Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Topic: "You Mean, Write It Over in Ink?"

10-second review: Just a reminder of what it was like to teach composition without word processing.

Title: “You Mean, Write It Over in Ink?” L Odell and J Cohick. English Journal (December 1975),48-53. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: The date of this article was December of 1975. The computer did not begin to infiltrate schools until about 1980. The title of the article gives you some idea of the tediousness of the task of revising when students had to rewrite—even the parts that were OK. No wonder students did not like to revise and teachers preferred teaching grammar exercises to teaching students to write.

I went through the word processing revolution. When students revised by hand the copy was laden with red marks, with cross-outs, arrows to show changes in position of the text, and barely legible cursive handwriting. Word processing made writing, especially revising, almost easy. And each copy, with black print on clean white paper, looked like a finished product, even if it was not.

Some issues at that time: How to encourage English teachers to teach word processing when they themselves were completely unfamiliar with and afraid of using the computer. Should students learn to type correctly before they learned word processing? Should students abandon paper and pencil now that the computer had made writing so much more attractive? What happens when the word processing program is so complex that the students worried more about which key to push than about expressing their ideas in writing? And these were only some of the issues with which we struggled in the early 1980s.

Word processing revolutionized students’ attitude about learning to write. Today, when word processing is taken for granted, no one remembers what we pioneers went through to adopt this technological miracle. RayS.

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