Rachael Shapiro

Rachael’s story came later than most, after she had heard a presentation on this research and after her grandmother had passed away. Rachael was in graduate school at WSU, and like several others, had her laptop on during class. Although teachers regularly suspect that some students are using Facebook instead of taking notes, none knew of the intergenerational communication that was taking place—until Rachael confessed in an email.


"It's my Grandmother who passed away ... and I remembered that one of her greatest joys in the last months of her life was when I would secretly Skype her into my grad seminar. It's from her that I get my passion about literacy and education. She could have been anything she wanted had she gone to school, but she decided to stay home and serve her children, and later grandchildren and great-grandchildren instead. Even though she hadn't read the background materials for the discussions, she loved listening in and hearing the excitement of intellectual work that she so thirsted for."



Throughout their closely intertwined lives, Rachael and her grandmother were building their "heritage literacy,” a literacy that is largely informed by rhetorical strategies. In their oral, written, and finally, their digital communications, they enacted their family’s rhetorical heritage. Those approaches are comprised of "practices, tools, and concepts” and are learned through intergenerational communications (Rumsey, 2009, p. 575).



As a graduate student studying rhetoric and literacy, Rachael is more aware of her rhetorical heritage than most others. Because of digital technology, she was able to offer her grandmother a loving "pay back” that would have been impossible without it. Perhaps encouraging students to delve into and be aware of their rhetorical heritage (as we suggest in A Pedagogy of Techno-memoria) has positive facets other than allowing them to be more skilled rhetors. Perhaps this approach will allow them the awareness and opportunity to say "thank you” for the richness of their rhetorical heritage.