I have long been a squeaky wheel when it comes to technology. By that I mean, I have always understood its importance as integral to the work of technical and professional communication. But, I have also been resistant and critical of the adoption of tools and in how we often simply place them into curricular decisions without fully thinking through all the ramifications. In TPC, we often call this a technological literacy where we want students to understand the tools in general, but we aren’t actually teaching them how to use X tool du jour.
One of the first things I ever published was a critique of learning management systems, and to this day, I still do not use the LMS. I feel it does a disservice to students, particularly those in TPC, when they start to rely on a specific technology without the critical awareness of it.
So when I came to USF, I had a unique opportunity to really do a deep dive into the role of technology. Why and how you ask? Well, USF has long been an innovator because they built a tool more specific to FYC to help with peer review. Once I arrived, the goal was to think through and re-envision the tool for how it could be used in TPC as well. After a year, we realized that the old tool could not be updated or changed to meet the needs of both writing programs, so we undertook the daunting challenge of building a feedback platform one summer. And Voila! USF Writes was born.
Relying on background in the IT industry, I was the project manager working with two developers, faculty, and students to build a better application to assist with the feedback and revision process.
While the opportunity at USF was unique,USF Writes is a a direct example of many of my own views of technology integration within educational settings and also the critical view we need to have in approaching technology in the world.
Our explanation of the pedagogical benefits, as well as extended information on how we feel technology and pedagogy should go together are direct representations of my own view. As the lead author on the documents linked here that explain the tool, its benefits, and its applications, USF Writes serves as an example (in many ways) if my own approach to technology. We have all formalized an idea of revision process that is made more visible because of the technology and the benefit of the tool as they align with theories from writing studies about the importance of revision.
One of the most important aspects of USF Writes is one that is not necessarily as visible in the online documentation as it should be. It affords large writing programs the opportunity to see information at the program level that is otherwise mostly unattainable without a massive amount of labor. In the year that USF Writes has been live and fully integrated into the two writing programs we have had the opportunity to learn so much about student learning and ways we can improve professional development for our large cadre of instructors.
Moreover, as pointed to in my teaching philosophy, we have integrated a host of exercises throughout USF’s undergraduate curriculum to encourage a more critical orientation to technology. Along with the program director and several graduate students we are working on a piece about what it means to have a critical technological programmatic perspective in writing studies. (Stay tuned for that 🙂