact that the digital divide is not unidimensional, is not one plane with two extremes at either end. Rather, it is a complex, multi-levelconstruct that encompasses access to technology, familiarity with technology, comfort with the convergence of multiple media in one space, ability to compose in a variety of media and tools, digital literacy, etc. Being a digital native does not equate greater composition skills in digital media than someone who did not grow up with these media, much in the same way that being a native speaker of German does not make all of us Goethe; it simply states the fact that a person has grown up with digital media and perceives them as natural communication tools.

    Not all students today fall into the category of digital natives and that ‘digital native’ needs to be qualified and not simply hailed as better than ‘digital immigrant’. You point out that there is no ideal or mainstream student and I agree. The classroom is a melting pot of varying degrees of digital nativeness that leaves it to the instructor to bridge all gaps, gaps in access to the technology, gaps in technical skills, gaps in the familiarity with the different modalities, and, let’s not forget this, gaps in writing ability. The instructor who in paper-n-pencil days could focus entirely on the writing process, today has to juggle and marry a number of literacies to facilitate an acceptable outcome, i.e. one that demonstrates mastery of multiple literacies, as Time points out.

    I wonder if the divide might have less to do with the technological skills or access levels and more with the ability and comfort of being a content creator rather than a content consumer. Much of the 20th century was dominated by one-way broadcast media, TV and radio. We grew up as media consumers. Teenagers today are growing up as media creators who are used to seeing their content published for the consumption of others.

    Looking at it from that angle might provide some valuable input into viable pedagogical concepts.

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