Basically being, you know, computer literate, that’s the most helpful thingfor me ’cause, you know, computers in basically the year 2000 is going totake over this world. (Tina, age 17)It’s going to be hard for low-income students to go against somebody who’s,well, more financially stable. (Marcel, age 17)
These quotes are from interviews with New York City high school se-niors who participated in a project that supplied computers, tutoring, andother kinds of support to more than 100 students from the time they were inthe sixth grade. As part of the project, these students from schools servinglow-income neighborhoods had access to a range of computer tools at homeas well as in school for 7 formative years of their education (Daiute, Ausch& Chen, 1997). When asked about how the computer enhances writtenlanguage, Ryman, Tina, Marcel, and others echoed views that have beendebated by scholars and educators for many years in relation to the role of computer technology in writing. These students identify computers as toolsthat can be helpful in a variety of ways, especially in the writing process.At the same time, these comments imply a range of social issues concerningtechnology. This chapter addresses these issues by reviewing theoretical per-spectives that help make sense of how computers relate to writing instruc-tion. Based on this analysis, I suggest that critical literacy must become anaspect of writing instruction by the upper elementary years.In
Writing and Computers
(1985), I argued that the computer—likeany writing instrument—is one of many tools used in the composingprocess and in the process of developing expertise as a writer. Consistentwith this argument, other scholars also have explained that writing withcomputers is different—not better or worse in any absolute sense—fromwriting with instruments like pencil or pen on paper. Computer writingpractices also must be considered in the social contexts where they occur—like classrooms and cyberspace.Thus, it is important to understand
computers function among the many tools of written communication.
Scholars and educators have conceptualized writing in relation to theincreasingly widespread use of “communication technologies”—a range