Philosophy

Overview and Context

This portfolio is a documentation of my professional experience teaching college rhetoric and composition.  You’ll notice that technological politics plays an importance role in my pedagogical aims.  Of course, considerations of technology and communication aren’t new, as ownership, authorship, style, and delivery of information have been foci in Western rhetorical traditions for over two thousand years.  Digital Humanities, Digital Scholarship, New Media Studies, as well as Computers and Composition–a subfield of Rhetoric and Composition Studies, offers interdisciplinary scholars a rich community to explore the materiality of communication practices and its influence on human behavior and the evolution of human thought via design, investigation, and deliberation.

Principle #1:  Narratives generate knowledge.  The Story is happening, whether you choose to be a character or not.  

In the 21st century, many Americans regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, and geographic location, utilize the Internet as a part of their daily activities.  Checking email and participating in the user-generated feedback systems that constitute Web 2.0 networks and applications has become as routine as one going to the mailbox or the grocery store.  However, I acknowledge that class and geographic location strongly influence distributions of power and privilege.  Some of us access technological mediums everyday, participating in various forms of knowledge production, acquisition, and circulation via the Internet.  Although this access is global, many people are not connected to our global default information infrastructure.  Moreover, they would need additional access to language and cultural systems that would enable them to begin realizing the possibilities of the technology.  Unfortunately, the absence of at least three billion people on this network will continue to persist as long as software coding and web content continue to be dominated by the English language.  To begin addressing the problem of access and the value of diversity, we must also recognize that technology characterizes many phenomena that are taken for granted as neutral aspects of human existence.  For example, utensils of writing, visual art, speech, and light have histories, and access to this cultural memory will remix with now to generate new meanings and concepts.

Principle #2:  When I teach with technology, we explore several assumptions about humans’ relationship to their communication tools and environments.  These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Everyone uses technology (Everyone doesn’t have access to technology)
  • Technology is neutral (A technology’s design and history affects how we are able to use it)
  • Only humans use technology (Many other species including crows and octopuses use tools)

Thus, teaching with technology can raise meaningful discussions that encourage students to analyze human interactions as acts of power and interrogate the degree the various technologies we use to communicate (e.g. speech, written texts, visual, print, electronic, online, mixed-media) strongly influence the combinations of meaning-making possibilities available to us.

My ideal classroom emphasizes five major values and practices:  reflection, transparency, collaboration, feedback, and discovery.  

Reflection 

My classroom and tutoring spaces explore media ecologies, or the architectures of communication environments, language practices, and knowledge exchange.  I draw on rhetoric as a heuristic that helps assist writers seeking to accomplish and modify their aims and purposes.  The art of rhetoric is useful for at least two major reasons.  First, it enables writers to consider and analyze the patterns occurring in various types of composing/communication contexts.  Next, it helps them explore and discover how they can present their decision-making processes in ways that may affect others’ choices.  I encourage writers to consider the ethical stakes involved in communication.  Although an argument may be logical, it may not be persuasive.  Likewise, an argument may be persuasive, but not logical.  Similar to Aristotle in Book I of The Rhetoric, we critically examine the relationship between dialectic and rhetoric in order to understand how appeals to human emotions and desires sometimes complement or conflict with appeals to logic and truth-seeking.  Unfortunately, this may lead to ethical problems, as we are familiar with more popular notions of rhetoric as the manipulation of others or a communicator’s use of ’empty language.’  Indeed, some may use rhetoric for these purposes.  However, I urge writers to see rhetoric as a methodology and a technique that assists humans’ attempt to create possibilities and constraints through language.  Furthermore, this art enables writers to develop an appreciation for art as an intellectual virtues–for both the process and outcome of argumentation and persuasion potentially affects outcomes–in this case the production of some truth, which if considered could affect what someone considers “right” or “good” action.  Whether our aims are to convince someone of the ‘truth’ of a matter, or present some probability that such a truth doesn’t exist, rhetoric helps us consider how certain arrangements of technological–writing, speech, online, print–and sensual–aural, tactile, and visual–aspects of communication make for effective language performances in a given context.

Collaboration and Feedback

My curriculum invites writers to express, reflect, and interpret the significance of their personal experiences with language and communication.  We help each other identify the constraints of certain types of communication tasks so that we can visualize some of the options we could use in order to adapt and accomplish our purposes.  I attempt to create a ‘commons’ between me and other writers through my design of interactive learning sites that value each participants’ perspective.  For instance, we engage in a four-step inquiry process with the purpose of thinking about thinking.  First, we acknowledge the possibility of that our opinions or perceptions of a given phenomena may or may not be true or valid.  Next, we imagine and discuss instances in which these opinions or perceptions may or may not be considered valid, or true.  Third, we evaluate the degree to which their knowledge of certain beliefs and phenomena impacts their actions and the actions of others.  Finally, we defend these actions through argumentation–providing one another explicit articulation of how and why they have come to their conclusions, or opinions about something or someone.  This process, I hope, helps us establish mutual respect and trust for one another so that we may produce robust, vital communications.

