Knowing that Computers and Composition Online will have a special issue on community colleges, I was quite interested in intervewing the editors of this special issue to better understand their intentions and goals behind the scenes. They graciously agreed to be interviewed and shared their thoughts regarding promoting digital media composition in community colleges.
Introducing the Editors:
Rochelle Rodrigo, known as Shelley, is now Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and (New) Media in the Department of English at Old Dominion University. However, at the start of working on this special issue, she was a professor at Mesa Community College. After her nine years full time at MCC, she is honored to be working in a PhD program with many students who are past, present, and future two-year college faculty.
Matthew Kim had taught in the open-door college for four years prior to pursuing a doctoral degree in English Studies at Illinois State University. He currently works at Eagle Hill School.
Questions and Answers:
Q: What are the themes of this special issue? Why?
SHELLEY: The primary theme of this issue is access. Access to learning, literacy, technology, higher education, etc. All of the authors in this special issue are passionate about providing access to their students. The topic of this special issue is about access as well. Many of the authors work at institutions that do not require research or publication. With that being the case, the readers of Computers and Composition Online do not have as much, or as easy, access to these voices and perspectives about teaching writing with various technologies. Although there are legitimate differences between two-year and four-year, as well as open and restricted access institutions of higher education, most the authors in this special issue demonstrate that deep down we usually care about the same thing, best facilitating learning for our students.
MATT: This special issue, I hope, opened the space for conversations about opportunities and problems in ODC on topics such as access, teaching with media and technology, professional development, second-language writing, and writing centers to name only a few. We chose these issues because they seem the most critical to making composition work for our students, staff, and faculty. When I was teaching at Harold Washington College in Chicago, although their was much collegial support for new teachers and adjuncts, there was an absence of technology and multimodal pedagogy in the classrooms. It was, and this is mildly exaggerated, like teaching in a third world country. At Parkland, conversely, the technology was present, but there was not a lot of faculty support for professional development. So, these experiences helped inspire me to join up with Shelley to create this special issue.
Q: What inspires and motivates you to have this special issue on community colleges?
MATT: Over the last two years, I was fortunate enough to be part of the two-year college committee on research and scholarship. The committee was put together by Sandie Barnhouse, past chair of the two-year college association and lead by Howard Tinberg and Frank Madden. Our findings showed that although there were a handful of journals which focus on teaching in the two-year college, there are none that focus specifically on teaching either rhetorical media or new media in our classrooms. I wondered why it seemed so few English programs introduced rhetorical media to their students as a way of not only learning in college but succeeding afterwards. I was aware that these rhetorical media teacher-scholars existed, but why are they essentially working underground? Getting these amazing teacher-scholars to surface was a primary motivation of mine.
SHELLEY: I think we very carefully distinguished between using the phrase "community college" when we decided to use the phrase "open door college" (ODC) instead. In short, we wanted to address that fact that most places that are working with a radically diverse student population, with a growing number of underprepared students, have different wants and needs as instructors who teach with, and have their students produce, media. For example, many ODCs, especially represented by community colleges, are not well represented in EDUCAUSE's yearly ECAR Student Technology Usage survey. Therefore, we have many faculty, administrators, and IT leaders making assumptions about technological access based on biased data. Similarly, a lot of the research about the teaching and learning of writing, with or without different types of technologies and media, are also biased towards subject populations at institutions with more restrictive student entrance requirements. We wanted to give scholars in the ODC setting a space to voice their own concerns and experiences.
Q: Where do you see community colleges in the field of computers and composition?
SHELLEY: I think ODC participation in the field of computers and composition closely mirrors participation in most disciplines, and English studies at large. Many of these instructors are busy with high teaching loads and are neither required nor supported nor rewarded in producing scholarship. In other words, many are too busy and without either the requirement or support we don't see them participating in scholarly dialogues as much. As a representative of one of the ODC faculty who did stay active within the field, I can say it is disheartening to be repeatedly "erased" by presentations and publications that do not account for ODC settings and/or student populations. Even when explicitly invited to participate in scholarly endeavors, like this special issue, the issues of time and support emerge and keep many ODC instructors from participating.
MATT: I see us still emerging in this area of our discipline. I have attended computers and composition for many years now, and although I always meet a few ODC teachers, I do not meet enough. Often, they do not attend because, I believe, they associate the conference as one more about using technology and less about a rhetorical media pedagogy. For me, this pedagogy is best expressed by Dickie Selfe, who in his book "Sustainable Computer Environments" writes people first, pedagogy second, technology third. That is already the pedagogy of so many ODC teachers it seems natural that more of us would want to publish here and that more of us would be interested in attending computers and writing. However, I think that often, as I have said in previous answers here, the support is not there. I hope that this issue has an opportunity to speak directly to faculty who are in a position to support publishing in this journal.
Q: In what ways should community colleges promote digital scholarship?
MATT: I think the most important venue for promoting digital scholarship is to have department support to encourage time to research and publish, whether that be in the form of a course release or money to attend regional and national conferences where research in and about teaching is a primary focus.
SHELLEY: In addition to what Matt said, I think scholars are universities need to also promote digital, heck all!, scholarship in ODC settings by explicitly inviting ODC instructors to participate in research studies. In other words, I sincerely believe more collaboration is the key to engaging more ODC faculty within our discipline's scholarly activities.
Q: What primary goals do you intend to accomplish regarding the publication of this special issue?
SHELLEY: My primary goal for this issue was to give space to instructors in ODC settings to dialogue about their concerns when trying to engage with various types of media in their teaching and other professional practices. For obvious reasons, a lot of the scholarly literature about teaching writing with technology is written by folks in four-year, specifically graduate degree granting, institutions. Whereas some of the issues associated with working with different media are the same, or very similar, across types of institutions; there are also some very large distinctions as well. I hope this special issue will encourage more instructors at ODC settings to work with colleagues from other types of institutions to improve the teaching and learning of composition in general.
MATT: I have several goals in mind--1) I hope this special issue will inspire readers to create more digital scholarship for this journal and journals such as Kairos and Xchanges. Cheryl Ball and Julie Newmark are both editors who want more digital scholarship from teacher scholars across disciplines. 2) to create a forum for discussing best practices for becoming--or strengthening--our roles as teacher-scholars in the discipline of computers and composition.