Rowing Alone: Educating Citizens in the Networked Literature Classroom

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Higher education advocacy groups insist on the urgent need to help undergraduates develop skills and knowledge in both civic learning and digital literacy. But addressing this need has not been a uniformly high priority across campus constituencies and disciplinary areas. One discipline that has been slow to embrace both civic learning and digital literacy is literary studies. In this reluctance there is both an irony and an opportunity. The irony is that the literature classroom is a natural place for students to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for both effective civic engagement and informed, responsible participation in an increasingly networked society. The opportunity is to promote greater buy-in to both digital and civic learning by persuading literature faculty of their deep interconnection. This paper explains why digital networks are an appropriate and promising means to fold civic engagement into literary studies, and why the digital revolution's impact on democracy represents a topic of particular relevance to literature departments. The paper draws on theoretical discussion about the role of technology in the humanities and the role of pedagogy in educating students for citizenship; it also draws extensively on the author’s experience in fostering a pedagogy of community through his wiki, The Collaborative Writing Project.


Keywords: Civic Engagement, Digital, Technology, Wiki, Collaborative Learning, Democracy, Community
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Rowing Alone


Dr. Paul Schacht

Associate Professor, English, State University of New York
Geneseo, NY, USA

Paul Schacht is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where since 1985 he has taught courses in Victorian literature, humanities, and writing. He holds an A.B. in English from the University of Michigan (1976) and a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Stanford University (1984). His research interests include Victorian fiction and the use of digital pedagogies in literary study. He has published on Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, and Mark Twain and has described his wiki, The Collaborative Writing Project, in the online book Using Wiki in Education.

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