Because the labor of composition is primarily cognitive in nature, it is easy to begin thinking the compositionist as some sort of brain in a jar, divorced from any physical context. Throughout the the text, DeVoss has done a wonderful job of thinking digital writing beyond alphanumeric graphemes, and accounting for the manner in which other modalities of communication can be utilized in the compositional process. In chapter 3, “Ecologies for Digital Writing”, DeVoss situates the cognitive work of digital composition within a variety of environmental contexts which she terms “ecologies”. The ecological metaphor is perhaps useful insofar that it foregrounds the embodied nature of all composition. Indeed, DeVoss does just this as she attends to the physical, institutional and online environments which academic digital writing often takes place. As I do not find much of the chapter problematic, I will attend to how digital writing practices seem to transfer across institutional contexts, and then consider problems which might emerge that are largely institutional in nature.
The chapters opening anecdote dealing with Renee Webster’s oral personal narrative was interesting. As Webster points out, this project helps the students begin to “perceive themselves as composers” with “agency and responsibility” as they communicate with an audience. To my knowledge, none of us are working in elementary education, however, as Jamilla pointed out, engendering students with a feeling of “agency” should be a perennial concern for educators. It’s also worth noting that the Wheatley lab conforms to the layout in Figure 3.2. (DeVoss 69), and the physical environment is meant to facilitate similar outcomes. Similarly, Webster’s work speaks to a variety of other concerns in secondary and higher education environments in ways unaccounted for in the text (for obvious reasons), indeed, our own digital story project is very similar.
As a number of students in our class commented, such projects, by thinking composition beyond alphanumeric literacy, can effect the process in productive ways. Rob mentioned feeling liberated from the encumbrance of the blank computer screen by the oral mode. Although Webster’s students wrote their narratives and then remediated them to an oral mode, I know that I personally went off of my script — feeling the same liberation that Rob mentioned — and veered off in interesting directions I may not have otherwise. Christie rightly pointed out that projects such as this function to emphasize that academic writing can be understood as engagement in a conversation with other academics. This is crucial as writers advance, as all too often students seem to understand academic writing as an agonistic endeavor. Moreover, projects like this can defamiliarize the process and foster a more focused revision process. I believe Tim mentioned that because he was quoting sources which were not alphanumeric such as visual and audio, he reflected more deeply on the compositional choices he made.
The above suggests how effective engagement with an embodied multimodal composition can be across a variety of institutional contexts. However, the relationship between the embodied and digital is not completely one way. It’s worth noting that the entire metaphor for the digital here is spatial with words such as “space” and “forum” used to describe the digital environment. as the policy for engaging in the digital environment could just as easily function as a policy for engaging with peers in the physical classroom space. In light of this, it might be worth thinking the digital environment the way we think “play” environments, as low risk spaces in which students might practice optimal behavioral models in preparation for “real” encounters.
But beyond the core educational goals, the language of discourse and the space in which learning takes place, there are key differences in pedagogical approach and policy constraints which vary depending on the context. A crucial difference between K-12 and post-secondary education seems to be the latter’s aversion to flipping the class and making in-class time a workshop — I believe Erin has recommended flipping as a workaround in a variety of situations. Joe pointed out that the allocation of class time to familiarize himself with the technologies interface, as well as, the affordances of the digital platform he utilized to compose his project was helpful. Although this is a common practice in K-12 classes, because of time constraints, this is rare in undergraduate post-secondary contexts. Although in our class — which is concerned with the digital — we have made use of lab work, it is also rare in graduate level courses as well. I wonder what else professors might stand to gain from considering K-12 pedagogy. A recurring concern in our class has been the legal and policy elements that define the various institutional contexts (both real and imagined) in which we find ourselves. In the case of Webster, she needed to secure consent from parents to engage in digital learning with her students (DeVoss 62). As Jamilla pointed out recently, before parents can even be contacted, one needs to secure the permission of the institution which they are a part of. This seems to be getting overlong. I hope you all find something interesting to engage with, as my aim in paraphrasing your observations and concerns is to communicate how interesting and engaging I have found all of your contributions thus far in the seminar, and attempt to return the favor. Thank you.