Edited by Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Heidi A. McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe
Introduction to Section I
Heidi A. McKee
We open Technological Ecologies and Sustainability with discussion of ways to sustain the engagement of instructors, students, and classroom pedagogy. Grounded in the contextual circumstances of specific institutions and individuals, the chapter authors provide rich and broadly applicable approaches for analyzing, developing, and nurturing technological ecologies.
The opening chapter by Ryan Moeller, Cheryl Ball, and Kelli Cargile Cook is a collaboration among newly hired faculty and their department chair. In “Political Economy and Sustaining the Unstable: New Faculty and Research in English Studies” they describe their struggles to support digital media faculty in their scholarly research and in the technology-rich teaching they were hired to do. Using Phil Graham’s political economy analysis they analyze the “complex ecology of an English department” and they argue that to sustain digital media faculty individuals, departments, and institutions need to work in concert. They close their chapter with an excellent set of recommendations that will be useful for any computers and writing faculty and the colleagues and administrators who support them.
In “A Portable Ecology: Supporting New Media Writing and Laptop-ready Pedagogy,” Kristie S. Fleckenstein, Fred Johnson, and Jackie Grutsch McKinney also argue for holistic approaches to developing technological ecologies. Using Gregory Bateson’s idea of contextual evolution, they reflect on the process of transforming a set of conventional classrooms into laptop-ready learning spaces. In their detailed reflection they offer an analytic model for examining, developing, and sustaining pedagogical initiatives. Their chapter illustrates the interdependencies of individuals, institutions, and material contexts, and the value of ecological or holistic thinking about design efforts. Anyone undertaking the design, redesign, evaluation or re-evaluation of pedagogical and material ecologies will be particularly interested in this chapter.
In the third chapter in this section, “Stifling Innovation: The Impact of Resource-poor Techno-ecologies on Student Technology Use,” Anthony Atkins and Colleen Reilly describe their and their students’ struggles as digital writing teachers and learners in an under-resourced program and institution. Drawing from their own experiences and from student perspectives gathered in a survey study, Atkins and Reilly provide us with a detailed analysis of the strategies used and the hardships faced by instructors and students seeking to work within resource-poor ecologies. Their work makes clear how digital curricula can challenge the technological and human infrastructure of institutions and departments, and how the sustainability of digital teaching and learning initiatives cannot rest solely on individuals alone. Atkins and Reilly’s chapter offers useful research and analytic approaches for those seeking to chronicle and change their own institutions’ technological ecologies.
In “Video for the Rest of Us? Toward Sustainable Processes for Incorporating Video into Multimedia Composition,” Peter Fadde and Patricia Sullivan take on a challenging media. They make a strong case for sustaining video production in our culture and classrooms, while at the same time detailing the fundamental difficulty of sustaining both the system requirements of video and the extensive production process that most videographers go through. By paring down the processes and technological ecologies to essential components, they provide us with sustainable processes for incorporating the powerful medium of video into multimedia composition. Their chapter and the approaches for which they argue are a must--read for anyone interested in developing video as a component of writing studies programs and courses.
In the closing chapter of this section, Kathleen Blake Yancey, in “Portfolios, Circulation, Ecology, and the Development of Literacy,” provides several ecological models of digital portfolios for assessment, reflection, and learning. Drawing from detailed and highly layered e-portfolio ecologies and how they are encouraged and sustained in different institutional and individual contexts, Yancey argues for cultivating and sustaining a type of self-sponsored student writerly identity.
She closes her chapter by drawing an analogy between e-portfolios and the needlework practice (and art) of embroidery sampling, arguing that just as samplers provide flexible platforms for literacy—they are self-sponsored, personalizable, reiterative, and identity-making—so too should portfolios be as flexible. Yancey’s chapter provides useful insights on the educational impact of particular eportfolio ecologies and what learning different models support and sustain.
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