Discovery

Since the development and growth of Web 2.0, public discourse takes place in a wider range of contexts.  No longer confined as readers of static web pages, audiences can edit wiki pages, comment on articles, or produce interactive discussions on forums or social networking sites.  Therefore, teaching with technology is no longer an option.  I encourage students to participate in emerging genres, create multimodal, contemporary texts.  Whether they are writing product/service reviews on Yelp.com, editing Wikipedia pages, integrating photos in their print essays, or creating documentaries to support proposal arguments, they are positioning themselves as influential writers in a global information economy.  Since so many students enter the college writing classroom with the concept of the five paragraph print essay as the desirable format for institutional writing, exposure to other types of composition gives them additional available means of persuasion.

It is not enough for students to have access to a web browser and rely on its default settings to provide them with everything they need for the optimal research and writing experience.  Furthermore, they need to become comfortable accessing web browsers and desktop interfaces they don’t routinely access.  Therefore, I strongly encourage students to explore and understand the ways in which they can control graphic user interfaces such as web browsers and software applications for the purposes of serving their various needs on the Internet.  From researching data for a research paper  and comparing textbook prices among different vendors to downloading Open/Libre Offices as an alternative to Microsoft Word, teaching with technology in the composition classroom can draw students’ attention to the politics of web content development and organization.

As you will see in some of my examples of teaching with technology, I highlight how the use of certain searching techniques on the www.google.com search engine can help them search for information more efficiently.  I also acknowledge how certain add-ons can be downloaded to their Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browsers in order to customize their Internet experience.  For example, similar web is an add-on that will enable them to have access to websites that are similar in content to the sites they are accessing.  Clicking on Similar Web when the google page is active in the browser window will show www.yahoo.comwww.wikipedia.org,www.dogpile.comwww.mamma.comwww.cuil.com, and www.bing.com as websites that are also popular search engines.  Also, a simply click on the google about page will link them to several ways to access certain software offered by google such as full-texts of books, blogs, medical records, and google gadgets that can further customize your desktop.  Being brought into contact with more websites about similar aims helps student writers evaluate which sites “do” their content and design the best, which gives us an opportunity to deliberate about characteristics of utility.

Transparency

One of the struggles that Internet users face in our historical moment is data overload.  Therefore, I encourage students to explore various types of content on the web.  A brief overview regarding the differences in domain types (e.g. .gov, .net, .org) can make all the difference in their decision as to whether or not a web site contains credible information.  Since websites are designed with particular discourse communities, or publics, in mind, they are ideal spaces for rhetorical investigation. Comparing and contrasting websites that focus on similar subject matter can be a useful to facilitate discussion among students regarding ethos.  Simply because a web site exists does not make the site composer an authority on the subject matter they present.  Furthermore, a resume printed on SouthWorth Exceptional cotton paper may give a potential employer the impression that a prospective job candidate is ‘more formal,’ or considerate than someone who transmits electronic materials. Thus, students are asked to consider how the medium for delivery influences a message’s persuasiveness, especially via the Internet.

The unprecedented amount of information on the web may make the subjects of author credibility and usability of data more urgent and accessible to students.  Therefore, I ask writers the following questions, which could also be applied to print texts:

  • Why did this person choose to use a web site to convey information?  
  • How have they chosen to convey the information?  
  • What purpose does the web site serve?  
  • Who is/are the author(s)?  
  • What do they want readers to do with the information they present?  

An examination of a web site’s design, content purpose and stance, authors, amount of traffic, its use of sources, and domain type draws students’ attention to all the elements that affect audiences’ trust of the site.  By facilitating discussion about how authors’ assert their trustworthiness, I emphasize the importance of communicating one’s values, attitudes, beliefs, and desires with clarity and grace.

Purpose:  Acquisition of Meta-Cognition

I believe that reflecting, discovering, collaborating, as well as transparent feedback, lead to the development of meta-level awareness.  Cultivating this habit of reasoning, I believe, has numerous benefits which include, but aren’t limited to:
  • Ability to identify ethical, moral, and intellectual consequences of decision-making
  • Ability to configure a larger number of possible relationships between persons, scenes, events, and entities
  • Ability to self-regulate thought, produce connections, and recall information more rapidly
  • Ability to translate/transfer knowledge to other communication participants
  • Ability to understand the purposes and outcomes of organization as it pertains to civic engagement and ethical behavior

Note:  This teaching philosophy is an emerging document that will be modified as my perspective on teaching and learning evolves with my future experiences with deliberate decision-making and audiences’ feedback.

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