|The Dialogue Essay Guidelines|
Sample: Carmen's Literature Review and Methodology Section
It has been seven years since Cynthia Selfe's publication of Multimodal Composition (2007). In this text, conceived as a resource for teachers, the authors offer college teachers new ways of thinking about and actually doing digital writing projects in classrooms. In the introduction to the book, Takayoshi and Selfe make the compelling case that, in 2007, writing in college classrooms looked no different than 150 years prior though literate activity across multiple, social, global locations and industries has changed drastically. What I have found most compelling is their central argument regarding technological innovation and power. They argue, for instance that “in the Phaedrus... Plato has Socrates express the concern that writing weakens the memory and can neither defend itself nor represent truth to others” (p. 1). In the 16th century, such anti-print expressions also resonated with the Church which thought the printing press was dangerous, because the masses suddenly had access to information and could use the form to make it sound like them. Though it is difficult to even imagine today that people once thought the “new” technology of writing and books was the work of the devil, the history that Takayoshi and Selfe offer compel us to see that resistance to new technologies from the elite and/or upper-educated classes is an issue of social control. Even more compelling for me, however, are the views of young people themselves who find themselves, often unknowingly, at a curious crossroads. On the one hand, new technologies seem a taken-for-granted way of life, even when one does not fully participate in these worlds: endless apps that even teach you how to use technology, new modes of writing from texting to tweeting, new forms of visualization from vining to instagramming. On the other hand, many of these young students' professors will situate these digital literacies in ways that sound similar to the print politics of the 16th Century Church, namely that the masses are running amok with new information and losing the sanctity of previously prescribed forms of writing and knowledge. Given my own personal experiences with negative reactions to my use of technology in the classroom [I will discuss this as my introduction], this crossroads hardly seems an exaggeration.
What do young people themselves think of digital technologies and classrooms? What are the challenges that they see themselves facing in a professional world that expects digital competence when their classrooms do not include this (Pannapacker, 2013)? These exact questions shaped the format of a small focus group in 2014 at a large, public urban university of 16-18 year old, entering college students. Divergent views were encouraged such that students knew no consensus or agreement was necessary or even positive. Conversation was allowed to flow without interjections.