Draft: Technology Section to be added to the Outcomes Statement (AKA Technoplank)

Draft: Technology Section to be added to the Outcomes Statement

July 2007

Background and Rationale: When a large group of writing program administrators and other composition scholars collaborated on the WPA Outcomes Statement, we considered including a statement addressing the interplay between technology and writing.  We drafted a fifth section that came to be known, for lack of a better phrase, as the technology plank.  After a good deal of discussion, we decided not to include the technology section at that time but to consider it after several years had passed. 

Many of us have agreed that the time has come to include the technology section in the Outcomes Statement.  After two years of intermittent discussions, we are ready to propose the section below for inclusion in the Outcomes Statement. 

We have considered two issues we think deserve mention as we ask for approval of this section: one, whether to keep this as a separate section or weave the elements in with the existing sections; two, whether to include goals and strategies that would appeal to some of the more technologically sophisticated programs and teachers.  

Although we were drawn to the rhetoric of interweaving technology with the other goals of writing instruction, we decided not to chance disrupting sections that have already met with approval from our colleagues not only in rhetoric and composition but in other fields as well.   By drafting this technology section, we have kept in mind the many colleges and universities where neither students nor teachers have ready access to digital technologies or the Internet.  Indeed, we know of some schools in which teachers do not feel they can require typed copy, let alone electronic submissions. Keeping these schools in mind, we have drafted a statement that we hope will give them reasonable objectives without outdistancing their possibilities altogether, leaving them alienated from our shared purposes in teaching required writing courses. 

We therefore offer the statement below: 

Composing in Electronic Environments 

As has become clear over the last twenty years, writing in the 21st century involves the use of digital technologies for several purposes, from drafting to peer reviewing to editing.

Therefore, although the kinds of composing processes and texts expected from students vary across programs and institutions, there are nonetheless common expectations, here added to a revised WPA Outcomes Statement:       

By the end of first-year composition, students should

*  Use available electronic environments for drafting, revising, reviewing, editing and submitting texts

*  Locate, evaluate, organize and use in research electronic sources, including web databases and informal networks, and intranet   sources

*  Understand and exploit the different rhetorical strategies available in print and electronic texts 


Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students learn

 *   How research and composing processes and texts in their fields are influenced by digital technologies

*   How research and application in their fields are communicated by means of digital technologies


All current members of the Council of Writing Program Administrators are invited to participate in the discussion of this proposed addition to the WPA Outcomes Statement.  Please use the "comment" feature below to post comments and suggestions, and click on "subscribe" if you wish to receive daily notices of new content posted to the discussion. A copy of this background and rationale is available as a pdf attachment (see below) and a copy of the proposed language for the section to be added is available as a Word document.

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Colleagues: I am pasting in Irv Peckham's WPA-L post about the Technology Section proposed for addition to the WPA Outcomes Statement.--shirley

Irv writes:

"We distributed and discussed at the Town Hall meeting the latest version of the technology section that we would like to add to the Outcomes Statement. WPA members [including Barry Maid :-)]at that meeting unanimously accepted the version below, which reflects changes recommended at the Town Hall.

We are posting this version so that writing teachers will have a chance to think about and discuss its inclusion. Shirley will also be posting this version on the WPA webpage in the WPA Works section, where people will also have a chance to comment on what we hope will be the final version. After September 15th, we will close the discussion, at which time the WPA executive committee, I believe, will discuss whether to adopt it in the WPA Outcomes Statement.

I have included an abbreviated version below in order to make this message more readable. You can find the full statement that we made on this proposed change at the url below: www.english.lsu.edu/peckham/docs/techsection.html

Thanks to everyone--and there are many--who has contributed to this statement and discussion.

Irvin Peckham Louisiana State University"

Our thanks to  Irv, Kathi Yancey, and many others who participated in developing the proposed "technology plank" for the WPA Outcomes Statement.

--Shirley K Rose, Purdue University, Immediate Past President, Council of Writing Program Administrators

Dear Irvin & Shirley, (and the other members of the Council who are drafting this),

As a director of a "communication across the curriculum" program, I endorse wholeheartedly the addition of this plank to the outcomes statement.

I have one suggestion for the recommendation about faculty members in other fields and their responsibility to build on first-year comp skills: Consider a phrase such as "the processes used for communication" instead of "composing processes." This term means much to our field (especially those of us old enough to remember the composing process research), but "communication" or "communicating" is a broader term that more people in more fields would immediately understand. I'm sure you can come up with something even better!
I understand how hard it is to get language that communicates what is intended. Good luck! --Lilly Bridwell-Bowles, Director of CxC at LSU

I hope to weigh in on this at some point, but for now thought I should link to two of the responses that have sprung up on other blogs:

Alex Reid and

Jeff Rice.

Thanks for providing links.


Shirley K Rose,
Purdue University,
Immediate Past President,
Council of Writing Program Administrators

This will just be a couple of defensive comments-- because I'm behind on everything. Perhaps the lack of dialogue, certainly on my part, is due to other things I have to take care of at the local level. I believe we set up the blog so that others could weigh in with their opinions & we would see what we could accommodate without starting all over again. Your suggestions, which I appreciate, would require quite a revamping & I think would stimulate another round of concerns about how far we should go with the statement. You're suggesting being ahead of the curve (sorry for the trobe), whereas there might be good reasons in a national statement to stay behind the curve. We are looking for statements that a significant proportion of WPAs could agree to (you'll remember when we first proposed the outcomes, the majority opposed any kind of tech statement.)

I have been a tech user for a couple of decades now--but not a high-end one. You might get resistance from others like me who prefer to run more mainstream writing programs, depending on notions of linear text, a consequence of my insistence on helping our students meet the kinds of writing demands they will face in their other academic courses. If a push toward more digital techs will help them meet those demands, I'm all for it--but I'm not convinced, a lack of conviction which is a consequence of research I have done here on the specific writing tasks in other disciplines. I think in our program here of tech as being an aid to produce conventional (linear) texts with perhaps things like illustrations thrown in as an supplement to the text. Kathy, who has also been working on this, is a counterpoint to people like me. She says I and others like me are wrong, and I say she and others like her are wrong & we still remain good friends. I hope the same from you & others who disagree with me.

Sorry about all the tropes--I think that's what happens when a lot of people work on a document & you have to try to accommodate a high percentage of people invested in the statement. You make everyone dissatisfied but not so dissatisfied that they want to give the whole thing up. You're right: very much like running for president.

I wonder about the statement of lack of access. In one of our meetings perhaps a year ago, two or three people in community colleges did remark on their lack of access. Here most teachers can't get rooms with LCDs, so we teach in a bit of a low-tech environment. We might think, however, of taking that sentence out--I'll check with some others.

Irvin Peckham
Director of the University Writing Program
Louisiana State University

Actually, I think the note about lack of access is moot--it won't be in the statement. That was in a preface to the statement. That preface will probably appear in the Journal but will not be a part of the outcomes statement.

Irvin Peckham
Director of the University Writing Program
Louisiana State University