Discussing Karper’s “Make It Do or Do Without”

This is where we’ll talk about Erin Karper’s “Make It Do or Do Without:  Transition from a Tech-Heavy to a Tech-Light Institution: A Cautionary Tale.” Like I said, it’s probably a good idea to read the Moran piece first to put this in perspective, but I guess the short version is I guess we can’t quite assume that the role of computers in the teaching of writing is a settled argument yet.

Karper’s essay is pretty straight-forward, and in my view, a little uneven but still useful.  The dichotomy of “tech-heavy” and “tech-light” is interesting, though it seems to me that there’s a lot in-between these two extremes. Maybe EMU is like that, actually.

I think she has good suggestions for strategies for getting access to technology, ideas that are worth keeping in mind at EMU and also at other institutions. I don’t think this includes any of the students in the class this term, but I have had high school teachers in the past who have to “think outside of the box” when it comes to getting computer lab access. And I can relate to some of what Karper is implying regarding some of the “pushback” she has received over the years from others at her institution about why someone teaching writing would need computers.

That said, even Karper’s story implies that there is less doing “without” than has been the case before.  As she notes, her department now has a computer lab: in other words, even the “tech-light” institutions are seeing the point of computers and teaching writing.

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6 Responses to Discussing Karper’s “Make It Do or Do Without”

  1. I thought her work across the departments was the most impressive part of her article, as we’ve read so many cases where it’s difficult to work out collaborations across disciplines. It brings me back to my argument that this collaboration should come in the form of course offerings that allow for writers to learn technologies that facilitate writing.

    Obviously her response to being placed in a tech-free classroom after so much time in tech-mediated classrooms was much more flexible than Moran’s. I thought she did a good job of exploring the benefits of each, rather than bemoaning the lack of computer access.

    I’ve had reactions that reflect this when I’ve discussed some of my writing assignments. “What do you mean, you made a video? I thought you were in a writing program”, is a general sort of response I’ve gotten from many people. I tried to explain it to a teacher in another department and she looked at me like I had completely lost my mind. She could in no way wrap her head around the idea of multimedia/multimodal/writing online sort of stuff. I gave up trying to explain it.

    I wonder what the Educause study she references will have to report for the most recent data. I have to imagine that more and more non-doctoral institutions are providing access to computers for writing. Yet, these two articles and the responses I’ve received lead me to wonder about the overall reception to the idea.

  2. chelsea says:

    I’m really intrigued by the invisibility of “tech-lite” schools (19), in regards to the multimodal pedagogy survey. Knowing my own limited view based on my experiences here (sometimes I forget that our program is one among many, and not all are the same!), I wonder about other scholarship on computers and writing and what lens they are writing through…. and I wonder, about these programs at “tech-lite” schools, especially given the description Karper gives about her own institution that required her to take a training before being “allowed” to update the department website, why they are struggling to comprehend the value of technology in writing studies given the plethora of composition scholarship on the subject. Maybe this is me speaking through my own lens, but shouldn’t they be keeping up with what’s being discussed/researched/published? How can you have a writing program without, say, reading current studies and scholarship that most certainly involves technology to a certain extent? I guess I feel that a positive, working relationship with technology, to a certain degree, is necessary. Right? I mean…can I go apply for jobs in the area without some background in technology? I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so.

    I see in Karper’s piece the same instructor-focus that I see in Moran’s; that is to say, the focus shifts from task or peers to instructor as the center of the space.

    What I appreciate more about Karper’s piece, however, is her positive attitude toward having to adapt to different classroom environments and institutional expectations, recognizing that it is important to be able to teach both with and without computers based on whatever resources are available, accessible, and supported by the university or program.

    And I agree – reading Moran before this was a great choice – both of these articles were accessible, relevant, and enjoyable to read.

  3. Danielle says:

    Chelsea, I also liked her attitude throughout the article and her advice to “adapt: use what you have on and off campus.” (23) I think adaptability (and resourcefulness, for that matter) is a skill that is important to have in just about any career…though it seems like this is especially true in teaching.

    What this article really got me thinking about, though, was how much I take having ready access to digital technologies (computers, cell phones, Internet, etc) for granted. For example, I personally own several computers (and if I didn’t, I would still have easy access to one through the library or another lab on campus). As an EMU student, I also have the privilege of borrowing a video camera from the library or using any of the printing stations available on campus. I guess, because of my own experience, I haven’t put much thought into the concept of “tech-lite” schools before having read this article

  4. Jackie K. says:

    Like Danielle and Chelsea, I’m a fan of Karper’s positive attitude. I think it says a lot about her skill as an educator and self-assessor that she was able to look at her changed situation and adapt to it, instead of allowing herself to be crippled by it to the point where she could not effectively teach. Her resourcefulness is really heartening, and I also appreciate how she was able to win her fellow instructors over to the side of more technology. To me, it seems as though she carefully cultivated that, making them aware of the benefits of technology instead of just bashing them over the head with “ain’t technology great let’s have more technology yay technology”–kind of a show, don’t tell, approach.

  5. Sarah K. says:

    It was difficult for me to imagine her experience with going from being at a college that allowed her to do most everything involving teaching composition to a college where she had to find other ways to get her class to research and write without relying on computers. I feel like my experience is the exact opposite. I went from having no problem with just using the library to physically search for my research to relying more and more on technology to do it for me. I can see how people struggle to adapt when their world changes like that. It’s never easy.

  6. Steve K. says:

    So, that’s one of the questions I have coming out of this article, which is the definition of the “tech light” versus the “tech heavy,” and one of the problems of that definition for me is a lot of access to technology also seems about going out and getting access to technology. We don’t systematically teach a lot of composition on computer labs, but it’s possible to get that access at least some of the time in the library and such. We might not all have video cameras right in our hands, but we can check them out from the library for sure.

    Maybe it should be “tech easy” and “tech not so easy?”

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