2(3), May 1985, page 9

[conclusion of Jensen article and all of Thoms article at top of this page]


Ruth Gardner and Jo McGinnis
Department of English
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721

We propose to study in some detail the uses of computers in composition programs at selected universities in the United States and England. The study will include visits to the universities of Minnesota, Oakland, Drexel, Colorado State, New Mexico State, UCLA, Cambridge, London, and Sussex, whose programs range from those instituted by one professor in several classes to complex grant programs involving whole departments.

During the visits we will observe physical-facilities, (numbers and types of labs, classrooms, computers, and printers, and details about networking, scheduling, student access; hours, cost, help available, maintenance, security of files and disks).

We will interview administrators of computer-comp programs about software and its integration into composition courses: what word processor and why, what CAI, how computer courses fit into the complete composition program, what

COMPUTERS and COMPOSITION 2(3), May 1985, page 10

changes computer courses have caused in that program, what goals the uses of computers meet, other reasons for use, and some history of the development of the software and the computer courses.

We will also ask administrators about student training and reactions: how students are p]aced, training in keyboard use, training in word-processor use, training materials, class time used, advantages and disadvantages, special problems, changes in students' work and attitudes as administrators perceive them, and so on. We include questions about faculty preparation, training, and reactions, as well as changes in teaching and evaluating essays, and other uses of computers by faculty. And we ask administrators about future uses of word processing and CAI and about plans for software development and research.

For the faculty we have a shorter, two-page questionnaire about their experience with computers and the course they use them in, their training for and feelings about the courses, the parts of the writing process for which they require use of word processor or CAI, and their perception of how students use word processors, the effects of such use on students' attitudes toward writing, writing processes, and finished products. We ask faculty also whether paper use increases or decreases, whether the word processor is really used as a means of thinking by students, and whether feedback on style tends to make students' styles more individual or more standardized.

And for students also we have a two-page questionnaire, asking many of the same questions asked of instructors. In some cases, we will have the administrator's, faculty members', and students' responses to the same questions (e.g., whether students write more or fewer words on a word processor than on paper and why, whether students revise more and what kinds of revision). Students are asked many questions also asked their instructors, comparing writing on a word processor to writing with pen or typewriter (are they more objective, do they pay more attention to process, do they feel more free to make mistakes, to begin writing in the middle, to play around more with words and, ideas, etc.)

With the results from these visits, interviews, and questionnaires, we hope to construct and publish one or several taxonomies of ways in which Computer/Comp programs have developed, are now functioning (from several perspectives), and may change. Although many valuable bits and pieces of this information have been available in the literature, we know of no complete comparative study of these many questions, and we hope that our study will prove useful to persons in many institutions and situations.

If you are interested in this research and would like to participate in it, please contact us. It may be possible in some cases to mail questionnaires for faculty and students and conduct phone interviews with administrators. If you know of research germane to ours or to which ours would be helpful, we would be grateful to hear about it.