Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tues 1-22-08


How cool is this? I finally succeeded in cutting & pasting my Word document to the Blog posting space -- YeeHaw -- This is what it feels like when technology "works" the way you wanted it too:)

Faigley’s work truly aroused my excitement in the pedagogical sense. I considered the responsibility of freedom given to the student collective during an electronic classroom discussion of assigned readings and considered the dynamics I’ve witnessed during group work among my students to ascertain whether or not it would work in my section. I could guess that my “bad egg” student would cause disruptions amongst the discussion as it plays out on the screen, but the “bad egg” is the type of person that feeds off the energy of others and will continue to resist and disrupt as long as a group of peers pays attention, however the dynamic of the electronic discussion is individualistic and perhaps the attention necessary to resist and disrupt would not be present as students faced their screens, reading and typing. I would like to discuss the new versions of Realtime Writer and Interchange during our class, if the AML has these programs available, I want to experiment with my class, to see how the “bad egg” reacts to an on-line discussion. Need I stand behind the “bad egg” waving an enormous cardboard cut-out F to prevent disruption of the nearby students?

My interest was caught and sustained throughout Faigley’s work, first by his initial storytelling and following analysis of White Noise, and by further discussion of the ensuing texts produced by his electronic discussions. The idea of students as technological commodities to be discarded when they became outmoded was revolutionary to me. I have considered those privileged enough to have lived the lifestyle of the Shiny American Dream, those youths in the never-ending succession of SUV’s packed with high-end gadgetry, to be cherished by the very economy and status they reflect and consume. In the words of Christopher Lowell, “Who woulda thought?” The analysis of White Noise carries a very Johnny Nmemonic type mentality of technology simultaneously being responsible for the corruption and breakdown of society while also serving as its foundation.

I would argue the point of not giving my old Smith-Corona a hurrah, however. Faigley addresses what many of us beginning instructors go through in the composition classroom, the old Aristotelian binary of a class session either going successfully or bursting into the terrible flames of a great and glaring failure. The only to truly know the benefits of electronic discussion of class readings is to try it in your section, ennit!?
Cooper’s work answered, to a certain degree, the questions I had regarding mutiny and/or inappropriate exchanges during the electronic conversation, her footnote advises, “…I do not mean that teachers should tolerate inappropriate behavior in electronic or any other conversations, but rather that teachers need to find new ways to deal with it.” Cooper addresses the importance of giving students freedom to exchange their paratactic analysis on assigned readings in the space of electronic anonymous discussion. This is certainly an aspect of technology that I want to try in my classroom and the only way to, “…find new ways to deal with it…” would be to address the problem as it arises. I have observed that students tend to silence inappropriate and socially unacceptable behaviors through peer interactions as has Cooper observed in the LambdaMOO trial of “Mr. Bungle,” however I have also noted an eerie solidarity of resistance that can also occur within the classroom, which I see as problematic in dealing with inappropriate electronic behavior.

Our college Jacob Hughes, has described his classroom of silent poker-faced students who refuse to respond to him as either a teacher or a human being, not just a few bad eggs, but all 26 students united together in a bone-crushing unresponsiveness. I seriously consider the chemistry of Jacob’s classroom in attempting to find a solution to inappropriateness other than peer silencing within the construction of the online community. Although Cooper argues that without giving students freedom to explore the Otherness of each other through paratactic discussion, my concern is to what degree can the instructor salvage an electronic discussion gone bad? As teachers we know there is really no way to predict certain problems that can arise in the classroom, (as our old pal Gloria Greenbaum can readily tell you) and at times these snags in classroom relations must be dealt with, thereafter we have had the experience and reflected upon it, in this manner we are prepared for the next time it will arise. Sometimes I have handled snags in a brilliant inspired teaching moment, but most times I am forced to analyze the snag and confer with colleagues on how they have handled such occurrences. As beginning instructors, there is a network of support among classmates and accessible professionals such as Bob, Beth, Kris, and Annie, but what about when we leave the safety of this supportive learning environment?

So is it possible to have a bag of pedagogical tricks handy to curtail an electronic outburst? Cooper elects the instructor to navigate their own way through the new pedagogical territories of computer aided instruction within the classroom. What Cooper did leave me with were reassurances that I am, in some ways, employing what is supposed to employed within the classroom; the offering of other perspectives to the students (159), the posing of complex problems as they occur within the lives of the student(158); and also aspects that I can use a great deal of thought refining; “send(ing) a hopeful message to students about their present and future…”(158). What exactly does this hopeful message consist of? Is it economical, environmental, societal? What?
What I prescribe to my students as a fundamental of academic writing, description, may provide us with a smile where this text leaves us as the reader to try to imagine: “Since the mass production of the first fully-assembled microcomputer in 1977…” (35). My father assembled, with a great flurry of enthusiasm and excitement, this very computer. I recall it’s name, “TRS-80,” and the way in which it saved data and read it’s programs, by cassette tape. The monitor was heavily constructed, encased in several pounds of plastic, like most products of that age. The set-up was the same as contemporary computers, the monitor plugged to the brain, which was the cassette player, both connected to the keyboard. The functions were limited, as you can imagine the limitations of computing via cassette tape. We used it mostly for the games which we then completely abandoned when pops brought home the Atari 2600.

Back to Hawisher/Selfe and the present day, I thought of negative use of computer space and its power relations in terms of myself cruising the lab as a enforcer, watching the student screens for any internet access that I would have to prohibit and demand the return to classroom writing. Does anyone else share my Gestapo nightmare? Have you experienced and had to enforce Word during an in-class writing session?

Hawisher/Selfe are right on to call out the negative effects and implications of computers in the classroom, what other negative effects can we uncover besides those described in this text?

Computers are described as equalizers and the bulletin board forums as panoptic (now I see the connection between the panopticon and using technology in the classroom), what other technological pitfalls exist? I also question, “the social and political dangers that the use of computers may pose.” (36). What are these dangers? I’m told about it, but not given an example, and yes, I need a description of these social and political dangers. I cannot fathom how using Word in my 101 section can pose such dangers. After reading Hawisher/Selfe’s work, I am left with more questions about using technology in the classroom than answers.

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