Computers and Writing: My Topic

I am involved with the Computers and Writing Online Conference taking place throughout the web for the last week or so and continuing for another week or so. This is the first post for my blog in Asynchronous Sessions 2.

Clearly I am personally involved in blogging and I am married to a digital native. (No, I didn’t rob the cradle. He learned to program on the Apple IIe. In fact, his mother wrote the first computer program for the IRS on the same computer.) I, however, am a digital immigrant. I have had to learn what my husband and my sons take for granted.

I have been teaching college for years, as a TA, an adjunct, and an instructor. Last spring, I was teaching at a community college where most of the students were first-generation college students. They were either urban or rural poor. (I am not sure how the school lines got drawn, but that’s how they worked out.) That is what catapulted me into the study of how to introduce computers, use computers in the writing classroom, and make sure that my students had some measure of information literacy.

computer-girl-bigThroughout this week you can follow my journey, through blog posts I wrote, articles I read, notes I took, and a discussion of what and why I was thinking. I would love to know what you think of the various topics outlined on the blog throughout this week. Feel free to leave comments.

If you have personal experience of the topics discussed, I would appreciate hearing your stories in the comments as well.

Ensuring Information Literacy and Sustainable Learning across Socioeconomic Backgrounds

Many of our students are digital natives. Because of this, we search for new contact zones in emergent technology. But if we presuppose that our students are already computer savvy because of their age or texting ability, we are doing some of them a disservice. A Pew survey indicates that twenty-three percent of college age people never use the internet. Most often these students are from a low socioeconomic (SES) background. How can we move beyond short-term interventions and help all our students develop information literacy and sustainable lifelong learning?

One part of the answer is to understand the value patterns that students’ communities have historically championed and invoke those as a means of engaging the students in their own educational development. We need to understand and follow their cultural mores in order to introduce them to academic culture.

using-computerAnother part of the answer is to create a multimodal composition course which predicates a minimal expertise with technology and engage our students, at all levels, by building towards information literacy for everyone that is on par with the most technology-immersed. While the early levels of expertise will be basic to some of our students, they will be a stretch for others. We can enhance student learning for the former by decompartmentalizing their knowledge and applying it in new configurations, expanding its domains and applications, thus building their framework for sustainable learning. We can enhance student learning for the latter by creating a system for the active construction of knowledge through intense involvement with accessible technologies.

Addressing the difficulties of providing information literacy across socioeconomic backgrounds is a challenge that we can meet in the multimodal composition classroom. Through institutional support and sustained instruction, our students can gain the expertise they need for work, school, and play.

2 thoughts on “Computers and Writing: My Topic”

  1. I’m particularly interested in this topic (check out my blog). Many of the sites I find, however, seem to equate digital literacy with information literacy, something I argue isn’t quite accurate. I do agree that nowadays it is essential that our students have or acquire a certain proficiency with digital tools in order to locate, access, and use information, but being digitally literate does not make one information literate (as you know!). Of course, the ETS conflates the two, when they tested students ability to use digital tools to locate and access information and accused: “an appalling 87% of students of being information illiterate” (Foster).

    Anyway, I’m SO glad to read about your work!

  2. I did check out your blog. Thanks. I had not seen it before.

    I particularly liked your list from ACRL on what an information literate person can do.

    o Determine the extent of information needed
    o Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
    o Evaluate information and its sources critically
    o Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
    o Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
    o Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

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