Kimme Hea, Going Wireless

Kimme Hea, Amy C. Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Compostion Teachers and Researchers.  Cresskill, NJ: Hamptom Press, Inc, 2009. Print. (Parts 1 & 4) 

The Changing Shapes of Writing: Rhetoric, New media, and Composition, Johndon Johnson-Eilola & Stuart A. Selber

As will be noted throughout the book, Johnson-Eilola and Selber note that the use of wireless, mobile technologies in the classroom seem antithetical to current classroom practices: often fashioned as rude, disruptive or distraction. However, as the authors note, the conversation about whether or not to see these technologies as sites of instruction are beside the point: “they’re already here—and our students are using them on a daily basis” (16). By including writing in a variety of forms into the classroom, “compositionists acknowledge that communication is broad and varied enterprise, one that surfaces in a surprisingly large number of areas in all our lives, including our students’…but students write all the time, probably more than they did twenty years ago. It’s just that we’re only now starting to recognize what they do as writing—or more broadly, as important forms of communication” (17).

The authors, then, offer a framework that plays into process-approach to writing and writing pedagogy. “Our goal is to extend [the work of computer technology int eh classroom] by stepping back from a focus on specific technologies and focusing more on the overall rhetorical aspects of such approaches” (20). The framework is outlined in four aspects related to the writing process:

  • Context: “the situations in which communication and living occur” (20). This includes layers both micro and macro: from the specific environment of writing to the wider networks of constituent factors.
  • Change: “change occurs within contexts in relationship to one or more communications” (21). See: Bitzer.
  • Content: refers to the pre-existing content used to build text. See: assemblage.
  • Tools: “tools exist at the technological, concrete level” (21). Not simply technologies, but also the conceptual practices used to frame writing activity.

In discussing the application of their framework in concrete examples, they note that people draw upon a number of different media and technologies to enact appropriate change: writing that solve problems (and make change) is often constructed in ways that are appropriate for the medium: “these features are not due to sloppiness of poor writing skills—they are designed to accommodate a communication to the needs and affordances of texting” (27).


Learning Unplugged, Teddi Fishman & Kathleen Blake Yancey

Fishman and Yancey discuss how the emergences of wireless, mobile technologies operate in a dialectical relationship with current teaching practices: in other words, they note that we need to rethink some classroom practices in light of these new technologies.

Like Johnson-Eilola and Selber, Fishman and Yancey note that, for the most part, wirelessness “despite its potential for making connections, accessing information, and supplying ‘just-in-time knowledge’—is out” (36). However, “students create their own wireless zones with their cellphones and pagers, bringing into our inside spaces their own connections to the world outside and their own information and social networks. Those connections—the ones we don’t invite, control, or even welcome—are typically perceived by faculty at best as a nuisance, at worst as a breach of classroom decorum and an affront to education itself” (36). Wirelessness’ “out” position is then re-established through classroom practices—in other words, wirelessness becomes antithetical to how we current conceive of how the classroom runs, i.e. how learning works. Accordingly, “when wireless becomes integral to the classroom environment, methods of teaching must change, and so too must the methodology of assessment” (37).

Toward the point of assessment, they how wireless technology’s “just-in-time knowledge” or immediacy of information makes assessments of recall both unnecessary and counter-productive. Instead, “assessments that asks students to use information” seems more productive in a wireless world: further, “the usefulness of the task as preparation for the work they will eventually do with this information is significantly higher” (37).

Likewise, in discussing attendance policies, they note that “traditional attendance polices, for instance, may morph into participation policies wherein ‘being there’ means being there for a purpose—to help, to contribute, to share—in short, to do rather than simply be” (38). As both assessment and attednace policies indicate, “wireless raises questions about which tasks lend themselves better to f2f communication; which to electronic; and which to both” (42).

However, the authors also note that “wireless is not untethered…it is embedded in a physical context and even more so when the physical contexts are multiplied; it can serve as interface function; it can serve as its own site of learning. This means moves obviously, that in order to ‘work.’ Wireless still requires certain physical proximities—to a signal source or a power source. It may also mean, however, that other kinds of proximities are also required—proximities of discourse, proximities of perspectives, proximities of knowledge” (39).

