This week, we’re starting to make the last turn to the end of the semester, and I decided it would be useful to finish up with first a turn to the very concrete issue of actual computers in actual classes this week and then a turn to current issues/future issues of the so-called “digital humanities” and beyond. To get started, this is where we’ll talk about Charles Moran’s “From a high-tech to a low-tech writing classroom: ”You can’t go home again.” And I would recommend reading this article before you read Erin Karper’s “Make It Do or Do Without.”
Obviously, this is a “historical” piece in that Charles Moran is talking about giving up teaching in a computer lab for a semester seventeen years ago. I think what se see here are some things that are different about computer labs and some things that are still the same. For example, one of the big differences for me with teaching in a computer lab now versus then (and I did teach in computer labs way back then) is nowadays, students don’t use the computers in the labs to do their actual writing. Back then, most undergraduates (particularly freshmen) didn’t have computers, so they would show up in the computer labs with handwritten drafts that they typed and revised in the lab.
The other reason I assigned this essay is because I actually experienced this myself last fall– well, almost. I was assigned to teach first year writing not in a computer lab for the first time in a long time. I say “almost” because I just flat-out couldn’t do it and I got my class transferred to a computer lab. So I can relate to a lot of what Moran is talking about here with his frustrations in terms of collecting paper, the communication between students, and just the whole problem of, as he says, not being able to “go home” again.