Technology Autobiography by: T. White

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!

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Tammy White's IUP homepage:

Tammy White
Ph.D. Candidate, Rhetoric & Linguistics
Please email me your comments about this paper!