Chapter sixteen- A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers
“Teaching Writing with Computers”
I have been in possession of Erika Lindemann’s book, A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers, since I took a teaching of writing course in undergrad. I decided to pick the book back up recently, as I am looking to read academic texts over my summer break.
The sixteenth chapter of Lindemann’s book is what I chose to focus on this evening, as I am interested in how computers and technology can function in the composition classroom. Lindemann provides a thorough overview of the various technologies available to writing teachers, and how to use these technologies most effectively. I have taught with technology previously, and used it in tutoring, so it is not a foreign concept to me. However, I can remember a time when technology was not readily available for writing, or any purpose, in school. I think I was nearing the end of elementary school when I first started using computers, and that wasn’t for writing. I do remember taking an honors English class in eighth grade that took place in a computer lab. In that course, I was able to tell stories using a program called hyperstudio. After reading Lindemann’s chapter, I realize that this was an incorporation of hypertextual mediums in writing instruction. I see it as a form of the multimedia publishing I have had my own students utilize for projects.
I moved to a different, wealthier, school district for part of my ninth grade year, and had unfettered access to computers for writing purposes, then. However, that access was facilitated by my having mild Cerebral Palsy, and occupational therapists believing that word processing was not only easier for me, but also improved my motor skills. Computer access was only limited to school, however, unless I found a way to the library.
Forget about having a computer to use at home. By high school, many of my assignments required typed papers, and I typed mine on a typewriter I managed to get from a yard sale. I ended up getting a computer just before I started my senior year as a guilt gift from my father, who I did not live with. I was thinking about my own lack of access to technology while reading Lindemann’s chapter, and I was hoping she would address it—Aside from a brief couple of sentences, she does not discuss how lack of access affects using technology to teach writing. This is problematic because I know that students who are unfamiliar with technology have a difficult time learning how to master it for a purpose.
During my undergraduate studies, I worked as a tutor for a university program for at-risk students. Many of my students struggled with writing because they did not know how word processing programs worked. These students could tell me what they wanted to say, but could not articulate it on the screen. As I was reading the chapter, I wondered whether voice-to-text technology could be included if the chapter was more modern. Voice-to-text technology is something that has evolved in recent years, and could be made available at wealthier school districts.
How do we as scholars, and as teachers, approach the problem of teaching writing with computers in poorer districts like Detroit Public Schools, or even rural impoverished areas? I read David Schaafsma’s, Eating on the Street (A book with which I have many issues) while writing my MA essay, and he utilized word processing technology with the DPS students in his summer program. However, in doing so he, and his colleagues, altered the students’ voices, as the final copies of the students’ work was heavily edited and typed by the instructors, instead of the students themselves. Schaafsma wrote his book in the late 1980s, but the reality of using technology to write as a student who has never used technology for such a thing is still very much the same.
After this reading, I am wondering how technology functions in impoverished, urban classrooms. That is something to mull over.