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Cynthia Haynes 3 February 2009 Reflections on My Technoliteracy Histories As I learned from the interview with my mother last week, I am primarily an auditory and visual learner, particularly when it comes to learning about everyday tasks or classroom subject matter. As far as writing goes, I find that my writing is typically better when I plan it prior to sticking the pen to paper. However, most of the times I tend to write stream-of-consciousness style until I am hit with a “Eureka!” moment. Typically I will write a long paper in a short amount of time and then spend a significant amount of time editing it, moving text about extensively in Microsoft Word, sometimes even changing my thesis (or lack thereof) completely. Assuming no one is nearby, I will usually talk myself through my ideas as they are developing and listen for mistakes as I write and read aloud. Thanks to the computer and the Internet, I am able to multitask as I write and learn, constantly looking up definitions for words, finding additional sources online, and cutting and pasting new information into a document. My Earliest Experiences with Writing Technology One of my first learning experiences in regards to writing technology was with the typewriter. My mother had an old typewriter she had used in college during the 1970s that miraculously still worked 25 years later. When I came home from the first day of seventh grade English and told her that I had to start typing my papers instead of writing them by hand as I had done previously, she whipped the old contraption out from storage. She showed me how to move the upper part back and forth when I reached the end of a line, while instructing me to take extra precaution when typing because the typewriter had a limited supply of correctional ink. Because of the typewriter’s lack of editing capabilities, I continued to draft papers by hand and later type them carefully on the typewriter. Although I eventually grew to appreciate the typewriter’s ability to
Wilkerson 2 professionalize the look of my school papers, I remained very aware that my family was behind the times technologically. In middle school, my friends would brag about how their fathers had just purchased a new Dell, how they had just received their first cell phone in their stocking, or how their favorite channels were HBO and Cinemax. As someone living in a house on a dead-end road in the country, surrounded by cows and chickens, without cable, a computer, or the Internet, I felt technologically inadequate. This isn’t to say that my family was full of country bumpkins without any technological experience whatsoever, but we certainly didn’t go out of our way to embrace technology either. I used my mom’s typewriter throughout seventh grade until my uncle discovered a used MS DOS computer at a yard sale and bought it for us. While the “new” computer’s typing program did not include spell check or copy and paste, or contain the ability to connect to the Internet, it was definitely an improvement to the typewriter. I felt like my family and I were finally moving one step in the right technological direction. Through trial and error, I learned how to draft and present papers creatively based on the limitations of MS DOS. For example, since MS DOS did not contain features such as bold, italics, or underline (or allow for changes in font size), I learned to create text art out of letters to form my papers’ titles. For a research paper on the history of Iroquois Indians, for instance, I created a title page with a text image much like the following: IIIII I I I IIIII RRRRR OOOOO R R O O RRRRRR O O R R O O R R OOOOO QQQQQ Q Q Q Q Q Q QQQQQQ Q U U OOOOO U U O O U U O O U U O O UUUUUU OOOOO IIIII I I I IIIII SSSSS S SSSSS S SSSSS
Even though I wasn’t learning the most up-to-date technology at that time, I was learning how to make do with what little resources I had. I was also learning the value of technology in enhancing the writing process. After all, even MS DOS allowed for quick
Wilkerson 3 editing of papers with features such as copy and paste, backspace, and delete. Even it, with all its limitations, provided a means for taking charge of my writing process. Transitioning to a New Technology Eventually my family purchased an Emachine computer when I was 14 along with a year’s subscription to the local Prodigy dial-up Internet service. Finally, I was able to type my papers with a more advanced editing function, thanks to Microsoft Word. It was at this time that I also truly discovered the Internet. Prior to the Emachine purchase, my only relationship with the Web was the occasional book search in the school library or a personal email sent from a friend’s computer. When I was home alone during the summer after eighth grade, I began to log on to the built-in chat room site for Prodigy. There, I chatted with people from around the world. We shared pictures, news stories, and links to interesting, funny, and educational Web sites. As cheesy as it sounds, the Internet expanded my naïve 14-year-old world. I was no longer a little country girl sitting in a random house in the middle of nowhere, but