Friday, April 20, 2007

Writing in a Computer Lab

In "Issues of Attitude and Access: A Case Study of Basic Writers in a Computer Classroom," Catherine Matthews Pavia
is worried that computer classrooms accentuate and perpetuate differences between students. She concludes, "Being enrolled in a writing class in a computer lab when they do not have much computer knowledge may lead students to doubt their abilities when what they really need is confidence" (17). On the other hand, Amie Wolf is less concerned, saying, "The technology helps us to reach our students in many cases." Wolf, instead of simply sticking with basic typing of essays, actually incorporates more technology into the classroom with a "digital media project." To Wolf, the technology is motivating--which doesn't seem to contradict Pavia's experience with students like Matt who came to class early just to use the computers (8).

I'm not sure if Pavia's research supports her conclusion that computers might be a problem for basic writing students, because it seemed that the students who weren't adept with computers were still quite motivated, despite Pavia's worries. It would make sense to be concerned at first, but her research does not seem to actually show negative affects. Matt and Maria wrote significantly less than some of their class members, but it is hard to know if this is attributable to computers. Additionally, if the effect is not permanent--if the students are not turned off from writing, the small amount of slowing down might not really be a problem. They might do better once their typing skills and familiarity with computers improve. And they will have to, because most college writing is going to have to be printed from the computer, if not actually drafted on the computer.

Now I'm not saying that basic writing courses should be taught in a computer lab. In fact, I'm a bit uncomfortable with that, as I prefer to draft A) alone and B) longhand. Although it's good to get students to see typing as part of drafting instead of only for typing up finished drafts, we also don't want to imply that drafting should be done exclusively on computers. There should be more to class than sitting around typing. I'd like to have a little more idea what Pavia actually does in class besides journalling, but I guess she is trying to avoid using computers exclusively by assigning "writing without the computers" (19), but again, I am not sure to what extent students should be deprived of the ability to choose the medium they'd like to compose in. We want to expose them to various methods, but that can be done without specifying that students hand in handwritten documents. I'm just really uncertain that the conclusions Pavia comes to actually follow from her research, but maybe someone can help me out.

Works Cited

Pavia, Catherine Matthews. "Issues of Attitude and Access: A Case Study of Basic Writers in a Computer Classroom." Journal of Basic Writing 23.2 (2004): 4-22.

Wolf, Amie. Online chat. 16 Apr. 2007.


S00nerfan1 said...

Pavia makes a valid point about conducting a writing class in a computer lab. However, I am more inclined to lean to Wolf's thought about technology reaching our students. I think there is a comfortable mix of in-lab and in-classroom instruction we can come up with to work both ways with our students.

Gabe Isackson said...

Do you think her eye is too focused on results she intended? I did agree that the early research she mentioned as only praise for use of the computer in writing was not objective in its research.

Amy said...

Yeah--I'm not saying that there's no value in her study, but it seems like she's trying too hard to fit it into the newly popular cynicism about computers.