Week 12 English 516

“From a High-Tech to a Low-Tech Writing Classroom: “You Can’t Go Home Again””

CHARLES MORAN

This was an interesting piece, and reminded me of when Dr. Krause mentioned changing classrooms when he found himself in a similar position and immediately switched to a computer-equipped room.  I confess I know very little about teaching (of anything), so I was intrigued by the idea of it being harder to build a sense of community in the face-to-face classroom.  Obviously, there’s the whole aspect of it being difficult to make such a drastic change in the teaching environment, which is stressful regardless.  But the fundamental difference that seemed to weigh on Professor Moran was the lack in the ability to share and have copies of students’ writing.  There were other concerns, of course, mostly related to available space and the logistics of group work.  I have spent way more time in classrooms without computers, and frankly I confess to not understanding some of these concerns at all.  Do groups work better when plugged in to their own station and interacting with group members through an online platform?  I’m having a hard time imagining this to be the case.  I always felt it was weird trying to cram around one computer station, and weirder yet to be doing group work in a situation where eye contact with one’s fellow group members is virtually nonexistent.  Being practical, I have to admit that the objections to having so many copies of papers ring true for editing/peer-reviewing drafts.  At the same time, I feel like a paper copy that is looked at by one or a few individuals in a face-to-face environment is going to garner more attention than if the access is only online.  I have no idea what the numbers look like on that, but I find it difficult to properly review people’s work when it’s all online.  I’m thinking there are many reasons for this (some of which come up in The Shallows), but it recalls to mind Professor Krause’s advice to print all the readings for class.  Certainly, the experiences of reading print on paper and print on screen are not the same.  Not that anyone is suggesting it, but it does seem that in the world of writing, the general feeling is to be happy with digital reading/writing in opposition to the laborious and limited format of paper and ink.  I think it’s a matter of situation and personal familiarity with the relevant technologies.  Maybe some year soon, we’ll all be doing all of our writing online, with no need for pen and paper.  I find that both difficult and disheartening to believe.  After all, we still have books and magazines and newspapers (though they’re in decline).

“Make It Do or Do Without: Transitioning from a Tech-Heavy to a Tech-Light Institution: A Cautionary Tale”
Erin Karper

As with the previous article, I am struck by how “tech-heavy” I would characterize EMU.  I mean, we not only have many computer labs, I think I’ve only taken a single graduate writing class in a room that wasn’t a computer lab.   While not being what I would call tech-savvy, I just assumed all writing programs were much like this.  Classic inductive reasoning.  And I still don’t know how it works in undergraduate courses in writing. I was curious about the details of some of Karper’s work across departments, as it’s impossible to imagine constructing and teaching courses in writing on the web without input from Communications, IT, and English departments.  I shouldn’t say impossible, as obviously many have done great work without any sort of collaboration.  There’s no escaping the digital nature of our communication in our technology-laden world, but it seems that academia is taking a while to reflect that concept in its pedagogies.  This is again a generalization, of course.  If asked, I would say that one of the biggest hurdles facing teachers of writing working to integrate more computer technology into their classroom is education.  In other words, it’s going to be hard to integrate technologies into a classroom effectively if you have a significant number of students that are unfamiliar with the technologies you propose to use.  This is a gap that will probably become less and less noticeable as people grow more and more conversant with digital technologies, but with more and more adults returning to school, it’s not a problem that’s resolved itself as of now.  Karper seemed to be better than Moran at adapting to her “new” tech-free environment, and found herself coming up with new strategies for both online and offline teaching.  I can’t help but think that a combination of technology-driven and technology-free work is a great way of teaching writing.  After all, for some, the use of computers will ultimately be a huge part of their future career, while others will only become familiar with a program or two.  Still, technology will be a growing part of writing, and it makes sense to have connections between departments, and perhaps classes with names like, “Introduction to Writing Technologies”.  I would totally take that class.  And probably the one that followed.

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One thought on “Week 12 English 516

  1. Steve Krause says:

    I think the Moran example also probably is analogous to the world of work, too. Imagine if you should up at the job one day and all of a sudden all of the stuff that you were doing with email and shared document spaces had to be swapped around with paper. Ick!

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