Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 3, Page T-4
On Technology
A way with words in UD's Writing Center

     Writers of the past were concerned mainly with stringing words
together using ink on paper. With the advent of typewriters and
computers, writers began to revise and manipulate their work more
freely. These days, students in the University's writing program are
beginning to "write" with sound and pictures as well as words-thanks
to new multi-media technologies.
     Using sound cards and compact discs that can be read by
computers, it's now possible to embed an audio track or moving
pictures into a written text, says Marcia Peoples Halio, assistant
professor of English and assistant director of the UD's writing
program. In this way, she says, an essay about the late John F.
Kennedy's inaugural speech could be enhanced by a sound clip or film
from the actual event. Recently, a student emphasized the volatile
nature of the abortion controversy by adding sounds of clinic
protestors to a multi-media essay on the topic.
     In the 21st century, Halio says, creating such documents will
require a "new literacy." Because the English department's computer
lab is linked to the information superhighway, she adds, students
already are learning how to write on-line.
     Methods for writing and revising documents using standard word-
processing software are emphasized in a freshman English course.
Writing exercises cover brainstorming, list-making and writing for
different ethnic audiences. "Too often, students use computers as very
expensive typewriters, and we want them to do much more," says Halio.
"They should know how to block off a chunk of text and move it around,
how to complete on-line revisions and how to work with a split screen,
so that they're looking at their notes on one side of the screen while
also working on a document."
     James M. Dean, associate professor of English, uses electronic
resources to teach undergraduate and graduate literature courses.
Graduate students, for example, may fulfill an optional requirement by
hopping onto the information superhighway. Multi-media software lets
students view stunning images, via the Internet, from a manuscript of
Beowulf, the first major literary work in English. "I wanted students
to know that the carefully edited texts they were reading in class
were quite different from the original manuscript," Dean explains.
     Dean also has asked students to store translations and other work
on computers in the University's writing laboratory. Because the
documents are stored in a shared electronic "workspace," students can
consult with one another. In this way, Dean's students have
collaborated on translations of documents such as The Battle of
Brunanburh, an Old English poem.