Desktop publishing across the curriculum: The Neighborhood Computer Centers.

EERA-1992 Eastern Educational Research Association

Two approaches to the design of computer use co-exist. In an agentive mode, the design of computers is anthropomorphic. Designed as brightly colored Tutors, DrillMasters or TaskMasters, computer agents determine subject matter, the paths of knowledge acquisition and what counts as successful performance. In an instrumental mode, machines support and create collaborative activity systems across the curriculum. Designed as word processors, communication networks and databases, computers function to support writing and reading tasks subsumed by classroom activity systems such as the creation of a newspaper or a tourist brochure. This differential approach to the design and use of computers for language learning invokes important variations in the ways in which computers are integrated in the curriculum. In an agentive mode, different computer applications may be used, each bound to subject matter. These are selected by classroom teachers in an adjunct/remedial manner so as to correlate with different areas of the curriculum. In an instrumental mode, applications are not necessarily bound to subject matter. Thus, one computer application, for example a desktop publishing program, may be used across the curriculum in traditionally discrete areas such as science, language arts and social studies. In this paper, I will report findings of an evaluation study of an after school program (The Neighborhood Computer Center project) where an instrumental mode of computer use functioned across the curriculum. This program was designed to increase lo-income and minority elementary school children access to computers.

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