Technology Autobiography Tammy White Indiana University of Pennsylvania In both my academic and professional experience I have always been deeply involved with the issues that inform written technology, communication, and the design of information vehicles. It is this association with technology that leads me to chronicle my use of it, and in turn, think about the ways technology has changed how I work and play. I would like to begin my technology autobiography by describing my first "real" computer. This is not to say that I considered myself to be technologically illiterate beforehand. Rather, I consider my childhood interests in TV Pong, remote controlled TVS, and electric toothbrushes to also be a part of my technological past. But, given the assignment at hand, beginning with a description of my first PC seems like a good place to begin. In 1988 I purchased my first computer and became the proud, curious, confused owner of an IBM PSII. I installed Word Star 2000 and began to compose. At that time, I was a Journalism major at West Virginia University and as such I was required to compose all of my assignment s directly at the keyboard in order to learn how to compose quickly and meet deadlines. After I graduated from WVU, I went on to graduate school where I began to teach writing courses in computer classrooms. My first experience teaching in a computer classroom was very exciting and at the same time very frustrating. I began the semester with the belief that the computers would advance the pace of the course, aid students learning, and make in-class writing tasks easier. I soon learned differently. During the first week of class, most of my time was spent teaching the students how to use the computers and printers - - instead of how to write. As the semester progressed, students learned how to use the computers and the equipment, but it seemed as though I was constantly putting out fires for the students who were intimidated by printer paper jams, bad disks, etc. As an instructor, I found myself answering student questions about how to double space a document instead of how to write persuasively. For the students, several were intimidated by the computers and dreaded coming to class knowing that they had to manipulate the technology in order to complete an assignment. One young woman swore that any computer she touched automatically "broke" and by the end of the semester I was inclined to agree. My colleagues could not believe that I dared to step back into another computer classroom the following semester; they were already convinced that the technology of the computer classrooms took up too much valuable class time, relinquished their authority, and required them to become computer scientist instead of English professors. But I was certain that computers were not the problem, it was the instruction that assisted the use of the computers, and I believed that computers could aid students in the writing process because I knew it had improved my writing when I was an undergraduate at West Virginia University. I also realized that when my students graduated from college they would be expected to use computers in many different work environments. With this in mind, I began to question how to create an optimal writing environment in a computer classroom that made use of all the available technologies without wasting valuable class time. I believed then, and still do, that as technology advanced to meet the needs of individuals in and outside the realm of work, no longer was there a question of if computers and other available means of technology could be used to further the goals of a writing classroom; the question became how. To date, I am still asking how. Last year I earned an M.A. in English with a concentration in rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University. With special permission from the department director, Dr. David Kaufer, I taught a section of CMU's first-year writing course, Argumentation, in an experimental computer classroom. At CMU I discovered my passion for teaching and conducting research that informed the ways we teach writing in an electronic environment. Because this was an experimental multi media computer classroom, I tried implementing all the available technologies (email, electronic bulletin boards, WWW, electronic paper submissions) to further the goals of my course - - and I soon learned what worked and what did not. Three years before I taught at CMU, I was recruited into Frostburg State University's newly built Distance Education Laboratory as both a trainer and an implementer. FSU funded my studies at the TeleTraining Institute so I could train other FSU faculty to teach in a distance education environment. I have worked with a variety of different faculty. Many have came to me wanting to know how to send email to their students, while others wanted to know how to transform their traditional courses to ones that they could deliver in a distance learning environment. I have worked with faculty who resisted technology and those who have embraced it --in both cases, I have found ways technology can further the goals of most classrooms. In closing, I would like to say that my interests in technology have helped to shape my research and teaching interests. Broadly described, I am interested in technology and the production of discourse, and how each informs the other, especially regarding computer-mediated communication (CMC). Specifically, I am interested in the pedagogical theory and practice that informs teaching English at a distance. I plan to focus my dissertation research on the risks and benefits of teaching composition courses to distance learners. On a lighter note, I feel the need to share with my audience that I am more inclined to ask my husband, or bearer of gifts, for a new computer, or some computer accessory instead of a piece of jewelry or clothing. Technology is my hobby and my passion. As a composition teacher, I will continue to search for the best ways to use computers in the classroom. As a wife, I will continue to find ways to convince my husband to buy me a new laptop!
Ph.D. Candidate, Rhetoric & Linguistics
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