Aging Literacies:
Training and Development Challenges for Faculty

Angela Crow


Angela Crow has produced a useful book that, as stated in her introduction, is comprised of three interwoven strands: “a literate awareness of aging studies as a field; the issues we face as we age in our abilities to learn and accumulate literacies; and the difficulties we may face when we see literacies gain or lose value” (pp. 3-4). For denizens of Kairos and members of the computers and writing community, the value of the volume most likely resides in the way in which, through reviews of relevant literature, it sets the stage for future interrogations of how best to train and develop composition faculty, some of whom are confronting concerns related to aging, at a time of expanding pedagogies and emerging modalities. Crow announces her intention in these terms: “I have written this book as if I were in the midst of shaping a research project about writing faculty, deciding on the frame for that research,” with the goal to “provide a researcher with a sense of what might need to be considered, were she or he to include the identity category of age in research design” (p. 6). The latter quote suggests, and this is borne out, that the book’s emphasis and therefore its applicability is primarily with identity-related issues and secondarily with composition, technology, and media.

That Crow’s subjects have resonance is evidenced by their recent coverage elsewhere. For example, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Peter Seldin (2008) addressed the phenomenon of “tired” faculty members and the means by which to rejuvenate them, whereas in EDUCAUSE Quarterly Nancy Chism (2004) delivered a “conceptual framework [that] enables faculty development planners to better estimate the potential effectiveness of various strategies” when it comes to engaging the professoriate in instructional technology (p. 39), and Whitney Ransom, Charles Graham, and Jon Mott (2007) reported on a study of faculty perceptions of technology projects. There is, in addition, the work of Donald Ely (1990) as well as that of Daniel Surrey, David Ensminger, and Melissa Haab (2005) on the implementation and integration of technology in higher education.

My purpose in evoking these sources is not only to reinforce the legitimacy of Crow’s agenda but also, by way of contrast, to point out what I find as the flaw in her ambitious book. While the aforementioned texts are all governed by a tight axis of cohesion and a steady progression of ideation, I am of the view that Crow, and by extension her readers, are not well served with the back and forth structure of the book, wherein she moves topically among teaching and writing, training and development, literacies and technology, aging and gender, along with further focalization. From my perspective, Crow’s efforts would have yielded greater impact had she created a more stable architecture of argumentation and a more sustained arc of narration. I would have preferred, that is, a more circumscribed terrain and a deeper drilling, since these could have made the book more immediately beneficial both to “digital natives” and “digital immigrants,” to trainers and trainees alike. This criticism, however, does not diminish the contribution that Crow has made, and I for one would like to see her and others continue with this line of inquiry in order to generate findings that will let us discover and implement best practices for dealing with the three threads of “aging literacies.”