Currents: An E-Journal
Janet Ward Schofield.  Computers and Classroom Culture.  Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. 
Currents in Electronic Literacy  Spring 2000(3), 

  1. Schofield's research consists of qualitative classroom observations and semi-structured interviews from 1985 to 1987 with teachers and students in a computer science course, a math course that used a program called Geometry Proofs Tutor, and a computer lab for gifted students at a California high school. Hence her book will be of special interest to high school teachers, especially of math and computer science. However, it has a much broader relevance for college English classes and research on computers in education generally. 
  2.  Her basic theme is that computers "are social as well as technological objects, and their use is subject to the vagaries of the social milieu" (228). She focuses on two social changes. First of all, she documents the teacher's role shifting from the "sage on the stage to the guide at the side," as one of her sources put it (201).  Secondly,  she notices heightened interest, more work, and more student involvement at individual micros.  
  3. While the students she studied generally welcomed the computers because they introduced variety into the school routine, made learning more challenging, and gave them more control and more freedom, she documents strong teacher resistance because of inertia, anxiety about technology, and little or no perceived connection between computers and traditonial curriculum goals. In the context of  Hughes' discovery that 40% of teachers' time is devoted to maintaining and displaying authority (114), Schofield ascribes the primary resistance to computers to teachers' fears of looking uninformed, stupid, incompetent, or foolish.   However, Schofield believes in the Trojan horse effect: the introduction of computer into the school will gradually lead to more and more instructors using them. 
  4. The broader significance of her research may be suggested by its relevance to my research on  networked college English computer classrooms  during the same time period  (1985 to 1987: Computers and the Humanities  24 [1990]: 49-65 ).  I found that students experienced the same sorts of benefits she describes: heightened interest, more work, and increased involvement, with the added benefit of an increased class discussion through a local area network.  In addition, her examples of fear, anxiety, and phobia among teachers taking courses at a local university also compare to my experience in one of the first graduate courses in computers and English in the nation.  Two of the original fourteen graduate students had to withdraw from the course, and technostress was a problem for ten out of the twelve who survived. One of the two who did not experience techno-stress during the course, a college professor, suddenly succumbed to it during the collaborative final exam and had to leave the room, unable to return. To this day,  teacher resistance remains the primary obstacle to the advance of computers studies in English in college as well as high school. When the Computer Writing and Resarch Lab at the University of Texas was created , there were only two professors out of eighty-five in the English department using it regularly. Now, fifteen years later, there are still only two members of the English Department using it regularly (all the others who do so now teach full or part time in the Division of Rhetoric and Composition).  
  5. Perhaps Schofield's wisest and most prophetic statement about computers in the classroom is that "the full impact of inventions to which they have been compared, such as the invention of writing or the printing press, was not felt for centuries. Had studies of the impact of the printing press or writing been feasible only decades after these innovations appeared, it seems inevitable, in retrospect, that their eventual impact would have been vastly underrated. Furthermore, the rapidity with which computer technology itself is now evolving means that one must consider the likely impact of successive generations of computerized devices whose capabilities may only be foreshadowed currently in schools" (228).  
  6. Jerome Bump
    The University of Texas at Austin
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