Will administrators think they can shut down a walk-in center?

We run the danger that an administrator may see an OWL as a way to "increase efficiency" rather than improve instruction. It is possible that an administrator may see computer technology as a way to replace staff rather than help staff do a better job. (This has certainly been the focus for technology in much of American industry.) We need, therefore, to make the case that computer technology can help us to help our students, but such technologies cannot replace writing instructors.

Some computer technologies may offer us effective ways to interact with each other; they may offer us new ways to create and share information; but computers cannot replace human beings in offering the exchange of ideas and feedback that's so necessary for writers while they're writing. Computers may offer us a medium for such exchanges, a medium through which two or more people communicate, but an exchange between human and computer is still a weak substitute for the exchange between human and human. Computers, based as they are on algorithmic functions, still cannot handle the decidedly unalgorithmic, messy process of writing.

So, we need to communicate to others both our own value as instructors and the value of computers in helping us do our jobs. To do that, though, we need a clearer sense of how we talk about technology.

Stuart Blythe
Purdue University