Presentation Abstract

Beyond Reading and Writing Hypertexts: Rhetoric and Democracy in the Electronic Classroom

Using hypertext and teaching students to become rhetoricians can create an environment in which students transform the classroom from a site supportive of what Paulo Freire has called “the banking concept of education” to a location within which we may encounter a “problem-posing education, a humanist and liberating praxis.” My goal in this paper is to show how a developmental-writing instructor/graduate student can create a democratic environment in which students shape not only the curriculum of their current course (through selecting on-line readings) and become active agents in seeing their college campuses as parts of a democratic social system. While a Freirian approach to teaching does not require hypertext (far from it!) in my particular historical and geographical setting (New York City, 1997), I believe that the way hypertext disrupts students’ and teachers’ comfortable concepts about the roles of texts, readers, and writers can be used to engage in a process of problem-posing education. In this essay, I reflect on the successes and failures experienced while teaching basic writers how to read and compose hypertexts. I see on-line courses for basic writers as offering students the opportunity to participant in the formation of a new mode of textuality, develop a mastery of new technological skills and explore a new medium of communication. However, using hypertext also creates is the possibility for studying and practicing (what Pat Bizzell has called) the “hybrid discourses” of our multiply-cultured American society. In some cases, my students seized the opportunity to participant in a democratic curriculum and use hypertext to rethink the consequences and power of writing; in others, they came to view computers and html documents as impediments to their learning. Based on student responses and recent theoretical work in computers and composition, this essay examines the potential uses (and pitfalls) of creating html documents in developmental writing classrooms.

Author: Carl W. Whithaus


Target Audience: Novice

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