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Materiality….

Thoughts from the book, Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition

 On page 2, Wysocki justifies why she wrote the book: “What we know as teachers of writing…is what enables us to see changes now occurring and is also what prepares us to shape change, actively, and with care…”. I respect this justification. It gives the book a purpose, and it also makes it clear that Wysocki is passionate about her task to redefine New Media, to get teachers to start thinking about the materiality of composition, and to understand the whys behind the design. Reading this chapter, for me, makes the one on Beauty seem even more authentic. This authenticity is the major tone of the entire text. I also appreciate how Wysocki puts into words the “way things are” – elements of the classroom that, I feel, have been accepted and just not discussed. For instance, on page 4, Wysocki mentions the disconnect between what we study/teach in the classroom and what actually happens in the real world. It seems that almost every day, I hear students grumbling that they will never use this or that in real life. I am wondering what would happen if students were allowed to change the face of their homework to look like something they created. What if students got to create their own math problems based on personal experience? What if we had students do research papers in the design that “Spoke” to them as the most persuasive or authentic? What if they then had to justify their design and “question the values implicit in [their] design choices” (6)? What an interesting rhetorical analysis paper or math project that would be. I think the school system would vapor lock and implode .

If I were to try to get some of these changes made (perhaps I would start by saying that for one paper, I wasn’t going to require that students write in MLA format), I would need to repeat over and over that “new technologies do not automatically erase or overthrow or change old practices” (8). Isn’t this what most people fear – that their “way of teaching” and thus their usefulness will become obsolete if they start teaching a new way? Why is there so much fear in the world of teaching? If the point is to get better, to become more knowledgeable, wouldn’t it make sense to embrace possibilities of new media and materiality with open arms? After all, students appreciate change – even small changes like arranging the desks in a circle instead of in rows (I am thinking of Wysocki’s comment about how our need for 8×11 MLA translates to straight rows of desks in the classroom). I have to believe that if I told my students to write a paper and make an argument with both the design and the content, that they would enjoy the mental variety and individuality this would allow them.

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