Writing Instruction Aided by High-Tech Classroom

A craft once practiced with quill pens and manual typewriters has gone digital in a new multi-media classroom for the First-Year Writing Seminar located in O'Neill Library.

The classroom is equipped with 18 laptop computers wired to the Boston College network, two video projectors, and a wireless keyboard that allows a lecturer to access the Internet while roaming the room.

The high-tech hookup will introduce World Wide Web research techniques to the 1,600 freshmen who take the required writing course each year, said Prof. Paul Lewis (English), acting director of the First-Year Writing Seminar.

Part-time faculty member Mark Dursin (English) leads a session in the new multi-media classroom in O'Neill Library.
"Writing is built out of little bits of information," said Lewis. "There is a huge amount of information you can access through the World Wide Web."

Lewis said the computers also enhance the discussion and editing of writing assignments, summoned at the click of a mouse to an individual student's laptop or to a central classroom screen.

"Our aim is to make students more comfortable with writing and with revisions," he said. "A student can bring a piece he or she has written to class on a disk, and put it up on the big screen. Then all the other students can revise the opening paragraph. You can go around the room and see 14 different opening paragraphs.

"It's more exciting," said Lewis, "and more instantaneous."

Since the multi-media classroom opened at the beginning of the semester, Lewis said, it has been booked solid during its hours of operation.

The room was designed for the English Department after a report by the Boston College Classroom Technology Committee called for new levels of computer and audiovisual sophistication in teaching. English Department and Technology Committee representatives worked on its design with architects and engineers.

-Mark Sullivan

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