The Impact of Ubiquitous (or not so ubiquitous) Computing on Faculty and Students — Computers and Writing 2009

These are my notes, lightly edited, from a panel at Computers & Writing 2009.

I only found a single plug in the meeting room, in the very back row. This is a small conference, so I probably appear fairly antisocial typing way in the back here.  (I’ll move up when the panel actually starts in a few minutes, after my laptop has sucked in a bit of juice.) 

I had considered attending a simultaneous panel on blogging, but I’d already heard one of the presenters make a very similar talk, so this panel won out.

Chair. Andrea Murphy, Old Dominion University

  • Technologizing Pedagogy: How FY Writing Curriculum is Created by Electrons
    Will Hochman, Southern Connecticut State University
  • Computers, Tools, and Instruments:
    Academic Dependence on Machine Terminology and Its Effect on Student
    Perceptions of the Computer Classroom
    Sarah Spring, Texas A&M University
  • Ubiquitous Computing and The Perils of Early Adoption
    Jim Kalmbach, Illinois State University

Technologizing Pedagogy: How FY Writing Curriculum is Created by Electrons
Will Hochman, Southern Connecticut State University

The
core argument (with help from Henry Jenkins) is that analyzing the
convergences of technology and pedagogy in classrooms is key to
understanding curricular assumptions and practices in FY writing.
Research for the presentation comes from a eight year case study of a
faculty transitions to using computers in a state university with a 4/4
load teaching load.

The cloud metaphor for a wireless network is a larger metaphor for how technology is affecting us. Invoked Henry Jenkins and Larry Lessig; we’ve gone past the tipping point where we had to invite people to use computer spaces; it was a selling job.  Now, there’s not enough tech to meet faculty demand.

Changing the campus culture… some campuses have forward-looking deans, others think of technology as an add-on. Created “Digital Academics” wiki to get beyond the culture of English. Created in order to serve a dean who is not a technologist, and to convey the idea that people who work with technology are “not just geeks.” 

Technology is pedagogy. Reminds us that Dennis Baron says a pencil is learning technology.

Referred to Kathy Yancey’s 2004 CCCC speech celebrating how tech facilitates student-generated writing.

Teaching students how to create portfolios is an initial step to helping them create an online identity that will carry behond school and into the real world.

New Gen Ed goals in information literacy, noting that writing literacy is really online writing literacy.

The Ecstacy of Influence: A Plagiarism” Jonathan Lethem. (Harpers)  There aren’t that many new ideas, and there aren’t that many new ideas… our sense of digital copyright and plagiarism needs to change.

“Technology is creating darker class lines.” Higher Ed is inconsistent in the ways tech-centered teaching happens. Calls for more technological development with curricular emphasis, emphasizes “humanware” along with hardware and software.

Called for attendees to create an across-the-curriculum Digital Academics program.

Computers, Tools, and Instruments:
Academic Dependence on Machine Terminology and Its Effect on Student
Perceptions of the Computer Classroom
Sarah Spring, Texas A&M University

While
the field of composition desires to view the computer classroom in a
variety of positive ways (community, space, place), a survey of the
scholarship reveals a deeply rooted dependency on tool and machine
metaphors. This dependency indicates that, despite our intention to
move away from what critics have dismissed as a simplistic instrumental
mindset, we may be unable to escape the terminology that accompanies it.

Notes that the computer classroom is too focused on the technology, but students don’t seem to be along for the ride. Her own students cling to the idea of comptuers as tools, but tends to block the grander, more compliated, more critical capabilities. Calling tech our tool gives a sense of control and separation, but leads to myths that technology is transparent, neutral, to all-powerful prosthetic device (faster, better, more convenient).

Seeks to move students away from instrumental mindset. Notes how her own teaching philosophies and assignments contriubted to that effect, where global community determines lcoal practice.

In her own classroom: Did research, implemented new activities w/o clear idea of goals, and of the semester, computers were “cool” but their attitude remained unchallenged and unchanaged. Students didn’t equate computer time with composition time. Have students look AT technology, not through.  (Turn off monitor, type w/o looking forces students to confront how access to the tools affects the wriing process. Students were suddenly more conscious of how the computer functions as a tool.   Technology autobiography, tech narrative.)

Students persisting in tool metaphor in the tech autobiography.

Is technology an argument? [Makes me think of the hierarchy of machines in the office dictation era —  the boss’s recording device that had no ability to erase; the secretary’s transcription tool that didn’t include the ability to record; and the third machine that erased the wax cylinders, operated by office boys who could only clean up and not contribute in any other way.]

Difficulty getting away from the power of technology… what she hoped to accomplish is sadly not happening. How else to start?

[My response — teach them to code!]

Ubiquitous Computing and The Perils of Early Adoption
Jim Kalmbach, Illinois State University

In
1985, Illinois State University opened a group of nine computer
classrooms, becoming one of the first Universities to embrace
ubiquitous computing by teaching all of its first year writing courses
in computer-supported classrooms. Twenty-four years later, we continue
to use this facility to teach our first year students. In this paper, I
will tell the story of this process and describe the solutions we
developed.

Old-school ubiquitous computing, since all students who take this class learn this way. 1982 Illinois State University began teaching writing with computers. Mentioned an obscure IBM mainframe text program designed for rocket scientists. Early reaction to the computer labs priviege the writing center approach to writing instruction. The computer classrooms turned the whole freshman writing program into a big writing center.

Described 9 rooms, with each computer having a dot-matrix machine, with an air conditioner to handle the heat… very hot, very noisy.  Computer shelf went right across the window.  Pedagogy stressed writing in class and conferencing, discouraging in-class writing.  The air compressors and alignment of desks affects your ability to speak to students, thus enforcing the existing pedagogy.

After health codes required changes to the 9 existing rooms, there was an opportunity to redesign. To remove asbestos, the computer shelves had to go. Listed a cascading series of problems (layout problem, wiring).

Take-home message:

  • look for kairotic moment
  • you need a good dean
  • it takes a village to redo a computer classroom
  • flexibility is important
  • focus on students

A problem with kairotic moments — those opportunities have their own limitations. Ubiquitous computing becomes invisible. As a department and profession, we have to keep making it visible for critique and discussion.