This section will focus on the transition of the traditional first year classroom to the computer lab.

Although first year writing courses focus on developing the skills necesary to succeed at the university level, the notion of actually writing has vanished over the years. I do not mean to imply that students do not write at all during their first year of college, however many composition courses are now computer supported. Therefore, students are now typing their work as opposed to physically writing it. I will use Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and Traditional Classrooms by Mike Palmquist, Kate Kiefer, James Harrvigsen and Barbara Goodlew (1998) to further explore this phenomenon.

  • Why put students in a computer lab for first year writing classes?
    • The authors feel, "that the largest context of our study is a maelstrom of technological change, not just in education but in society at large" (1).
    • Additionally, "when we designed the study, few of our teachers used the World Wide Web for classroom work; as we drafted initial chapters of this book, teachers were incorporating more and more Web work into classes; as we complete work on the final revision of this book, teachers in our program now assume that most students already know how to negotiate the Web...before they arrive in first year composition" (1-2).

This, in my opinion, is when a writing class becomes something else. The authors mention the increasing use of the World Wide Web in their first year classrooms, as well as the knowledge their students have of the Internet. So, students are not only learning how to write, they are also becoming increasingly familiar with information available on the Web. Therefore, this may limit library visits for students who feel more comfortable researching material on the Web from the comfort of a desk rather than walking around a library in search of relevant sources.

  • There is a question posed by the authors in the first chapter that relates to this discussion: Do computers add value in the classroom?
    • The authors note that recent studies indicate students feel the presence of word processing programs in writing classrooms has a positive affect on their learning experiences.
    • "Most researchers have found that students writing with word processors (either inside the classroom or in a lab setting) produce more writing than students in a traditional classroom with no computer lab. Whether that writing is of higher quality is hotly debated" (7).
  • What about the contrasts between the teaching and learning in traditional and computer-supported classrooms? Does the difference in setting affect student-teacher relationships? Chapters three and four of the text address these issues.
    • "Differences between classroom settings had a clear impact on daily planning, both in the kinds and number of activities that teachers asked students to carry out" (32).
    • "Teachers reported that they felt the need to take charge in the traditional classrooms...in contrast they indicated that they expected students to take more responsibility for their learning in computer classrooms"
    • "Students in the computer classrooms talked with their classmates and with teachers much more frequently during class than did students in the traditional classrooms. Moreover, conversations in the computer classroom tended to focus on writing, while those in the traditional classrooms tended to focus on issues unrelated to the class" (33).
    • "Students in the traditional classrooms tended to meet face to face with teachers more frequently outside the classroom than did students in the computer classrooms. When we added interactions taking place via electronic mail, however, we saw that students from the computer classrooms had higher overall levels of interactions with teachers outside the classroom as well" (55).
    • ...We can change the dynamics of the classroom if we change its physical layout...computer classrooms look like foreign territory...because the computers need constant power and are generally to bulky to move, teachers can no longer move the furniture in the way they want" (78).

A writing class becomes something else when the teachers become limited in how they can arrange their classrooms. Also, when the amount of face to face student-teacher interaction changes, the format of the writing class changes as well. Although my focus is on the presence of literature in the composition classroom, I felt it was necessary to examine and understand the changing dynamics of the writing classroom before discussing the topic at hand.

Works Cited for this text can be found on the "final versions" page.