Jane FifeFollow


The attraction of Facebook is a puzzle to many people over the age of thirty five, and that includes most college faculty. Yet students confess to spending significant amounts of time on Facebook, sometimes hours a day. If you teach in a computer classroom, you have probably observed students using Facebook when you walk in the room. Literacy practices that fall outside the realm of traditional academic writing, like Facebook, can easily be seen as a threat to print literacy by teachers, especially when they sneak into the classroom uninvited as students check their Facebook profiles instead of participating in class discussions and activities. This common reaction reflects James King and David O’Brien’s (2002: 42) characterization of the dichotomy teachers often perceive between school and nonschool literacy activities (although they are not referring to Facebook specifically): “From teachers’ perspectives, all of these presumably pleasurable experiences with multimedia detract from students’ engagement with their real work. Within the classroom economy technology work is time off task; it is classified as a sort of leisure recreational activity.” This dichotomy can be broken down, though; students’ enthusiasm for and immersion in these nonacademic literacies can be used to complement their learning of critical inquiry and traditional academic concepts like rhetorical analysis. Although they read these texts daily, they are often unaware of the sophisticated rhetorical analysis they employ while browsing others’ profiles (or as they decide what to add to or delete from their own page). Engaging students in a rhetorical analysis of Facebook can take advantage of this high- interest area — where most students are already rhetorically savvy but unaware of their critical processes — to teach the often challenging skill of rhetorical analysis.


Creative Writing | Education | Rhetoric and Composition