Friday, June 29, 2012

balancing acts

Selber, Stuart. “Beyond skill building: challenges facing technical communication teachers in the computer age.” Central Works in Technical Communication. Eds. Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 449-464.
I’m going to come back to Selber here to begin my departure from my major exam readings and finish up in transition to my first minor readings with Longo, Spilka, and Albers. With that, I like this statement from Selber as a framing claim to move away from technology-mediation: “The most significant pedagogical issues are not necessarily (and sometime not at all) tied to technological developments.”

Like Johnson-Eilola, Selber is imagining what we should be doing to prepare technical communication practitioners. Specifically, he is looking at how computer technologies influence and shape the discursive activities surrounding their use. “As writing technical communication teachers, we should concern ourselves with such changes and encourage computer literacies in our classrooms that consider the rhetorical, social, and political implications of computer-mediated communication and work” (450). How does this claim align with the “teaching tools vs. teaching writing” debate? Selber seems to be on the side of writing. “As we introduce and use computers in technical communications classrooms, our job is again complicated by the need to consider our humanistic goals or preparing responsible students with critical and rhetorical, as well as technical, skills” (451).

Selber lays out three challenges facing Technical Communication. Not surprising, the discipline (and the field of practice) continue to wrestle with these challenges half a decade later.
  1. Balancing technological literacy and humanistic concerns – this goes deeper than the teaching tools vs. teaching writing debate; this speaks directly to the call for a more humanistic and less objectivist/positivist curriculum.
  2. Re-envisioning our computer-related curriculum – reinforcing my own claim that Computers & Writing / Writing with Technology pedagogies are located within the core of Technical Communication’s pedagogies.
  3. Educating teachers who use computers in their classrooms – see above.
The first challenge Selber identifies is one I’m intimately familiar with, as I struggle to move my instruction in WRT 401/402 further away from common tropes, generic practices, typifications, and objectivism. “… if we spend a majority of our time narrowly preparing students for work in such environments, we thus diminish or even lose sight of the literacy and humanistic issues surrounding computer use” (460).

As a transitional reading, Selber leaves me wondering how the tool-heavy or “emancipatory” course align (or oppose) the courses that Brassuer and Hendl dissect?

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