Literacy Theory in the Age of the Internet

Literacy Theory in the Age of the Internet

Literacy Theory in the Age of the Internet

Literacy Theory in the Age of the Internet


By now it is widely accepted wisdom that the Internet has vast potential as a learning tool for students of almost all ages and levels. But it is less clear how to harness this potential most effectively. What indeed should the "online classroom" mean to teachers? Will the rush to get "wired" mean little more than enhanced visuals or automated lecture delivery--or can it result in innovative pedagogies for improving literacy into the twenty-first century?

In this collection of essays, some of the most progressive voices in literacy studies reconsider what it means to be literate in the information age, and offer practical advice not only for getting networked computers into the classroom but also for instructing students and other teachers how to tap into their boundless potential.

Essays range in subject from the story of a radical, communal writers' group working together in a networked environment; to an exploration of how utopian notions of the networked classroom don't always hold true, on the basis of the authors' classroom experience of hostile, dysfunctional chat room exercises; to an applied and totally attainable model for gathering support and preparing teachers for new technologies.

Together the contributions provide a provocative and much-needed introduction to the constantly shifting subject of literacy theory, paving the way for continued dialogue on a subject that teachers, students, and all writers and readers can no longer afford to ignore.


Gregory Ulmer

The syntax of the title of this book binds together three terms—literacy, theory, the Internet—whose unstable relationships are explored in the essays that follow. The collection as a whole may serve as a benchmark for measuring the shifts and movements within the disciplines devoted to writing. My purpose in this foreword is to sketch some of the historical and theoretical contexts for the issues addressed in the essays, with the caveat that my frame is not necessarily acceptable to all the authors gathered here. Rather, I offer it as an explanation for why I admire this book. Thomas Kuhn demonstrated how paradigms form around certain key problems and their prototypical solutions. One of the paradigm-forming problematics of our moment concerns our response to the new electronic technologies developing within our civilization. With the advent of the Internet these technologies have achieved a critical mass, one of whose effects is the exposure of the relativity of literacy. The material condition of the problematic is simply this: the computer is in the classroom, and we are asked to teach students how to write with it. What is to be done?

The question is posed from within the current moment. We ask ourselves, each one of us individually—the authors in this volume and many others besides—how we should help our students learn to live and thrive in this postindustrial information age. The tone of the question may vary, similar on one end of the scale to that of scientists dealing with ozone depletion, scenarios for avoiding collisions with asteroids, and other catastrophes, to the other end . . .

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