Book By: Donna Reiss, Richard Selfie, & Art Young (Eds.)
Review By: Beth A. Glessner-Calkins
Department of Languages and Literatures
Arizona State University
We academic advisors are now accustomed to interacting regularly with students via email, citing resources found on the World Wide Web, and conducting internet research. Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum, a collection of 24 essays, provides us with a snapshot of the status of the integration and adaptation of technology into the teaching curriculums of various institutions of higher learning in the mid 1990’s. Historically grounded in the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and Communication across the Curriculum (CAC) movements, Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum (ECAC), has its conceptual basis in “the use of written, oral and visual language in ways that support learning as well as communication and the use of interactive pedagogy that promotes active learning.” (p. xvii).
Reiss, Selfe and Young have organized the submissions into three sections according to curricular focus: institutional implementations, collaborative endeavors, and discipline-specific applications of ECAC. Each essay provides practical tips and recommendations, and discusses both challenges and successes. Part One contains nine essays of particular use for administrators who are trying to initiate programmatic change at their institutions, or who are seeking to enhance existing WAC programs. Part Two contains six case studies that present creative transdisciplinary approaches to courses, and details interesting collaborations with colleagues across university, state and national boundaries. Part Three narrows the focus to nine case studies that present individual approaches to enhancing learning with on-line resources. Contributors hail from departments such as English, Interior Design, Math, Accounting, Biology and Philosophy, but their methodologies could be adapted to any discipline. As with any book that deals with reports on the uses of technology, readers must keep in mind that many drawbacks or challenges mentioned with certain web-based software programs (e.g., InterQuest) or virtual environments (e.g., MOO’s -- Multiuse Object Oriented Systems -- see Rachel's Super MOO List: http://moolist.yeehaw.net/index.html) in the mid-1990’s may no longer be an issue. Two significant on-line education software platforms have been made available to educational institutions since the publication of this book: WebCT (www.webct.com) with version 2.0 launched in 1999, and Blackboard (www.blackboard.com) that was created in 1997. These may be the tools we have at our disposal today, but at no time in any of the essays in this book do the tools overshadow the pedagogical importance of the activity the technology seeks to enhance. The theoretical arguments are still very much of value as are the retelling of experiences in programmatic and curricular development, as well as attempts at creative collaboration and innovative teaching techniques.
This book is a ‘must have’ for Writing Center directors, and/or administrators who may be instrumental in advocating for change in current writing programs at their institutions. It may also be valuable for any academic advisor who is closely affiliated with units that are involved in teaching with technology, and who offer courses that are linked to writing across the curriculum programs. ECAC may have value in a broader sense as well. If we accept the principle that advising is a form of teaching, advisors may find value in many of the authors’ findings that reinforce the power of email writing and on-line communication to facilitate learning of what we advisors teach.
Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum. (1998). Book by Reiss, Donna, Selfe, Richard & Young, Art (Eds). Review by Beth A. Glessner-Calkins. Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 326 pp. Price $26.95. ISBN #0-8141-1308-7.