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Articles on Using Computers to Teach Composition

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Bouloukos, Adam C., Dennis C. Benamati, and Graeme R. Newman. "Teaching Information Literacy in Criminal Justice: Observations from the University of Albany." Journal of Criminal Justice Education 6.2 (Fall 1995): 213-233.

"The last decade has seen a termendous expansion in the availability of electronic information in all academic disciplines, including criminal justice. Scholars, practitioners, and students of criminal justice are no longer limited to the material contained within their institutions' libraries. The Internet and other electronic carriers have opened the windows of those libraries to other, remote information sources. This paper describes the development and implementation of a course designed to meet students' needs in this new information environment." It also provides a sample of the course syllabus and the major project assignment.

Brouwer, Peter. "Hold on a Minute Here: What Happened to Critical Thinking in the Information Age?" Journal of Educational Technology Systems 25 (1996-97): 189-197.

Although information technology (IT) is often touted as a means of improving the quality of teaching and learning, as well as enabling universities to offer more and better distance learning courses, IT also offers the potential for information overload. Educators need to teach information literacy so that students are better able to negotiate the amount and the quality of the information they receive. This type of literacy will enable students to make the distinction between information and knowledge.

Buckley, Liz. "Distance Mentoring: The Mentoring is in the E-Mail." The Writing Lab Newsletter 23.10 (1999): 1-5.

Writing center tutors are often immersed in composition theory, but have little other contact with the academic community. Matching up faculty with tutors through an email mentor program helps tutors be more aware of the larger context of academic work. Each faculty/tutor pair exchanged one email per week. Tutors believed that they learned more about the larger academic community, while mentors learned more about the work done at the writing center.

Carlisle, Marcia. "Talking History." OAH Magazine of History 57.9 (1995): 57-59.

Argues that students too often put more effort into producing essays than into their classroom participation. To help students make their own connections with the material, teachers need to encourage students to talk more about the material in a meaningful way. By establishing a computer discussion about history, the author succeeded in getting students to participate in class discussions more easily. The article gives some specific insights into the set-up of the computer conversation, and some examples of different ways it facilitated her own class.

Coogan, David. Electronic Writing Centers: Computing in the Field of Composition.Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing Company. 1999.

Coogan theorizes the electronic writing center as a dialogic space where students and tutors learn to value those off-stage voices and contradictory impulses that inform their writing. This approach is opposed to that in which the writing center is a fix-it shop and the computer is a type of teaching machine. The text has five chapters: "Tutors and Computers in Composition Studies," "Email `Tutoring' and Dialogic Literacy," "The Medium is Not the Message," "The Idea of an Electronic Writing Center," and "Computing in the Field of Composition." An appendix, "African-American Poetry as Catalyst for Exploring Discrimination," includes a 4-week teaching guide on poetry and discrimination for junior and senior high school students.

Davis, Wes and Kelley Mahoney. "The Effects of Computer Skills and Feedback on the Gains in Students' Overall Writing Quality in College Freshman Composition Courses." ERIC document. October 28, 1999. EDR 435 097

This study compares the gains of two groups of freshman students, one of which composed essays on the computer while receiving instructional feedback and the other which composed by hand while receiving feedback only after getting the graded papers returned. The study used a quantitative, pretest/posttest design with statistical analysis. Results showed the experimental group improved more than the control. Intervention during the composing process will result in more improvement; computers allow instructors to be more "up close and personal."

Dial-Driver, Emily, and Frank Sesso. "Thinking Outside the (Classroom) Box: The Transition from Traditional to On-Line Learning Communities." Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the National Council of Teachers of English. Nov. 13-16, 2000. ERIC document. ED 448 457

Writing pedagogy recognizes the importance of community in building better writers. Online courses, however, pose challenges to the creation of community. By looking at the different technologies available online, the authors demonstrate how community can be built in a Web-based course through the use of journals, forums, and document sharing. These tools help develop students' interests and interaction with each other.

Dickinson, Sandra C. "Taking Care of Business: The Repercussions of Commodified Electronic Literacy." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Denver, CO, March 14-17, 2001. ERIC ED 451 538.

Although the Internet has been hailed as "liberating," much of the Internet is tied to advertising. As a result, advertising images vie with hard content for the reader's attention. Because readers are often unprepared for this visual onslaught, educators need to address a visual literacy based on Freire's concepts of critical literacy. This strategy will give readers the tools they need to discern the persuasive nature of the images present throughout the World Wide Web.

Gruber, Sibylle, "Coming to Terms with Contradictions: Online Materials, Plagiarism, and the Writing Center."

What should the writing center do when a student says that s/he plans to plagiarize material because s/he believes s/he can do it without being caught? Gruber documents such a case, in which the writing center decided to waive its policy of confidentiality in order to inform an instructor of possible plagiarism of an online source. One interesting aspect is that the student tries to argue the difficulty of documenting an online source. The ethical conflicts within this situation are further complicated by the ramifications of the ethical violations within the context of the content of the course.

Harasim, Linda M. "Online Education: An Environment for Collaboration and Intellectual Amplification." No citation. p39-64.

Gives background and key attributes of online education. States that online education is: many-to-many communication; place independent; time independent or flexible; text based; and computer mediated. Online education enables active learning, knowledge building, and convergences.

Jaeger, George. "One Year Later: Description of a Freshman Composition Class Taught Completely Online by Computer and Modem Hosted on a BBS." No citation.

Jaeger reports on a composition course taught by computer, with no face- to-face interaction. He argues that face-to-face interaction is not necessary for one-to-one interaction; that collaborative learning can occur under these circumstances; and that in general this is a good way to offer composition courses.

