On day one of the spring semester, I had a bounce in my step and bright smile on my face. I made my way across the grassy Haber Green and, as the morning sun shone down on me, I think I even heard birds chirping. Why so chipper, you ask? Well, I was en route to “Research Writing For English Majors,” my very first English class of the new semester. I could not wait to start writing.
I had spent the majority of the fall semester working with websites and other digital resources and so my over-Visine’d eyes were looking forward to enjoying the digital respite “Research Writing” promised. Thank goodness for good ol’ pen and paper, I thought to myself as I flounced down the carpeted hallway.
Or so I thought.
As I approached, I noticed the classroom was dark. Perfect, I thought. I had wanted to arrive early in order to get a good seat (us lefties have to consider location unless we want to be stuck fighting elbow battles with our neighbors for the entire duration of class). Placing my hand on the doorknob, I hesitated a moment, indulging in one last daydream of vast tables designed for comfortable composition. Then I slipped inside and flipped on the lights.
And as I took in the room before me, the hopeful grin slid right off my face.
Instead of the spacious classroom I had imagined, I found myself staring at a windowless cinderblock cube lined with two rows of short, cramped desks, atop which sat 20 big black computers. A million fears shot through my head. Am I in the wrong room? Did I misread my schedule when I was on the website last night? Or worse, am I too late? Did I miss class entirely?
It was Monday, wasn’t it?!
Scratching my head, I sank into the wheelie chair at the nearest computer station and wondered why a writing class would meet in a computer lab. Just then, the image of a basement-dwelling, computer-dependent Jamie shot into my mind. By the end of the semester, would my spine take on the contorted curve of one hunched over a keyboard 24/7? Thankfully, my professor entered just then, interrupting my imagination and administering a healthy dose of clarification.
She explained that the computer lab allows us to share things with the class via email or discussion boards. That way, we can come together over our writing, instead of getting locked away in a computer-induced trance. And, it wouldn’t be all-computers, all the time. She went on to explain that oftentimes we will be asked to turn our backs to the computer screens and engage in class discussion, so technology will work in tandem with traditional educational styles. The more my professor explained her reasoning, the more I found myself nodding along in agreement.
I realized that one of the reasons I admire the English department here at Arcadia is that it takes things that tend to isolate us, like technology, and instead uses them to bring us closer together. With this way of sharing work digitally, my class is specifically designed to foster a constant analytical conversation among students.
I sighed with relief as I took another look at my professor. There was no resemblance to the basement-dwelling Mr. Hyde of my most recent fears. I felt my enthusiasm slowly return to me, fueled by the promise of collaboration and community growth.
It is mindsets like this that, I think, fuel the passion for community and connections that is so prominent here on campus. Arcadia is taking something that many young people use to shrink away into anonymity and turning it on its head. In this case, the Internet has been transformed from a refuge from critics to an open place for honesty and positive critique.
Thanks to digital discourse, we can come together as a class to support our peers, building a community of scholars along the way.
And, thanks to the computer lab, I won’t be suiting up for elbow-battle any time soon!