Disciplinary vs. New Media Authority

Alex Reid at "digital digs" writes on "the threat of the network". Alex states that teachers

continue to view their profession as one that will be founded on a discrete, unchanging body of information that they will acquire before graduating. We might all deride the notion of the teacher/professor reciting the same lectures and lessons plans year after year, but somehow this does not alter this belief that a degree will certify us once and for all as authorities. Sure, all these teacher-students recognize that they will gain experience as teachers, learn helpful tips along the way, and become better practitioners. But this development of practice is separated from the acquisition of authoritative knowledge.

And this faith exists in both  K-12 and  college faculty. 

The threat of the network is the dissolution of this authority. The ongoing development of media and networks requires us to keep moving. It doesn't mean that what we've learned has no value; it means that it cannot establish us as authorities. We cannot imagine the classroom as resting upon a core body of knowledge. We are engaged in a technocultural shift that shakes the very foundations of epistemology: what began as a philosophical critique in theory now becomes a material condition (Hayles makes this argument, citing the birth of Netscape as the end of the "postmodern" era and the beginning of something new)

In many ways, I agree with all that Alex wrote, especially on the disconnect between formal education and the real world. Still, some points need to be clarified with respect to technological expertise and disciplinary expertise. Certainly, I don't consider myself as an authority on new technologies. But why should I? Technology and new media is not the goal of learning in my classes, although it is a byproduct. Rather, it supports learning certain concepts and practices of my subject of composition.

As a teacher of university composition for 14+ years, I've never thought about possessing an unchanging body of content knowledge. What I do consider not to change much over time are principles of rhetoric. For instance, when trying to communicate, especially persuasive communication, we use logic, appeal to emotions and values, and attempt to establish a credible ethos. Or coming from stasis theory, we might consider what are the facts, what are their nature, how do we evaluate them, and what should we do about them. These principles haven't changed in millenia and apply to cyberwriting as well as to print writing as well as to oral communication. So, although I do not consider myself to be an expert [perhaps I might in another 14+ years :) ], I would say that I have some "authority" in applying these principles and some "authority" in teaching the application of those principles to old and new media and networks or writing.

I accept that knowledge changes and that what we teach should change, too. But does that really mean that teachers, such as myself with many years of experience, have no more authority than our students with respect to our disciplines? I don't think that's what Alex is arguing, but in attempts to make education more relevant to students, I wonder about the hype associated with these new media and about the conflating of technological expertise with disciplinary knowledge.

Somewhat related posts:
Experts in the Learning Profession
Experts, Learning, and Networks
The Expert Mind