FHSU writing students learn in new computer-supported composition classroom

HAYS, KS -- Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, and members of the FHSU English Department demonstrated the department's new computer-supported composition classroom during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Dr. Albert Geritz, chair of the English Department, and Dr. Cheryl Hofstetter Duffy, director of composition, assisted the president with the demonstration in Room 348 of Rarick Hall on the FHSU campus.

Ten English classes -- ranging from English Composition I and II to Technical and Report Writing
-- are meeting in the new classroom this fall.

Faculty members who teach in the computer-supported facility discussed and demonstrated ways they use the classroom to foster student thinking and writing. "Composition faculty are using the computers for in-class writing workshops, Internet research, library research, document design, freewriting, modeling the writing process, online peer response, online class anthologies, class homepages and more," Dr. Duffy said.

Student response has been positive, as evidenced by the following comments after a recent in-class activity:

* "Today we did peer editing on the computer. I loved it. It was so much simpler, and I thought I got more feedback doing it this way than any other way." -- Matt Sears, Salina freshman
* "I liked reading the papers on the computer. It made everything look neat; you didn't have all those hand-written responses that sometimes you can't read." -- Blair Murray, Bennett, CO, freshman
* "I liked having the comment section on the computer. My paper got some good feedback. It's going to be more specific now." -- Katie Rhodes, Lawrence freshman
* "I think I was able to say or write more this way. I probably wouldn't have said as much in person." -- Rhonda Baker, Hays freshman

The classroom features a laser printer and 24 student stations with Dell Pentium III 933 computers arranged to facilitate individual, small group, and whole-class work on researching and writing. "Rather than being arranged in long, uninterrupted rows," Dr. Geritz explained, "the recessed-monitor workstations, which provide flat writing surfaces, are lined up in groups of three with rolling chairs in order to promote interaction and classroom activity."

The main console at the front of the room houses a computer with CD player capabilities, a VCR, and a document camera (i.e., an overhead projector for text and graphics). A projector mounted in the ceiling projects the computer screen, videotape, or document-camera image onto an automated screen at the front of the room.

The computer-supported classroom features Microsoft Office 2000 and PageMaker software. A scanner and digital camera will eventually be added to enhance student work on such possible writing projects as newsletters, brochures and book chapters.

Duffy submitted an "action plan" last fall to request funding for the classroom. Action plans are used to request funding for innovative improvements and projects at the university. The action plans must show how the requested resources would fit in the university's strategic plan to enhance Fort Hays State University's educational mission.

"Faculty and staff submit action plans each year to request funding for projects that will help us accomplish our objectives to improve education," President Hammond said, "and this computer-supported composition classroom is just the sort of innovative project that we look for."

"This 'teaching lab' is already improving education for English students by increasing interaction among the students and between student and teacher," Hammond added. "It is also a prime example of Fort Hays State's leadership in integrating computers into our curriculum so that our students are better equipped to function in life after college."

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu