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Department of English
Central Michigan University
Mt. Pleasant, MI 48855
Last fall the English Department of Central Michigan University began a COMPUWRITE program that intensively involves students in using computer word-processing in their composition courses. Each semester the program enrolls approximately 200 students in writing courses at all levels. The students and their instructors meet in a room housing 24 Apple IIe computers and 8 printers.
The CMU COMPUWRITE program differs from most existing programs in two ways. First, the students' regular class sessions are taught in the room that houses the computers though the computer room is open for 25 non-class hours each week it serves as a regular classroom as well as a lab. Second, there is a 1:1 student-computer ratio during the regular class sessions.
One positive feature of the program is common to all programs that use computers as part of the composition curriculum. It exploits the much-publicized advantages of using computers in writing courses: students generally write more, revise more, take more chances, and avoid preoccupation with sentence-level errors until the latter stages of composing. A second advantage of the particular set-up at CMU is the result of the computers being a part of the students' regular composition classroom. The technology encourages, even mandates, a workshop environment. John Dinan, Director of Composition at CMU and one of the program's coordinators, notes that "the machines are there in the classroom, demanding to be used; and to use them well means to establish a workshop environment in which students are usually writing and instructors are constantly interacting with that writing. Most of us who teach in the program have had to adjust our pedagogy--we think for the better."
Expansion of the CMU COMPUWRITE program will depend on the availability of resources and the continued strong support of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Present plans include making the word-processing equipment available to more CMU students and using the lab to run workshops for students and teachers from other Michigan school districts and colleges. Faculty may also be available to run "compuwrite" workshops in schools throughout the state.