someone who was connected to everything imaginable. My writing began to improve because I possessed unlimited access to news articles, e-books, and blog entries. These Internet resources served as examples of great writing and as suggestions for how to improve my own. I joined a blog site, LiveJournal, and began to share my writing with others. I learned through the writings of others about other areas of the world, how to use blogging technology, how to post pictures, videos, and comments to blogs. I learned how to make my own icons for my journal profile, how to use basic HTML for editing the layout, and most importantly, how to write using a new technological medium. Immersing Myself in the Newfound Technology Throughout high school and college, I grew so familiar with computers and the Web that I became the go-to guru for all my friends and family members whenever a computer problem arose. My stepdad, at the time a part-time business instructor, paid me to type and edit his student tests and quizzes. My mother called on me to incorporate her material for work presentations in flashy yet professional PowerPoint
Wilkerson 4 slideshows. My sister emailed me for suggestions on how to remove Spyware from her computer. I helped friends with basic HTML and worked on the high school website. As a high school yearbook editor, I learned how to use PageMaker, InDesign, and Quark to create layouts. At USC Upstate, I helped students with Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Word in the writing center with everything from how to insert a header and a page number in a Word document to how to calculate mathematical formulas for graphs and perform accounts payable in Excel and Access. Either I would demonstrate for them how to use certain computer features and then observe as they completed the tasks or provide them with step-by-step directions for how to complete the task. Whenever I didn’t know the answer to a computer question, I would email one of my online computer expert friends or Google the problem, then relay the information to whomever needed it. How I Currently Use Technology to Write & Learn Today I own two computers, and I rarely write anything without sitting in front of one of them. On my laptop I use several different instant messaging programs, including Yahoo! Instant Messenger, Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, and the Facebook chat feature. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t use the instant message to connect with friends and family. Academically, I use chatting as a way to discuss upcoming class assignments and my confusion about them. Every once and a while, I send an IM to one of the Cooper Library staff members at “clemsonrefdesk” for help with computer research. Each time I IM a librarian, I am amazed that I have the capability of connecting with a real person so easily without his or her physical presence. Oftentimes I draft papers in Microsoft Word, at others in Gmail in my draft email folder. I often have 10+ Internet browsers open simultaneously, researching information and seeking inspiration as I write. Recently I have begun to use blogs as a way to reflect on my learning in classes, to explore new areas of academic interest, and to connect theories with practice. I love blogs because they allow me to ponder concepts I didn’t even realize I had learned and to expand on them. I also enjoy incorporating images and videos in my blog entries that connect to class readings as a way to provide a
Wilkerson 5 multilayered understanding. Even though my current interactions with technology are much more advanced than they were 10 years ago when my mother whipped out her typewriter, I am cognizant of the fact that I still have much to learn about technology. Recognizing My Technological Limitations Although I have used PhotoShop and InDesign before, I still do not feel comfortable using them extensively or teaching aspects of the applications to others. I always feel like I need a close friend or software manual nearby before opening either of these programs. Even though I am fluent in all things IM and email, I am also behind the times in terms of cell phone technology. I have never owned a Blackberry, and you’d be hard pressed to find me checking my email with a cell phone. It would probably take me a significant amount of time to figure out how to turn on the overheard projector in a “smart” classroom, but I am open to learning these new technologies so that I may incorporate them in my 103 classes next semester. I also want to learn them to better prepare myself for an increasingly competitive and technologically advanced job market following graduation. To expand my knowledge about desktop applications, I am currently taking Visual Communication. I attended introductory workshops for PhotoShop, InDesign, and Flash animation in the MATRF last semester and intend to go to more of these workshops this semester, in addition to some offered by CCIT. It is my hope that my current knowledge of technology will serve as a strong backbone for my future interactions with and creation of technoliteracy.
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