Books, Not Screens, for Remedial College Writers

By Elizabeth Fow.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic Free Download

Technological momentum is pushing colleges to digitize materials, courses, and classrooms, but screen-based learning is not as effective for students in remedial writing classes. The differences between how students read on paper and screen, the distractions and difficulties of screens, the haptics of writing and their contribution to reading and learning, and the necessity for annotation and proofreading make paper and pens the most effective tools for rebuilding low level and basic literacy while moving towards proficiency. As the facilitators of literacy, college professors teaching remedial courses become gatekeepers, and they must not allow the digital wave to wash them towards inferior pedagogies and teaching materials when their students’ ability to stay in college and to move in the world as fully literate adults is at stake.

Keywords: Remedial Students, Basic Literacy, Digital Literacy, Proficiency, Screens, Material Texts, Paper and Pens, Haptics, Reading and Writing

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.61-69. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 251.679KB).

Elizabeth Fow

Adjunct Lecturer, English Department, Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, NY, USA

I have taught at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) since 1990. BMCC is one of the two year colleges of the City University of New York. It has a non-traditional student base and its motto is “Start here, go anywhere.” Although I also teach freshman and elective classes, I’ve always opted to teach a remedial class each semester. I have a deep belief in the power of education and literacy to create positive change both individually and in society, and I’ve strived to enable my students to leap the literacy barrier. I am originally from New Zealand, came to the USA to study for my MFA in creative writing, still write, and have always found teaching to be an antidote to the interiority that writing necessitates.

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