Throughout my short academic career, I’ve noticed the different interpretations of what ‘writing’ actually is: a report of facts that proves an argument, an organization of ideas that supports a particular stance, a creative gathering of words that illustrates a point by exhibiting artistry through words. Writing is such a hard thing to do and I feel like its difficulty is constantly overlooked because of its everyday use and presence. The inclusion of technology does make the act of writing and teaching it even more difficult, but of course there are gains through this added difficulty: easier access to resources, more ways of creating new content, and having templates to actually write on.
I’m beginning to notice a pattern. There’s always seems to be some sort of trade off(s) when implementing technology into the writing classroom. The three readings for this week (Johnson-Eilola’s “The Database and the Essay: Understanding Composition as Articulation,” Devoss and Rosati’s “It wasn’t me, was it? Plagiarism and the Web,” and McGee and Ericson’s “The Politics of the Program: MS WORD as the Invisible Grammarian”) all touch on how the use of technology affects student writing through an outside influence that determines the “rules” that need to be followed when writing, as well as appropriating the sources that are made available on the internet and how it could and should be used in their writing. There are different layers that come into writing: having correct grammar and other writing mechanics, finding and incorporating research, and being creative and original. An issue that all three articles address is for composition teachers to manage these three layers of writing in the classroom for their students.
Although I have yet taught a class on my own, I do have plenty experience in tutoring. A constant reoccurrence I noticed with my tutees is their concern of their writing having correct grammar. I had one particular student who would always point out specific sentences that they had difficulty constructing. Every time I asked him what was wrong with his sentence, he would always reply, “Ugh… I’m not sure. Word underlined it with a blue line. I think my grammars wrong.” In “The Politics of the Program: MS WORD as the Invisible Grammarian,” McGee and Ericson address how the immediate grammar corrections in Microsoft Word can be detrimental to a student’s process in becoming better writers because it stifles them as they write (454). I do see how grammar check in word processors, like Microsoft Word, can be helpful, mainly by showing students a mistake and how to fix it. The issue with this is that it potentially shifts a student’s focus of their writing completely on the sentence level. In Devose and Rosati’s article on plagiarism, they claim that a major reason why students are prone to plagiarising is “because of the often-appearing-unconscious cultural principles of written work. Cultures vary in how writing, authorship, identity, individualism, ownership rights, and personal relationships are perceived, and these variances in values and approaches to text affect student writing” (195). In academic culture, many first year students mistakenly equate good writing with correct grammar. This false fixation on correct grammar push students to “have a near desperate need for certainties and “right” answers; a computer program gives them those certainties more readily than all-too-human English teachers” (McGee and Ericson 462).
Further branching off of Devose and Rosati’s take on plagiarism through students’ perception of “often-appearing-unconscious cultural principles of written work,” a lot of students do not realize it when they are plagiarizing (197). Research is a such an important aspect to academic writing and students always feel pressured in reaching every aspect of it. In their article, Devose and Rosati use Howard’s term, “patchworking,” to further accentuate the importance for students to use different sources and texts to incorporate in their writing, but also the faults that it can lead students because of their lack of guidance on the matter. Patchworking “allows students a place to borrow from text, manipulate it, and work through new concepts by piecing their writing with the original work” (194). In a way, I can see connections of patchworking with Johnson-Eilola’s use of intertextuality and articulation theory -using bits and pieces of other works to connect and to create something that is original with new meaning; “If we start to understand connection as a form of writing, then articulation theory can offer us a way to understand the “mere” uncreative act of selection and connection as very active and creative” (226). Although academic writing may simply come off as data collecting and reporting, there are creative ways of structuring so.
An interesting in Johnson-Eilola’s article is his example of Fair Use as a corporate example to writing. Although this may be a far stretch, YouTube and hip hop (possibly contemporary music in general) always come to mind when the concept of Fair Use comes to mind. As an avid YouTube watcher, I’ve noticed a lot of my favorite content creators speaking out on the Fair Use policy with YouTube, mainly addressing how the company isn’t honoring its own policy. In regards to hip hop, practically every song samples beats from other songs of course paying the respective studio the rights to use the sample for profit. One of my favorite rappers right now is Chance the Rapper and he’s known for sampling a ton of content without the actual rights to the song. To counteract Fair Use, he’s actually an independent artist and usually puts all his music for free.