Over the past decade, composition instructors have witnessed a dramatic transformation in students' reading habits. Only a few years ago students conducted their research almost exclusively at the library. Today, however, they often turn first to the Internet for their information. This has raised questions among teachers, who worry about the reliability and even authenticity of online sources. Some teachers even give assignments that compel students to use print sources from the library.
One might as well try to stop a tidal wave. The print medium is, fortunately, still with us, and libraries continue to be treasure troves of information. But the Internet is now with us, too. Teachers are therefore searching for ways to adjust to the multiple media that define our present world and to teach students how to use these media wisely in their reading and writing.
Readings Online: A Virtual Common Place offers teachers of composition an excellent way to engage the media to which students are increasingly accustomed. This anthology appears entirely online. Gathered with great care, the readings in this collection present new perspectives on familiar topics, as well as introducing unfamiliar but significant topics.
Readings Online is a fully developed textbook. The author has assembled a remarkable array of critical and creative perspectives, which work well for different kinds of composition pedagogies. Instructors who take a thematic approach will appreciate the collection's overriding theme of community building, as well as the secondary theme of identity formation. Instructors of gender theory or critical theory will want to focus on the gender and identity chapter. Many of the readings lend themselves to argument classes, as do the writing assignments that ask students to examine a subject and formulate their own opinions on it. Teachers who stress electronic discourse, as well as those who stress the rhetorical modes, will find many useful prompts in Readings Online. Teachers of literature will especially welcome the chapter on hyperfiction. And teachers of all types of composition classes will appreciate the ways in which the prompts urge repeated readings of the selections, showing students the value of recursive reading.
Readings Online is sensitive to the various audiences who might be using it. Those who feel at home in cyberspace will find it a stimulating sourcebook. Those who are new to cyberspace will gain an understanding of the online environment and the surrounding issues of electronic literacy. Readings Online represents a significant advance in composition textbook publishing, and I am pleased to recommend it to teachers and students of composition.
Rebecca Moore Howard
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