High Tech, White Boards and Developmental Writers
Okay, first notice that I didn’t say Smartboards. I said white boards. I would love to be posting about the use of Smartboards in my developmental writing class at GCC, but that is not the case today. I’m posting about the technology of white boards and markers and technology use in developmental classes. I often struggle with the protestation of using technology in developmental writing courses. Some say that developmental writers are not ready to use technology and that many will struggle with the technology and miss out on learning the necessary writing skills. Others, including myself, feel that the use of technology only enhances the writing and learning experience. The debate is on going.
According to a survey of basic writing teachers across the country, a disparity exists in the use of technology in developmental programs. Reinforcing the claims of earlier empirical studies, Stan and Collins find that using computer technologies in developmental classrooms positively influences students’ attitudes toward writing and improves both the appearance and quantity of student writing. However, numerous institutional issues effect successful computer use, such as differences in the levels of technology currently available, resistance among faculty and students, lack of infrastructure, uneven access to professional development among staff, and lack of visibility for successful efforts.
Stan, Susan, and Terence G. Collins. “Basic Writing: Curricular Interactions with New Technology.” Journal of Basic Writing 17.1 (1998): 18–41.
I can say that I’ve experienced both views. Students in my developmental writing courses at SMC have been inundated with technology. They are using wikis, blogs, word processors and a course management system. The level of technology skills in those classes is broad with students coming in with absolutely no computer experience to those who have experience in basic word processing and email. Very few have experience using the new web 2.0 features like blogs and wikis. I lose a lot of the students early on in the developmental courses. Some semesters I’ve lost close to half of my students by the end of a semester. I’ve always associated most of the drops to the students fear of this new technology and have tried doubly hard to train students in the proper use of the technology. Well, I don’t feel that way any more.
I’m teaching a developmental writing course here at GCC, and unfortunately I have no access to technology in the class itself besides my shiny white boards, overhead projector from 1950, and a vcr/dvd combo and television. This of course is no reflection on the college; it’s just a this is what’s left situation. This late start 8 week course loaded with 24 students, and 20 showed the first day. The second class 15 came back, and now in the 4th week I’m down to 8. Where did they all go? It’s the same pattern I see in my courses at SMC where we have abundant access to technology in the class and out. So I’m fairly confident that it is not the technology scaring my students away. It’s the “I can’t do this” attitude that many of our developmental writers come into college with.
It’s not the technology. There is too much research out there that states the positive effects of technology use in developmental writing courses as well as the negative effects of a new generation of apathetic students. We just have to keep trying to find ways to keep them interested and to educate them.