5.0513 Rs: Grammar; Eco, Computers and Literature (2/71)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 9 Dec 1991 18:50:50 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0513. Monday, 9 Dec 1991.

(1) Date: Mon, 9 Dec 91 9:20:13 CST (60 lines)
From: Dennis Baron <baron@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: grammar drill

(2) Date: Fri, 06 Dec 91 15:58 PST (11 lines)
Subject: Re: 5.0506 More on Computers and LIterature (5/82)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 91 9:20:13 CST
From: Dennis Baron <baron@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: grammar drill

Diana Patterson asks for a computer program in grammar drill practice,
giving a list of errors which will result in Ds for her students. I
myself (and I have reason to believe I am not alone) am troubled by
both of these situations:

a) Computers may be used as electronic workbooks, but I think this is
both a wasteful expense and a way of saying you are using computers
without really using them. You can't trick students into thinking
that just because a fill in the blanks exercise, or whatever, is
electronic it is more like Nintendo and less like the busy work
tear sheets they've been getting since kindergarten.

b) Grammar drill is not an effective way of elminating surface
errors (agreement, punctuation, sentence faults). Electrifying
and digitizing grammar drill will be similarly ineffective.

c) If success in composition continues to be measured in terms
of such politeness criteria as spelling and proper use of that
and which (over which there is much disagreement, by the way),
then student writers will continue to regard writing courses as
obstacles rather than aids. Fifteen to thirty weeks of don't do
this, don't do that will not improve anybody's writing. And
there is a great deal of literature to support this view.

d) Composition teachers have been using computers with some degree
of success for almost a decade now, and there is a great deal of
literature on how computer conversations among writers and audiences
and instructors sets a positive tone and makes writing exciting
and interactive (a byproduct of a positive attitude toward writing
is often a decrease in surface structure "errors"; furthermore, it
is often profitable to think of error as experimentation, chance-
taking, development itself, without which good writing does not
occur, electronically or with paper and pen). Our own experience
is that teaching wordprocessing is a very minor thing that gets
handled the first week or so and then it's on to bigger and better
things. More and more of our students come to college with
keyboarding skills, wordprocessing, and even their own computers,
given to them when they graduate from high school the way doting
relatives used to give out desk dictionaries.

Sorry to fume for so long. It's been building up as I've been
watching the discussion over the last few months. It's no
wonder some educationist call worksheets, whether in books or
on-line, drill and kill.
debaron@uiuc.edu            ____________              217-333-2392
                           |:~~~~~~~~~~:|        fax: 217-333-4321
Dennis Baron               |:          :|
Dept. of English           |:    db    :|
Univ. of Illinois          |:          :|
608 S. Wright St.          |:==========:|
608 S. Wright St.          |:==========:|
Urbana IL 61801             \\ """"""""  \
                             \\ """"""""  \
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------168---
Date:    Fri, 06 Dec 91 15:58 PST
Subject: Re: 5.0506  More on Computers and LIterature  (5/82)
I am probably one of the few who actually read through Eco's FOUCAULT'S
PENDULUM, so overblown and repetitive a work is it.  What was the
computer theme in it?  I cannot recall any of any importance.  I am in
correspondence with him, and wrote all about his theories of kabbalah
and secret maconerries, but we dont discuss computers. the pendulum
itself is scarcely a computer.  Remind me/ Kessler