Expertise and New Media

Probably the most involved discussion that I had this semester in my English 320 class was about whether or not digital/social media skills are going to matter in five years. I said that I doubted that current skills would translate to whatever will happen next but having “meta-skills” would. For example, our textbook authors’ love Wikis. I can’t read the chapter on online communication without getting this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GciUo5HewQY song stuck in my head. However, only having a chapter on online writing might be part of the problem. New Media and online texts sometimes seem like a fun thing or a novelty for instructors to use rather than an active part of the writing classroom. I think that part of that response results from the idea that “all expertise must flow from the front of the classroom” (Brooke 182). Since new media and social media change so frequently, expertise seems impossible.

Still, I think expertise is possible for writing students through New Media, but the expertise comes from having the ability to do effective exploration and engagement. Perhaps, the ideas of what one can have expertise in needs to change. To reference Levitt’s claim in Marketing Myopia, students would have to realize that they aren’t in the railroad business, but in the transportation business. Maybe we should revisit Marshall McLuhan’s theories to understand how the classroom, learning, and writing has changed—and not changed.

This quote is rather long, but I think about it whenever someone says multitasking is impossible. Some rules may be different now. Maybe it’s another version of programming the VCR, the DVR, the cell phone . . .

“Psychiatrist Dr. Stan Kutcher, an expert on adolescent mental health who has studied the effect of digital technology on brain development, says we probably can: “There is emerging evidence suggesting that exposure to new technologies may push the Net Generation past conventional capacity limitations.” When the straight-A student is doing her homework at the same time as five other things online, she is not actually multitasking. Instead, she has developed better active working memory and better switching abilities. I can’t read my e-mail and listen to iTunes at the same time, but she can. Her brain has been wired to handle the demands of the digital age” (Tapscott 251).

Question: How would you address a student who resists using new media in the classroom?

Question: How much technology is too much in the writing classroom? How much is too little?

Question: How can (or can’t) this McLuhan quote be applied in composition studies and pedagogy: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us?”

Tapscott, Don. “Designing Your Mind.” Ed. Brockman, John. This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. Kindle.

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One thought on “Expertise and New Media

  1. Question: How would you address a student who resists using new media in the classroom?
    I find this question interesting because resistance on the basis of the medium is less and less likely. And, in some ways, it strikes me that this is just a question on how you would handle resistance in the classroom. If the medium is integral to the work of the class, and not an add on, your question just becomes a question of resistance, and then we tend to err on the side of helping a student understand the whys and wherefores of the tasks. But if there is some kind of fear or block related to the tech, I might handle things differently, as long as I felt the student could still accomplish the same goals in a different fashion.

    Question: How much technology is too much in the writing classroom? How much is too little?
    Too much: when it’s added on and doesn’t play a key role in getting you to the learning goals.
    Too little: harder question. What are learning goals?

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