Print Volume 25.2 (June 2008)

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Computing Attachments: Engelbart's Controversial Writing Technology
— Derek Van Ittersum, Kent State University

Douglas Engelbart's innovative computer system afforded controversial writing and computing practices that continue to sharply contrast with standard ways of writing with computers today. Using actor-network theory (ANT), this article traces the history of the computer system developed by Engelbart in the late 1960s, highlighting the previously contentious state of computer hardware and software used for writing that we now take largely for granted. Pushed aside in favor of computer systems more oriented toward print practices, Engelbart's project illustrates the difficulties such disruptive technologies face in terms of widespread adoption. Although all technologies require robust infrastructures for their continued existence, innovative projects are especially likely to be dismissed if they lack supportive networks. This article argues that increased attention to nonhuman actors such as computer hardware and software, and the support they need, can lead to more detailed understandings of their role in literate activities.

A Study of Voice-Recognition Software as a Tool for Teacher Response
— Thomas Batt, Maine Maritime Academy, & Sandip Wilson, Husson College

Voice-recognition technology (VRT) promises ease of use in responding to student writing, but its impact on writing processes and the quality of teacher commentary is unclear. This article details the results of a study undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of VRT in responding to student writing. Over the course of two semesters, in response to texts written by students in his first-year college composition course, one of the authors composed 58 end comments, alternating between two methods of composition: typing on a keyboard and dictating directly into text by means of VRT. While his writing processes in the respective modalities differed dramatically, particularly in terms of revision, the quality of the resulting texts appeared roughly the same: A detailed content analysis of the comments, using Richard Straub and Ronald Lunsford's (1995) typology, revealed significant variation in only 1 of 25 variables, measured as a proportion of total words. Meanwhile, students surveyed indicated they found few differences between the typed and dictated comments in terms of their usefulness, clarity, and tone. These findings, along with a comparison of time on task and user impressions of the two modalities, indicate that VRT represented a valuable tool for producing end comments that the user was able to dictate fluently, but that the technology was ineffective for the limited editing and revising attempted within the design of the study.

Datagogies, Writing Spaces, and the Age of Peer Production
— Joseph Moxley, University of South Florida

This essay investigates how teachers and Writing Program Administrators (WPAs) can use commons-based peer-to-peer technologies to change their roles, to alter writing instruction and literacy genres, and to transform our processes of learning, writing, and collaborating. The essay introduces the term “datagogy” to theorize about the synergy that takes place when “crowds” of teachers employ technologies to construct and debate shared pedagogies. The essay juxtaposes the values and ideologies of two metaphorical communities, the Community of Power and the Community of Learning, explores how these communities use and design online learning communities, and concludes that datagogies are unique interfaces that emphasize the values of the Community of Learning as opposed to the values of the Community of Power. Finally, the essay argues that English studies will concede the central pedagogical stage of the 21st century unless we develop datagogies that engage the creative power of individuals working collaboratively in a climate that respects diversity and independent thinking.

The Reliability of Computer Software to Score Essays: Innovations in a Humanities Course
— A. James Wohlpart, Chuck Lindsay, Florida Gulf Coast University, & Craig Rademacher, Northern Michigan University

In the summer of 2001, Florida Gulf Coast University was awarded a 2-year, $200,000 grant from the National Center for Academic Transformation to redesign a required General Education course entitled Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts. The course redesign project had two main goals: infuse appropriate technology into the course in meaningful ways and reduce the cost of delivering the course. Faculty members in the humanities and arts were adamant that the redesigned course be structured in such a way that it offered a coherent and consistent learning experience for all students and that it maintained the use of essays as an important strategy for learning in the class. The redesign project led to the creation of a wholly online course with all students registered in two large sections. One of the ways in which we continued to incorporate essay writing into the course was to use a computer application, the Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) from Pearson Knowledge Technologies, to score two shorter essays. Through detailed assessment, we have demonstrated that the computer software has an inter-rater reliability of 81% as compared to the 54% inter-rater reliability of the holistic scoring by humans. In this essay, we provide general background on the redesign project and a more detailed discussion of the appropriate use and the reliability of the Intelligent Essay Assessor.

Analyzing Students’ Perceptions of Their Learning in Online and Hybrid First-Year Composition Courses
— Patricia Webb Boyd, Arizona State University

This article presents a study of first-year composition (fyc) courses that were taught in both online and hybrid formats in order to determine students’ perceptions on how much they learned in them. The students’ responses to an extensive survey, in which they analyzed their experiences in their courses, point to larger questions about our individual pedagogical assumptions as well as larger issues related to the structures of first-year composition courses and their required status.

Keeping with the currency of the print-based journal, Print to Screen focuses on the themes found in the recent issues of Computers and Composition, and includes multimodal commentaries that explore and remediate relationships between print and screen.

Section Editor — Elizabeth Monske

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