As we move into increasingly digital workplaces and classrooms, it’s easy to forget that “writing technologies” also encompass things like pen and paper, papyrus and styli, typewriters, and so on. As an instructor, I want to encourage students to learn and use new media technologies, but to do so with a critical eye toward what is gained and lost with each new tool. I do this by facilitating open classroom discussion grounded in scholarship about rhetoric and studies in materiality and asking them to argue for their assignment choices via reflective memos.
I also acknowledge that for many students, access to newer technologies (or even technologies we take for granted, like word processors) may be limited or heavily restricted. Additionally, students exploring a new technology may not have ample time or other resources to sufficiently master the new technology within the time frame for a particular assignment. This is why many of my assignments are fairly open-ended when it comes to medium. Students must balance their vision for the assignment, the assignment requirements, and their other time and priorities. I must temper my expectations for each student based on what we went over in class, the assignment requirements, and what I know of each student’s abilities. For example, I expect a much higher level of attention to visual aspects of assignments in my Visual Rhetoric and Document Design (VRDD) classes than I do in my University Writing and Technical Writing classes, but even then my expectations differ student-to-student–e.g., a graphic design major’s assignment will likely look different from her peers’ work.