In 1994, Anne Ruggles Gere wrote of the "extracurriculum of composition” and encouraged compositionists to "listen to the signals that come through the walls of our classrooms from the world outside” (p. 76). Gere argued that "writing development occurs regularly and successfully outside classroom walls” although much of the history of composition has focused "inside classroom walls” (p. 78). This extracurriculum "includes the present as well as the past,” "extends beyond the academy,” and "acknowledges a wide range of teachers” (p. 80).


As Gere’s work did in 1994, our research hinges on the contributions of literacy studies. Gere cited Shirley Brice Heath, Patricia Bizzell, and Glynda Hull; we owe a debt to the same foundations as well as others who have built on that foundation. We also are indebted to Cynthia Selfe and Gail Hawisher (2004), themselves building on the work of literacy scholars like Deborah Brandt, who contend that the family is one of the gateways to technological literacy (p. 672). Extending that argument, we believe that family is the cradle of our rhetorico-compositional literacies and the first classroom of multimodal composing. In addition, we commiserate with Selfe and Hawisher’s lament concerning "how little teachers of English, composition, and communication know about the many literacies students bring to the classroom.” "As a result,” they claim, "we fail to build on the literacies that students already have” (p. 676).


Another scholar exhorting us to pay attention to extracurricular literacies is Kathleen Blake Yancey. In her 2004 CCCC Chair’s Address, Yancey noted that we (faculty and students) learn digital genres "on our own, outside of school” (p. 302). [Emphasis in original] She encouraged a "new composition” that includes print, but "brings the notions of practice and activity and circulation and media and screen and networking to our conceptions of process" (p. 320). The "new composition” will, as Yancey argued, demand much of rhetoric and composition teachers. We believe that looking at the techno-rhetorical family is an important way of responding to Yancey’s concerns.


Since 2004, calls for more attention to extracurricular sites of literacy learning appear regularly in our journals. In 2009 Suzanne Rumsey introduced the concept of heritage literacy in an article that encourages paying attention to different kinds of multimodal literacy. Heritage literacy provides

an explanation of how people transfer literacy knowledge from generation to generation and how certain practices, tools, and concepts are adapted, adopted, and alienated from use, depending on the context. It is lifelong, cross-generational learning and meaning making; it is developmental and recursive; and like all literacies, it builds over time. (p. 575)

In addition, Rumsey claimed that "Heritage literacy is also multimodal. It accounts for the passage of all sorts of literate practices, not necessarily or exclusively print or alphabetic literacies” (p. 576). Our work seeks to elucidate a multimodal rhetoric that is sometimes print or alphabetic, but is often oral and aural and visual. The kind of literacies that have developed and keep developing through family use of digital communication media are heritage literacies.


Jonathan Alexander’s 2009 article about video gaming and student literacies echoes this increasingly familiar exhortation—that we pay attention to multiple literacies and especially those literacies in environments other than the classroom. Alexander wrote that his writing assignments—related to games as texts—help students develop "multiple literacy skills” (emphasis in original) and invite "students to become increasingly aware of their complex literacy practices” (p. 59). Increasing this awareness, Alexander argued, "constitutes a significant part of our work as compositionists” (p. 59).


In the conclusion of her 2009 article on the rhetorical work of multimedia production Jennifer Sheppard noted that the "already difficult job of composition and professional communication educators” is complicated by the "evolving nature” of multimedia production (p. 130). Despite these complications, Sheppard claimed these complications can be seen as opportunities to explore the rhetorical skills used by multimedia authors and "the intellectual demands of multimedia production practices” (p. 130). To Sheppard’s claims we would add that teachers also need to look to the extracurriculum of the family as a foundation upon which we can help our students build more sophisticated composing practices.


In this webtext, we are adding our voices to those of others who encourage teachers to pay attention to different literacies that inform rhetorical practice. Our extracurriculum focuses on the family and the literacies that are part of familial heritage. The specific site of our considerations is the techno-rhetorical family.