Blacksburg Road

I’m now in my third year at Virginia Tech, but about a year into the program our family of five had reason to drive from Dayton, Virginia to Virginia Tech so that my oldest could attend a weekend softball camp. Instead of traveling the most direct route, my husband said, “I’m going to show you the way I used to go when I went to Tech.” Exiting off Interstate 81 at the Salem, New Castle exit, I was happy to watch him reminisce. The drive is an experience that I continue to enjoy each Monday, if the weather allows.

Today, with blinding snow icing the fields, but the macadam spotless enough to take the chance, I made the choice to exit I 81 Southbound, and enjoy Catawba mountain and Blacksburg Road. This trip, I missed spotting the two statues of angels that people have placed in different spots among nature’s towering rock walls. They’re easy enough to miss; so if you ever have the opportunity to cross Catawba, be on the lookout for them. One tall male angel stands high on the hill on your right at the peak of a rock, just before you turn at the stoplight that leads to Catawba mountain. The second little cherub sits, yes sits, on your left on the second wall of rocks, half-way up the rock wall on a ledge.

Here’s what I didn’t miss:

I didn’t miss three deer, looking surprised at me as I rounded a bend in the road. I stared with mutual wonder into one’s brown eyes as the white tail triggered two more to set sail. The strong, slim muscles bulged under the sleek brown as they bounded up the hill, then over the fence.

I didn’t miss the horses, carefully blanketed by their owners in the fields. And I didn’t miss how the evergreens and rocks demanded attention in the backdrop of a winter wonderland. Spotty patches of snow-covered ice helped me to be more cautious and see more than usual.

As I drove, I thought about teaching writing and how students need to have time to play with words in the digital arena that absorbs the majority of their free time. Beyond texts and snap chats, they need to develop digital fluency. Last weekend my husband composed handwritten responses for four hours, (his choice over typing) for a national truck exam. He said he chose to write because he was afraid he would lose his ideas between their emergence in his mind and the keyboard. The keyboard somehow is a distraction in the flow. He was more fluent with a pen, could get all those ideas down on paper.

This experience aligns with Gallagher’s Literacy Stampede; to advance in the workplace, one needs to be able to write and write well. As I rounded the bends and looked for more of Blacksburg Road’s surprises, I thought about the need for educators to create that sense of urgency for digital literacy within the classroom. Troy Hicks’ and Kristy Hawley Turner wrote about that need in English Journal in July: No Longer a Luxury:  Digital Literacy Can’t Wait. What we need is a metaphor like Gallagher used with his students and the “Literacy Stampede,” except we need to create urgency within ourselves in regards to exploring digital writing opportunities. As I thought about this need for a metaphor, a rock fell in front of a sign on the next bend in the road.

The option to compose with a pen, in writing on demand situations, is becoming obsolete.



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