In spite of the increasing interest and investment in computer-supported writing instruction, the traditional classroom continues as a strong presence on college campuses and in the minds of many teachers. For new teachers of writing, assumptions about what constitutes effective teaching and learning are inevitably tied to familiar images of desks (even if they are arranged in a circle), chalkboards (even if students do the writing on them), and classroom talk (even if students do most of the talking). As much of the literature on computers and writing attests, networked classrooms disrupt these familiar images. Although this disruption can be uncomfortable, it can also be a powerful tool in helping teachers to identify unconscious assumptions that can limit their teaching, a process that is crucial to becoming a reflective practitioner. Providing all new teachers with experience in an networked classroom thus serves to bridge two gaps: that between traditional and networked classrooms and that between unconscious and conscious teaching practices. In this presentation, we will report on our years of experience teaching a required TA training course in a networked classroom, ultimately arguing that exposing all new teachers to the challenges posed by networked teaching provides a number of benefits that are difficult to achieve by other means. Although new TAs in our program are not assigned to the computer classrooms during their first year of teaching, their experience in one during TA training provides a lens through which to examine and critique traditional classroom practices, making it possible to see the familiar with new eyes. Experience in a networked classroom also demonstrates to new teachers the benefits of being flexible, of taking risks, and of being willing to move beyond the familiar, even in a traditional classroom. And experience in an online classroom gives new teachers a chance to explore their unexamined assumptions regarding the relationships among teaching, learning, writing, and technology. In addition to describing briefly our training course and online assignments that illustrate the disruptive effect we advocate, we will also present TAs' various responses to their online training experiences and their reflection on the relevance of that experience to their preparation for the traditional classroom. Both strong enthusiasm for and strong resistance to online instruction and networked communication are part of our TAs' responses; this wide range of reactions shows the complex and yet invigorating nature of the differences between traditional and networked classrooms. When traditional and networked classrooms are seen as provocative influences on each other and ALL teachers are given the chance to experience that provocation, teachers can begin to build bridges across the differences between the two kinds of classrooms and toward more conscious, reflective teaching practices.
Author: Carrie Leverenz and Ruth Mirtz
Target Audience: Not Applicable