Furthermore, the authors note that wireless also places the onus of learning further into the hands of students: “how to learn, increasingly, involves context” (43), and the authors note, historically, the learning context is often facilitated in the “classroom box and by the instructor’s expertise/interpretations. However, “in both popular and high culture, context belongs to us all—which of course is the claim of wireless” (43). Learning, then, might involve something like a museum of multiple experiences: “what this arrangement means is that the museum-goer” like the student, “is an inventor, too, filling the absence with as much and many contexts as possible” (43). The question of wireless, then, is “what’s happening right now?” rather than “how will this turn out in the end?” (45).


Perpetual Contact: Re-Articulating the Anywhere, Anytime Pedagogical Model of Mobile and Wireless Composing, Amy C. Kimme Hea

Kimme Hea looks more closely at the learning models and narratives often espoused during the inclusion of institution-wide wireless technology initiatives. She specifically challenges the ways such learning models see technology as pervasive, immersive, seamless, and deterministic. Rather, she advocates for a more contextual and contingent approach to wireless technology initiatives that focuses on the social infrastructures involved in its effectiveness.

She begins by discussing the cultural narratives of ubiquity that often guide wireless technology initiatives in educational institutions. Defined, ubiquity refers to “the existence, or apparent existence, of technology being everywhere, pervasive and immersive” (200). “Ubiquitous computing [or ubicom], in fact, argues for the invisibility of technology—making critique of technological practice nearly impossible or irrelevant—and perpetuates that idea that individuals need not consciously engage technology—assuming that agency in relation to technology is unnecessary and undesirable” (201). Promotions from ubicom programs “use the discourse of ubiquitous computing to argue that their wireless laptops can serve our needs and transcend boundaries, even those of item, space, and diversity” (204). As such, “an uncritical perspective on space-less and time-less technologies leads to an erasure of history, place, context, and agency” (204).

With wireless technologies, some have noted that we have not simply lost space or time, but rather we have an overabundance of spaces from which we navigate through mobile devices. These multiple spaces are referred to as non-place: spaces, for instance, used for particular ends (commerce, transport) and the relations built within these spaces. “Non-places denote two conditions: always being available for production and being nowhere of significance” (205). Narratives of non-place support ubiquitous computing narratives.

In discussing two wireless initiatives, Kimme Hea notes that these wireless technologies afford a high degree of agency to “remediate student learning and literacy;” in other words, these technologies drive learning itself: “here, wireless laptops are argued to be the way to foster learning, assuming that simply adding laptops will necessarily create an active learning environment” (207). Kimme Hea argues succinctly, “the idea of more engaged students is difficult to argue against—we all want engaged learners in our classrooms—but we must question whether or not students are automatically engaged in their own learning by the mere presence of wireless laptops or any other technology—new or old. Wireless laptops alone cannot guarantee critical literacy, student and teacher agency, or even educational reform” (208).

Similarly, we see teacher innovations redefined as technology integration. “Unwired is unshackled in Baker’s equation as he assumes that technology will drive improvement. …Regardless of oppressive state and federal educational mandates, teachers…should feel free, open, and ready to create new learning opportunities for students. This position of denying broader educational restrictions assumes that the wireless technologies have no material or political contexts or that the technology can transcend such restrictions” (209).

And finally, while students are asked to control their own learning “through the internalization of standards, they are also expected to police themselves in relationship to sanctioned laptop use…’school administration has the ability to view student computers, including Internet history, from a remote location. Like a locker, the computers can be searched at any time’” (210).

In this formation, “these programs stress that students are to motivate their own learning and teachers need to either stay out of the way of student learning or police student online behavior” (215). She writes, instead, “these programs and our own cannot achieve laudable goals without paying attention to the context of technology teaching and learning, without situating these technologies within particular spatial configurations, and without rearticulating broader, more productive roles for students, teachers, and administrators” (215).


