I teach composition at a community college—five or six classes a semester. I finished my coursework for my MA in American Literature almost twenty years ago, but I try to keep up with composition studies.When I read Latchaw's review in February, I immediately ordered the book. I was making a collection of works to read over the summer that would help me get caught up with current trends, philosophies and vocabularies in composition studies. By the time I would read the book, I reasoned, I would understand what an ethnographic study should be, and I could judge for myself whether this one worked or not. Well, of course, by the time I did read the book, I had forgotten the review, my original reason for including it in my reading list, and even my ridiculous goal of teaching myself everything there was to know about postmodernism and techno-rhetorical theory in two and a half months. However, despite initially ordering it as a book to increase my knowledge and understanding of scholarship in the C&W field, I found in it some very practical uses.

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Tornow's description of the classroom in the basement of the undergraduate library:

The walls were a smudged and faded chartreuse, except for one which was a burnt sienna. They were bedecked here and there with recklessly placed posters, freebies from various computer hardware and software companies. When the teaching assistants had prepared the room for class, thirteen panels of fluorescent lights buzzed and flickered overhead. Four fans on stands created a steady breeze of white noise. The monitors of the computers selected for use that day emitted a sapphire light. They seemed to hum, in anticipation, the siren song of the nineties. (14)

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And my description of our computer classroom:

So what if we are on the second floor, actually, right in the center of a bunch of classrooms and offices, brightly lit, with newly painted white walls, and our computers are 26 identical shiny new Dell Pentiums, arranged on 13 identical gray desks, with 26 matching wheeled and upholstered burgundy office chairs?

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Latchaw and Silver both list their favorites. Latchaw says, "Teachers interested in, but inexperienced with, computer technology might enjoy and be inspired by chapters like "The Room in the Basement" (2), "Lora" (4), "Participation in the Discussion" (6), and "Yo Hugh!" (11). Silver suggests looking at the chapters "devoted to individual students."

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Hype and Jargon

Latchaw writes of Link/Age, "The narrative qualities, interspersed with research and theory, are indeed a siren song—sometimes seductive and Utopian, sometimes warning and skeptical." This description strikes me as representative of much of the work dealing with electronic communications.

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It’s not that it is a how-to book, although I have to admit to at least momentarily considering stealing Burns’ curriculum. I think that in presenting as comprehensive a view of a semester’s worth of work as I could see in one book, it allows a teacher to imagine herself in that position and at least lowers the biggest hurdle facing teachers new to teaching composition in computer classrooms.

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Inspires Teachers

Molinelli says, for example, in his carefully documented review,

While addressing the potential of this medium to engage students in the enjoyment of word play, this book also speaks powerfully to all composition teachers who are interested in thinking about ways and reasons to harness these relatively new technologies in a response-based writing classroom. (24)


But what really makes this book come alive for the teacher of writing is what these students in English 309 say and do with this electronic classroom space and how, with the guidance of an exceptionally capable instructor, they appropriate this networked environment for themselves while developing a community of writers. (25)

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