Designing a universally-accessible classroom and establishing a keen rapport with my students, I empower them to understand the deep and complex issues surrounding the rhetorics of technology and social media. Every aspect of my students’ lives is affected by these ever-growing digital spaces and the technologies used to interact with them. My teaching emphatically emphasizes transfer—combined with transparency—in order to help my students understand the relevancy of not only what I ask them to read and analyze, but of the tools the authors have used to effectively reach their audiences. My pedagogy turns upon making the stakes of digital rhetoric apparent to my students and upon asking them to participate in addressing the real-world social, financial, and political consequences that social media can have on their lives.
By highlighting the rhetorical tools utilized in social media, and technology broadly, my course theme on the “Technoself” helps students learn how to decode and analyze the rhetoric of technology and its power to shape identity. In the same way that my students are often unaware of the far-reaching effects that even one careless tweet could have, they are often unaware of the power of digital rhetoric to define whether spaces are accessible, and to whom. By utilizing a series of readings from popular sources like the New York Times and Medium, I ask students to look at who is included or excluded from the discourses about and through social media. Modeling textual analysis, I ask my students to look for “rhetoric” in several seemingly-innocuous sample tweets, ranging from a picture of a meal to discussions of the current political climate. After writing reflectively, the class discusses which of the tweets they have identified as “rhetorical” and “political” and why. My students are often surprised to learn that all of the tweets are in some way rhetorical and political. Once they recognize that everything is an argument, we can then begin to discuss the stakeholders involved and their degrees of visibility and access. By understanding the implicit perspectives inherent even to texts that are not apparently political, my students can begin to identify rhetoric in action, to question the arguments made therein, and, to more effectively employ rhetorical strategies in their own writing. Using digital rhetoric as our focal point, my composition classes emphasize critical thinking and communication. My goal is never to offer prescriptive or essentialized pro/anti-technological positions, but instead to ask my students to consider how technologies, and their rhetorics, are actually used—and by whom—to include or exclude real people.
As a scholar and a writer my own focus on, and passion for, the newest technological advances informs how I interact with the world. It also informs how I perceive the greatest threats to that world. Informed by my work in the Digital Humanities, and intersectional study within spaces of (dis)ability, gender, queerness, class, and culture, approachability remains a cornerstone of my pedagogy. All students need a safe environment in which to think through and share their ideas. Rapport is a pillar of my classroom ethos; students thrive when they know that they won’t be shot down, and when criticism can be delivered constructively. First year writers tend to think of themselves as “bad writers,” and careless commenting can reinforce this belief, further discouraging them. By actively engaging my students on a personal level, and relating to their struggles in college, I attempt to humanize myself in their eyes. This helps my students understand that I was not a mythic being born as a fully-formed expert. This assuages their own writing anxiety while essentially showing them that, with practice, they too can achieve expertise. Asking my students to identify with me thus makes them readier to engage in the critical thinking and writing strategies that I present, and subsequently more willing to experiment with and share their own.
Sample Teaching Materials
Look here for samples of teaching materials in the near future.