Those who have worked in writing centers for many years may remember when their centers received a handful of Apple IIes or IBM PCs with a pair of 51/2-inch floppy disk drives, no hard drive, and an impressive (at the time) 256 kilobytes of random access memory. As the scholarship that chronicles the marriage of computers and writing centers illustrates, many writing center directors did not at first know what to make of computers—or how to use them. Often, directors used the machines to keep records of student traffic, to give computer-assisted instruction in the form of grammar and syntax drills or, at best, to introduce student writers to word processing. The articles and essays from this time—the late 1970s to the mid1980s—are pragmatic, consisting of hardware and software reviews, advice on how to set up a user-friendly computer lab, or sometimes hostile backlashes against the new technology as counterproductive to the writing center mission. In his 1979 Writing Lab Newsletter article Richard C. Veit compares and contrasts human and machine-assisted instruction (i.e., auto-tutorial programs) and comes down on the side of “humanistic labs.” Of human tutors, Veit says, “even without training, they have more to offer students than the programs and machines” (2). In a 1987 Writing Center Journal issue dedicated to computers, Fred Kemp likewise challenges the notion that computers can or should replace the human tutor.
Type of Source: Book article
Author: Steve Sherwood
Year of Publication: 1998
Publication: Wiring the Writing Center (available online)
Page Range: 216-230