Presentation Abstract

Balancing Administrative Demands Against Pedagogical Contingencies In Computer-Mediated Instruction

Many narratives of the introduction of technology into educational settings cast administrators as recalcitrants, as having to be convinced of the value of new technologies. We are in the different position of having to tone down administrators’ unrealistic expectations for what technology can accomplish in the classroom. Naturally, they believe that computer-mediated composition can be more productive or efficient than more traditional methods. But this enthusiasm also takes the form of adherence to new information-age models for higher education: anytime/anyplace/just-in-time education, certification of mastery rather than of seat time, individual tailoring of curricula, etc. There is value behind these new paradigms of education, and technology is one means by which they will be effected. Yet they do not to us seem an appropriate way of streamlining our department, which delivers 200 sections of freshman writing per year, one-third of these basic writing.

Meanwhile, faculty are understandably wary of administration claims and intentions. In addition, as Barker and Kemp note, some faculty question the wisdom of teaching with new technologies and wonder if they are indeed as new and improved as some may think. They have little incentive to change: they are not sure that the considerable effort required to master these technologies will be rewarded. Further, their models of the teaching/learning process are largely current-traditional; specifically, they are not open to the wholesale restructuring of the classroom dynamic that the networked classroom entails.

As recipients of a grant to introduce additional technology into existing curriculum, we will document in this presentation our efforts to balance these conflicting demands. We will posit a reading of the new educational paradigm, to which many administrators subscribe, for the theories of learning which it incorporates, and show how it conflicts with socially-situated theories of learning put forth in the field of computers and writing. We will describe the extent to which we have in fact been able to adopt administrators’ terminology, and even their conceptualizations, but have managed to turn them to our own, pedagogically-driven, uses. That is, as we will detail, we have provided for faculty multiple channels and modes of involvement in computer-mediated composition, and we have learned to appreciate incremental—rather than wholesale—change.

Author: Frances Johnson and Jeffrey Maxson


Target Audience: Not Applicable

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