O Pioneers, ye ESL Instructors

Scaffolding, Context, and Technology: O Pioneers!



Part 1: The Wild Land (click me to read an excerpt from Willa Cather’s novel)

“The Internet is not so much a tool as a new social space that restructures social relations.” – Warschauer (paraphrasing Poster, 1997)

Mark Warschauer, a writer whom I’ve been following for the past few years and have quoted and cited innumerable times in my own writing, poses the question “Not what, not who, but how?” in his 2003 publication, Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. Examining the reality of internet technology and current issues in the debate of the digital divide, Warschauer asks his readers to think not merely about the acquisition of technology, but the scaffolding and support that can be provided to its users. He asks us to examine a popular paradigm of the technology haves and have nots and to consider the importance of such technology within social contexts (a scale of varying abilities, access and attitudes towards technology) rather than in extremes. A recent discussion of Warschauer’s writing reminded me of Willa Cather’s Alexandra:

Regional novel by Willa Cather, published in 1913. Its heroine, Alexandra Bergson, exemplifies the courage and purpose Cather felt were necessary to subdue the wild land. The title is taken from Walt Whitman’s “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” which, like the novel, celebrates the frontier virtues of inner strength and spirit. –AmericanWriters.org

“They went into the house together, leaving the Divide behind them, under the evening star. Fortunate country, that is one day to receive hearts like Alexandra’s into its bosom, to give them out again in the yellow wheat, in the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth!” –Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

I was surprised that my classmates looked at me as if I were nuts upon offering the metaphor…what do you think?


About Marlen Harrison

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison has been teaching language, communication, composition, literature and gender/sexuality studies at universities in Asia, Europe and North America since 1997.
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