In 2004, while teaching a technical writing class, I was looking through student

peer reviews when I found the word “noob” scribbled on a student’s paper by

his peer reviewer. Already familiar with the term’s meaning in gaming discourse,

I was prompted to write a cautionary note to the offending student. I have

discovered since then that discourse common to virtual communities has gradu-

ally affected online discussions in my hybrid technical writing courses. Over

the years, my students have engaged in more passionate arguments in virtual

chats than I have yet to witness in an on-site classroom, and student-created

discussion threads possess increasingly clever and intriguing titles, while tradi-

tional essays written by on-site students are still clumsily titled “Essay 1.” I

wondered to what extent students’ growing participation in virtual communities

was affecting online class activities; and more specifically, the term “noob”

called into question the relationship between collaborative learning practices

and the popularity of online gaming.