Janangelo, Joseph. "Joseph Cornell and the Artistry of Composing Persuasive Hypertexts."College Composition and Communication 49.1 (1998): 24-44.

One problem with hypertext lies in the absence of models that demonstrate the degree of cohesiveness needed to support a persuasive, argumentative purpose. The linked nature of such texts invites criticism of its "collage" nature. Such criticism fails to consider that collage can exhibit cohesion. A "reading" of Joseph Cornell's collage tribute to Ludwig of Bavaria helps to underscore the persuasive potential of the hypertext form. By appreciating the poetics of the collage, students learn that links are not randomly connected, but the product of a discernment process in which purpose and audience are carefully considered.

Krauthamer, Helene. "How Can We Assess Computer-Assisted Reading and Writing Instruction?" Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Writing Centers Association (5th, Baltimore, MD., November 2-4, 2000). ERIC document ED 452 493

Many writing centers use computer-assisted reading and writing instructional (CARWI) programs to enable students to improve reading and writing skills; however, few guides exist on how to assess the appropriateness of the different platforms and programs. Two websites offer online evaluations of different CARWI programs based on the factors of cost, convenience, attractiveness, and effectiveness.

Kroll, Barry. "On conducting electronic conversations."

Part of his syllabus for an IFS course taught in 1992. Initial instructions about electronic discussions and how they were used in the course. Describes the permitted types of responses to a prompt or another student's posting. Gives examples of prompt questions.

Law, Joe. "Learning to Write with E-mail in Money and Banking." Writing Across the Curriculum 7 (January 1998): 1,3.

In a 300-level course on money and banking, students are assigned to one of the newsgroups created for the course and must post once a week. Postings account for 20% of the course grade, and must conform to the guidelines outlined in the syllabus. These guidelines sketch out teacher expectations with respect to idea development, interaction with other students within the newsgroup environment, analysis of topics, and the ability to stimulate further discussion.

Neff, Joyce Magnotto. "From a Distance: Teaching Writing on Interactive Television." Research in the Teaching of English 33 (1998): 136-157.

Examines the experience of one instructor's experience with teaching composition in a distance learning environment through a televised classroom. The instructor found that the medium affected the power dynamics of the traditional classroom and challenged university policies meant to reify those hierarchies. Furthermore, although students met at different sites and had no direct contact with the instructor, each site still formed a community of writers. Little research has been done in this area, however, andthe instructor calls for more work on composition in a distance learning environment.

Nelson, Jane and Cynthia A. Wambeam. "Moving Computers into the Writing Center: The Path to Least Resistance." Computers and Composition 12 (1995): 135-143.

Nelson and Wambeam summarize their experience at the University of Wyoming in setting up a computer writing classroom and an online writing lab. They encourage writing centers to take a leadership role in collaborative projects to incorporate computers in the classroom, and also to avoid marginalization in their institutions. One benefit of online writing labs, they argue, is that more students, including part-time , disabled , or site-bound students, can use the services of the writing center.

O'Conner, Michael. "Technology and the Teaching of First-Year Composition." Composition Chronicle 11.2 (1998): 5-7.

A brief survey of internet technology and its application to the teaching of composition. Included are descriptions of web pages, local e-mail, listservs, MOOs, and OWLs. Some urls are provided. Points out that these activities need not take place in a computer lab, but are accessible through the student's own university internet connection. Furthermore, although this technology takes time to learn, it saves time for the instructor. Students are entering university with more sophisticated computer skills, and so will probably not need much training in order to utilize these opportunities.

Posey, Evelyn, and Dorothy Ward. "Ideas in Practice: Computer-Supported Writing Instruction: The Student Centered Classroom." Journal of Developmental Education 15.2 (1991): 26- 28, 30.

Describes software used at the Univ. of Texas, El Paso, for basic writers. Software helps students generate and organize ideas, and expands editting abilities. Contrasts with commercially available software for basic writers, which emphasizes drills and memorization of rules.

Selfe, Cynthia L. "Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention." CCC 50.3 (1999): 411-436.

Computer technology has become so commonplace that it is invisible, especially to composition specialists trained in a humanist tradition. By refusing to see beyond computer use, however, educators fail to make the larger connections between technology and literacy. Literacy is tied into culture, with political and socio-economic ramifications, and to ignore the intersections of technology and literacy is to ignore humanist goals to broaden cultural perspectives.

Stroupe, Craig. "Visualizing English: Recognizing the Hybrid Literacy of Visual and Verbal Authorship on the Web." College English 62.5 (2000): 607-632.

In the context of increasing importance of Web technology and communications, English studies should consider the role that verbal rhetoric will play within the visual world of the Web page. Because of the importance of the visual in creating a Web page, the verbal cannot supercede the visual. The two need to interact together in order to create meaning. The visual can act to interrupt the verbal, producing ironies and contradictions that lend a subtle depth to the Web page. In other words, Web authorship employs an elaborated discourse long associated with literary artistry or critical literacy. If English studies could learn to recognize its own literacies and logics in the hybrid practices of nonprofessional composers, it would recognize its own continuities with these extra-verbal cultures.

Youmans, Gilbert. "Measuring Lexical Style and Competence: The Type-Token Vocabulary Curve." Manuscript, as forthcoming in Style (1992).

Study used a computer to count the number of different words (types) used in passages taken from 13 different well-known authors, and the total number of words (tokens). Plotted the number of types against the number of tokens for some of the texts. Differences in the type-token curves used to infer differences between the authors in style (vocabulary use) and lexical competence (vocabulary size).

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