Fit Our Humanistic Minds in the Digital Trend (Reading Response 1)

As Steven Krause states in his “A Very Brief and Very Selective History of Computers and Composition,” the technology of computers and internet is changing too fast for all of us to stop and think about its history. It is just like one of the Chinese sayings that the plan is always backward compared to the change. Born in the 1980s, I am growing up with computer and having been using it in my classroom to support my English and French teaching, which makes me very aware of the change it brings on to my life and the society as a whole. No matter what attitude people have toward the computer and the internet, “the train has left the station!” Therefore, it is definitely the teachers’ role to value, weigh, and make the best use of the technology in literacy and composition.

Whereas Steven’s view point is from a historical and objective standpoint, Lanham’s voice in “The Electronic Word” is more emotional inspiring but less biased despite his tone of lament on students not reading books and the totally changed decorum of literature and culture. It is indeed a pity for students of the art of letters to not being able to be disturbed by the millions of fun stuff such as facebook nowadays, but the new technologies considered as a new way of learning and publishing is also exciting. The internet enabled millions of the unprivileged and marginalized to read, to write, and to communicate with people whom in the non-digital age they could not get in touch with. Further, the electronic word also realizes the “unity of knowledge” and the disappearance of disciplinary boundaries, which makes it easier for scholars to search common grounds, especially in our field of rhetoric and composition where a broad range of disciplines are engaged. Lanham’s urges people in the humanities to give up bias and resentment toward technology and trying our best to embrace the advantage of technology should be paid due attention to because it is really ourselves to blame if we cannot guard our discipline in this digital era. In a word, the ability to teach and to do research is not at all contradictory to the use of the digital technology invented by the scientists, make it our servant, or be its slave.

“CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments” defines the teaching, learning, and assessing writing in a digital age and makes digital writing and composition official and authoritative in the filed of composition. As computer technology and the internet continue to influence our cultures and societies, writing instruction will have to deal with both traditional literacy and digital literacy. Fortunately, we can use each of them to better our knowledge on the other. While the guidelines provided by the statement on digital writing instruction, assessing, and writing program administration are reasonable and effective, the remains an unprecedented issue that CCCC opposes, that of electronic rating. Despite its time saving feature, machine scoring violates the social aim and the persuasive nature of writing.  This naturally lead to the question that how can writing be assessed without machine or with computer assisted human rating system. My own experience of scoring the college examination in China with the assistance of computer programs makes me hate the inequality the system brings on to students writing. Raters just avoid to give the highest and the lowest scores to avoid salary deductions. I resent the fact that I cannot do anything with it because the lack of knowledge on computer programing and the huge amount of papers we have to finish rating in one single week. I hope in the future this situation can be changed so that students’ fates are not controlled by a silly computer rating system.

“The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing” is the one reading assignment that most thought provoking to my own learning and teaching experience. The increasingly use of computers and the internet in a writing classroom is both challenging and rewarding depending on how the writing instructors make use of the technology. It might be true that some of the teachers still cannot shift their own pedagogy into a digital one, but the vast sea of internet resources and new ways of teaching with visual and sound systems a computer provides enable the students to learn and memorize in this digital era. We should try to discuss ways of how to optimize the information and technology we have rather than criticizing relentlessly how the computer harmed our life. It is we human beings that made the computer and the internet a reality, thus it is our task to handle our own property and to make the best use of it. Especially in the Departments of English where traditionally no science and technology is engaged, this need of literacy and readiness to make full use of our era’s “new instrument” has never been so desperate than before.


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