Saturday, April 12, 2008

Computers & Technology in Composition

Liza Winkel

This annotated bibliography examines works that address the use of computers and technology in composition. I have focused this research more specifically on how technology encourages or inhibits students’ critical thinking and their own conception of technology. Any teacher of writing will find these annotations useful if they are considering using computers or any other technology in their classrooms. I included research that both supports and questions the use of technology. I included several sources that include research on web-based discussion in the classroom, which many of the researchers found helped students’ critical thinking abilities. Although almost all research supports the use of technology or accepts it as a necessary part of the university in the 21st century, some of the following sources conducted research into how technology can cause disparities between students of different technological capabilities, and what implications the superfluous flow of information through technology will have on composition courses.

Anderson, Daniel. “Web-Based Peer Review.” Teaching/Writing in the Late Age of
. Ed. Jeffrey Galin, Carol Peterson Haviland, and J. Paul Johnson. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc., 2003. 185-198.
In this chapter of Teaching/Writing in the Late Age of Print from the series “Research and Teaching in Rhetoric and Composition,” Daniel Anderson, a researcher and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discusses a web-based peer review exercise conducted in a first-year composition course at his university. Responding to one another in a conversational manner, students addressed more issues of content rather than form. Students offered suggestions about “higher-order writing concerns” rather than “surface-level writing concerns” (185). Based on students’ responses following the exercise, “students saw themselves as participants in a public act of communication that heightened their engagement as writers and reviewers” (185).

Duffelmeyer, Barbara B. “Critical Work in First-Year Composition: Computers, Pedagogy, and
Research.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture. 2.3 (2002): 357-374.
In this scholarly article, Barbara B. Duffelmeyer,
assistant professor of composition theory, pedagogy, and research at Iowa State University, discusses her work with her first-year composition students as she challenged them to think critically about technology and why people believe it is important. She argues that “technology and critical composition pedagogy can and should strongly resonate with each other” (361). Her class met in a computer lab, typed reading responses in class, and used e-mail to communicate outside of class. Students wrote technology narratives in the beginning of the semester. Many narratives reflected Duffelmeyer’s argument that people “buy merchandise according to what our culture tells us our needs are” (364). Students responded to readings revealing some negatives to technology and they questioned the goodness of technology use. Although she encourages critical thinking, because she is focused on students questioning the use of technology, she does not address whether the use of computer-based discussion may have actually helped the students critical thinking.

Hudson, Jennifer A. “Writing, Technology and Writing Technologies: Developing Multiple
Literacies in First-Year College Composition Students.” International Journal of
. 13.12 (2007): 93-100.
In this scholarly article, Jennifer A. Hudson, publisher and professor of English at Southern Connecticut University, discusses her web-based first-year composition course at an urban university where students have varying degrees of experience with technology. She argues that literacy now also includes literacy in technology, and students are expected to learn how to read, write, think, and speak in various forms, modes, and media in the academic community. In her FYC course, she uses technology to foster class discussion about “how these communication and information technologies shape our critical thinking, reading, speaking and writing processes and experiences” (96). The students’ writing at the end of the course had significantly improved from peer review activities and critical thinking in web discussion.

Kimme Hea, Amy C. “Rearticulating E-dentities in the Web-based Classroom: One
Technoresearcher’s Exploration of Power and the World Wide Web.” Computers and
. 19 (2002): 331-346.

In this scholarly article, Amy C. Kimme Hea, assistant professor of rhetoric, composition, and teaching at the University of Arizona, discusses her work with three first-year composition instructors at Purdue University as they implemented computer technology into their classrooms. All instructors used the Web and Web-based discussion, but two attempted to base discussion on the “social and cultural conceptions of technology” and how knowledge is created in their Web-based communities (335). The third instructor required students to design Web pages as part of the composition course. All three instructors found students pointing out the need to have technological skills, even pointing out differences in the skills of one another. Students believed people with connection to the Web and higher technological skills have the benefit in academic and work communities. One instructor noticed students trying to use search engines for questions about their own Web-based community. Kimme Hea offers three ways that composition teachers can achieve “more complex edentities in the Web-based classroom”(342).

Latchaw, Joan. “Critical Thinking in the Digital Age.” Teaching/Writing in the Late Age of
. Ed. Jeffrey Galin, Carol Peterson Haviland, and J. Paul Johnson. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc., 2003. 111-122.

In this chapter from Teaching/Writing in the Late Age of Print from the series “Research and Teaching in Rhetoric and Composition,” Joan Latchaw, associate professor at University of Nebraska in rhetoric and composition, describes the use of online group discussion in a first-year composition course at North Dakota State University. In the discussions, students were required to take positions by analyzing and challenging texts. Students developed “mini-arguments” that were strongly supported with evidence and showed high levels of reason. From these smaller arguments, students could develop ideas and arguments for extended essays. Online discussions can be viewed as “an intermediate phase of the writing/thinking process” (111). Students’ interaction “[demonstrated] negotiated meaning” by building arguments off ideas posted by other students (117). Able to compose critically thought out mini-essays that would not be as successful in traditional classrooms.

Palmquist, Mike, et al. Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and
Traditional Classrooms
. Greenwich: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1998.

In the chapter “Contrasts: Teaching and Learning About Writing in Traditional and Computer Classrooms,” the authors, professors and researchers at Colorado State University, compare two first-year composition courses, one being a traditional classroom and one a computer classroom. Found that students in computer classroom discussed writing with each other and instructor during the writing process in the classroom, and ended the course with more confidence in their writing abilities. Students in traditional classroom met with instructor outside of classroom more often, but showed no increase in writing confidence. Computer classroom instructor felt students took more responsibility for classroom activities whereas the traditional classroom instructor needed to plan and lecture more. Although instructors and students agreed that new technologies should be used in the classroom, instructors resisted using any unfamiliar technologies even if they believed these technologies would benefit students’ writing.

Reid, Alex. “Portable Composition: iTunes University and Networked Pedagogies.” Computers
and Composition
. 25 (2008): 61-78.

In this scholarly article, Alex Reid, an associate professor and researcher at SUNY Cortland University, examines the use of new media at SUNY Cortland through the use of their newly adopted iTunes University program. He argues that the academic discourse community is shifting to a networked community, where various media interact and influence composition. Says that composition in the age of technology is “shaped by a network of interactions that lie beyond the scope of the conventional authorial narrative” (72). As students and professors browse websites, power points, blogs, etc., they constantly encounter new ideas that influence what they choose to write about or use in the classroom. The “professor cannot control the flow of information into the course community” (73). Also argues that as new media emerges and is used in the classroom, questions arise over what is formal and informal to use as a presentation or essay.

Samuels, Robert. Integrating Hypertextual Subjects: Computers, Composition, and Academic
Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc., 2006.

In the chapter “Critical Pedagogy, Electronic Conversations, and Student Subjectivity: Postmodern Technologies, Modern Structures, and Traditional Institutions,” Robert Samuels, a lecturer in writing programs at UCLA, examines the use of WebCT discussion in his classroom in the chapter Argues that as many universities employ new technologies in their courses, they usually do not change the authoritative structure of the professor-student classrooms. Believes that technology can be used to successfully implement postmodern education, or the belief that universal knowledge does not exist because of human diversity and culture. Through technology, students can engage in honest discussion about differences and disparities among people. Also gives them more power to question academic discourse. Instead of students being driven by institutional authority, “writing the right way” and “getting the grade,” technology allows students to write in a social environment, thinking critically and displaying more creativity.

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