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Reading Literature About CAI

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Reading Literature about CAI

Computer assisted instruction (CAI) of writing is a big field and has generated a growing body of literature. Since it is also a relatively young field, much of the literature you will find is typical of that of any newer academic area in which theory, research, and practice are ongoing.

In other words, be careful what you read. Depending on what sources you review (and when they were written), it is possible to get a somewhat unbalanced view of CAI. For instance, many early articles about computer based writing instruction are perhaps overly optimistic about the effects it can have on the writing classroom, or maybe they simply grant computers greater power in writing instruction than they really deserve. Consider the following:

"The computer, more than any staff development program, journal article, or administrative mandate, has the potential to alter the environment of the classroom, and with it the role of both teacher and student" (Boiarsky 47).

"Networked microcomputers dissolve the proscenium classroom," juxtaposing the students-as-isolated-individuals situation in the traditional writing classroom with the students' new positions in the networked classroom as "knowledge makers and participants in the discourse of the community (as defined by the network)" (Barker and Kemp 16-17).

The computer-based community creates "an atmosphere of openness, informality, and conviviality. Such an atmosphere contributes much toward truly fostering an editor-writer relationship between teacher and students as well as a peer system in which students rely on one another" (Boiarsky 63).

"Now [in the computer classroom] situated for writing, the student may assume authority of his or her unmutilated text on the screen, the instructor occupying the background--questioning, coaching, offering consultation, and observing . . . ." (Sudol 334).

Along with the laudatory comments, a complementary body of criticism has arisen. In some ways, the field now seems to have experienced a pendulum swing, and many researchers seemed pre-occupied with the negative, or potentially negative, aspects of CAI.

Of course, computers are only one of a number of factors that affect the writing classroom, and this should be kept in mind as you review the literature of the field. Browsing the sources found through Related Links will give you an idea of the current discussions of computers in the writing classroom.

For instructors new to the computer classroom, Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and Traditional Classrooms offers a fairly comprehensive discussion of many of the areas of concern you might have, including comparisons and contrasts between traditional and computer classrooms, classroom dynamics, student writing with computers, dealing with technology, and teacher training.