Writing in the Wild: A paradigm for Mobile Composition, Olin Bjork & John Pedro Schwartz

Bjork and Schwartz advocate for writing assignments that asked students to research, write, and publish on location: visit places of rhetorical activity outside the normal environments of teaching learning and writing (dorms, libraries, etc). “Assignments that require students to compose in situ using mobile technologies help them achieve insights into the relationship between discourse and place [see: Reynolds]” as well as the materiality of space: “the material structures determining writing production” (225). However, Bjork and Schwartz advocate not simply to consider the textual work in terms of the implements and media of composing, but rather, “where students write [that] determines not only what they write but also what they write with” (225). “what teachers do ‘in class’ also has something to do with where they do it—the classroom itself ‘cans’ their pedagogies. Wireless networks have the potential to redefine the classroom as any physical or virtual place where instructing and students happen to meet” (229).

Their paradigm may draw attention to the physical and cultural accessibility of space: “some instructors may rightly worry that this approach may mark students according to their mobility. Indeed, transportation, race, gender, class, age, and disability are determining factors in real and perceived mobilities. But mobile composition can encourage students to confront such differences, for one goal of repositioning writers in the wild is to foster awareness of their social, cultural, and historical locations” (231).

The authors offer three examples of mobile composition assignments:

  1. Museum of everyday life: web and mobile technologies have made the resources of the museum available to remote—and even present—audiences. Some have advocated for “post-museum”: “a place where ‘knowledge is constructed rather than transmitted” (231). Attendees are invited to take on the role of curators: “yet their curator status posed an alternative to the traditional institutional discourse of museum exhibits in several important respects” (231).
  2. Sound-seeing: “sound-seers are people who record audio narrations of their travels or other sight-seeing activities…and publish them on the internet as podcasts…the activity is called ‘sound-seeing because the listener, or podcatcher, ‘sees’ the event or place as it is described in ‘sound’ by the podcaster” (232). “Soundseeing evokes the flaneur’s chance encounter with an object of interest. As with the case of the everyday curator, writing instructors can appropriate the figure of the tourist of flaneur cum guide for mobile composition assignments” (232).
  3. Mobloggin: or mobile blogging (which could involve live-tweeting or long-form blogging with mobile technology). “mobloggers are unique in that they publish at the location of the object” (234).

“such assignments reposition writers in the wild, where they must confront material conditions and respond to rhetorical opportunities not often encountered through traditional assignments” (234).


Metaphors of Mobility: Emerging spaces for rhetorical reflection and communication, Nicole R. Brown

As teachers and researchers think critically about the inclusion of mobility in the composition classroom, “there is a simultaneous focus in education on place-based learning and the grounding of curricula in local cultures, ecologies, geographies and histories” (239). Such pedagogy of place makes visible the field’s commitment to critical pedagogy, described as a pedagogy of place. It allows us to locate knowledge and power relations, discourse, and identities. However, as Selfe & Selfe reminds us, “metaphors reveal political and ideological borders” (241); as such, Brown looks closely at two different metaphors we might use to frame how we design our classroom pedagogies and accordingly, create writing assignments” (241).

Graffiti as Metaphor: the metaphor of graffiti has been used as a way to “attach” electronic notes or tags to specific locations on campus, sometimes private zones. “Location-aware mobile technologies further encourage the teaching of these genres [space-specific genres] in ways that more directly relate them to space” (243). The defining characteristics of the graffiti metaphor involves:

  1. Graffiti as a means of public protest
  2. Graffiti as a means of registering existence (e.g. “X was here”)
  3. Graffiti as a means of engaging in dialogue (e.g. bathroom stalls)
  4. Graffiti as a means of opportunistic entertaining.

However, some cirtiques of the graffiti metaphor involves the dissonance between the accessibility of high-tech technology and graffiti as a typically the discourse of the marginal.

Public Art as Metaphor: “Public art focuses on the interplaces among form, audience, and placement…public art’s focus on invention, publication, space, the composing process, and the reader response/participation fit well with pedagogical objectives related tow writing instruction” (246). Public art operates on two relationships with places and daily life: (a) “they integrate with and become a part of the architecture or (b)they intervene with the architecture to raise social and political commentary” (246). “Like graffiti, public art encourages critique and social action, but unlike graffiti, it does so by making the audience part of the performance” by calling the audience to action in some way (248).



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