ENGL516: Erin Karper’s “Make it Do or Do Without” and Reflections on the Availability of Technologies on Campus

In “Make it Do or Do Without:Transition from a Tech-Heavy to a Tech-Light Institution,” Erin Karper looks at the current state of technologies available in college campuses, making the promising observation that even many “tech-light” institutions now offer reasonable access to computer labs for writing classes. Karper also offers some useful advice for instructors in terms of getting the access to technologies for teaching.

Karper offers pretty lengthy definitions for both “tech-light” and “tech-heavy” institution, and the components of each definition seem to rely heavily on the notion of having “access.” For example, she defines a “tech-heavy” institution as one where “People in English studies have access to a variety of hardware: scanners, video equipment, printers, digital cameras, sound editing equipment and related software,” and “People in English studies have access to adequate and consistent funding (either through the university or through grants) to purchase, install, maintain, and update technologies.”(17) But what constitutes access? And where does my school fall along this continuum between “tech-heavy” and “tech-light”?

I have always thought of EMU to be more of a “tech-heavy” school (though certainly not in that exact terminology until now). As a student, I’ve been here five years and never had a problem with finding or using technology on campus (aside from rare and minor problems with printing or connecting to the campus WiFi). I’ve felt privileged in knowing that I have the opportunity, as a student, to borrow a laptop from the library, print from various locations around campus, and check-out other tech. equipment that I may personally own. I’ve never felt deprived.

This article, however, got me thinking about the issue of access from an instructor’s perspective–something I hadn’t done before. But now, thinking back, I can recall at least a few instances where a lack of availability of technology affected classes I’ve been in. I remember my first college English class, ENGL121, and the frustration of our tiny classroom that barely gave us room to move around. My instructor would sometimes try to reserve a classroom with computers in it to work on certain projects but a space was not always available. In retrospect, though, I have noticed that almost all of my tech. comm, classes have been in computer labs and that’s intriguing to me.

Despite my realization that having easy access to technology as a student does not necessarily translate to easy access for instructors, I am happy to see people like Karper offer recommendations such as “adapt: use what you have on and off campus.” (23) to instructors in “tech-light” institutions. And now after having read J.S. Dunn Jr., Carrie Luke, and David Nassar’s “Valuing the Resources of Infrastructure: Beyond From-Scratch and Off-the-Shelf Technology Options for Electronic Portfolio Assessment  in First-Year Writing” it’s nice to see that, in an economy where funding for these technologies is probably not increasing any time soon, writing programs are being resourceful and coming up with ways to use technologies without necessarily existing in a “tech-heavy” institution. It’s also kind of especially nice to see this kind of work coming out of my own school’s FYWP. 🙂

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