Beyond Bandaids and Bactine: Computer-Assisted Instruction and Revision

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Through the use of WORDSWORTH II, the faculty at Michigan Technological University have found that computer-assisted instruction can be useful in teaching students the processes involved in revision. A series of computer programs, WORDSWORTH II is available outside of and in addition to regular classroom instruction and offers students effective revision heuristics that they can apply at various stages of their rethinking and rewriting efforts. WORDSWORTH II was designed as a series of seven modules, each covering a specific kind of writing assignment found in freshman composition classes: narration, classification, personal writing, evaluation, description, creative writing, and persuasion. Each of the seven modules uses a similar format composed of two parts: planning and polishing. The planning program of each module reviews the major lecture points associated with the assignment and involves students in prewriting strategies such as brainstorming, focusing topics, organizing plot lines, and constructing audience profiles. The polishing program of each module--divided into early, middle, or late draft branches--involves students in revising their papers. In addition to helping students see revision as a multistep, multistrategy process best carried out over several successive drafts of a paper, WORDSWORTH II teaches students how to give priority to larger concerns of aim and audience when they write early drafts; how to examine problems of focus, development, and arrangement in middle drafts; and how to work with concerns of style and surface structure only in later drafts. (HOD)

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In the past decade, digital feedback tools to review and revise student writing have proliferated. Scholarship in rhetoric, composition, and professional writing has yet to consider how digital feedback systems might offer a promising alternative to traditional and arguably broken feedback practices. This chapter offers a review of the latest scholarship on the digital feedback and revision practices of students and professors, and demonstrates the use of a heuristic customized to college writing applications and programs, which can help professors review and assess new digital tools used to manage an electronic feedback and assessment protocol.
I trace the evolution of computer support for writing centers and writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) programs. Calling attention to differences in the rate of adoption and in the type of technology favored by scholars in each area, I discuss their adoption of technology within the context of their varying instructional goals. I consider early work, beginning in the 1970s, in computer-aided instruction (CAI), the development of computer-based management tools, the growing importance of style- and grammar-analysis software, word-processing programs, electronic networks through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, and the rise of interest in using the World Wide Web to support the missions of writing centers and WAC programs. I conclude by speculating briefly on future directions for technological support for writing centers and WAC programs.
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