I don’t think it’s the computers as such, but how they are used.
Additional resources here through The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).]]>
[…] (I will convert the Computers and Composition post into a pedagogical resources page on our sidebar. This post is the first in a series of excercises that use computers in composition. I haven’t been able to locate any sites that consolidate computer-centered exercises specifically for essay composition. Although this exercise primarily revolves around MS Word, the ones that follow will employ a number of Digital Character Art devices. Writers Respond Teacherly with your own exercises and we’ll add them to the database). […]]]>
David, you can find many articles about the dangers and problems of using personal writing in the composition writing in College Composition and Communication.
In the States, the issue breaks down into a Constructivist / Expressivist debate where Constrivists (and here I simplify), who travel with Donald Bartholomae, lean towards the application of learned rhetorical skills while Expressivists, who hold court with Peter Elbow, lean towards personal testimony and innate writing skills.
You might be interested in this conversation between the major players.
Writing with Teachers: A Conversation with Peter Elbow
College Composition and Communication > Vol. 46, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 62-71
The Debate is continues here:
Responses to Bartholomae and Elbow
David Bartholomae; Peter Elbow
College Composition and Communication > Vol. 46, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 84-92
In related matters, here’s an interesting debate on the role of First-Year Writing in general.
Reframing the Great Debate on First-Year Writing
Marjorie Roemer; Lucille M. Schultz; Russel K. Durst
College Composition and Communication > Vol. 50, No. 3, A Usable Past: CCC at 50: Part 1
I wonder whether the issue, as comprehensively framed here, isn’t a bit too big to argue a for or against position on, and thus it is hard to find entry into it as a “debate.” The computer - as Turing machine, executor, operation, algorithm, etc. - can easily help, hurt, or leave untouched the acquisition of composition skills, based on its configuration.
Your more limited claim, that computers do little to aid sentence level editing and voice development, seems reasonable - but overstated. I believe there is some good data that running spelling and grammar checkers “inline” (immediate visual feedback, no auto-correction) can affect not just on the final product but on future behavior.
I’d also make a counterclaim for the importance of computers, not to improve composition general, but to be understood as part of the composition act for most students. While some rhetorical skills learnned in composition are context-free, many are surprisingly context-embedded. Thus, if you teach the mental composition of oral arguments in a Socratic classroom, or require typewriter manuscripts, or allow the use of any word processor or text editor, you get a very different basic model of what the act of “composition” means. I feel that I am a fairly solid writer, however I fear that a keystroke logger would reveal me to be pretty poor at being a linear typist.
Can you teach composition without computers and expect your students to easily understand composition on computers? In some ways, absolutely, in others, certainly not. I’ve tutored “first computer” users before, both age ~13 and age ~60, and it boggles the mind watching someone hold down the “delete” key for a whole sentence so that they can change a letter, then retype the sentence. This is all mechanics - but mechanics have profound implications for the development of voice and argument structure.]]>