NIU receives computers

By Tammy Sholer

About 6,400 students enrolled in English composition classes this fall will have the opportunity to use one of 29 new MacIntosh computers.

Freshman English Director Robert Self said the computers were a gift from Apple Computer Inc. and are valued at $51,000. He said the computers will be placed in a new student computer lab in Lincoln Hall that should be ready this fall.

“Besides increasing the number of computers available to students, the MacIntosh computers will be completely networked and will give us a kind of facility we haven’t had with the current labs,” Self said.

Networking links the computers and allows an instructor to communicate with each member of the class at the same time, Self said. Networking also will expand the possibilities for collaborative writing, editing and revising, he said.

English Professor Charles Pennel said, “The personal computer obviously has an effect on both writing and the teaching of writing.” Writing is increasingly becoming a process of communication through print, graphics and design, he said.

The new computers also will have capabilities to recall literature through a compact disk/read-only memory (CD-ROM) station and optical scanner. Pennel, who will teach a class on Shakespeare this fall, said, “With CD-ROM, the works of Shakespeare are available on a disk.”

If a student wants to read a scene in a particular Shakespeare play, he can call up the lines and see them on the screen, Pennel said.

The optical scanner also permits an instructor to file diagrams, drawings and pictures for students to extract, he said.

Self said about one-third of computer-taught English classes nationwide are equipped with MacIntosh computers. He said NIU will be able to access information from those computers as well.

“With computer technology, we can help students become more aware of how the writing process itself generates perception and understanding of themselves and the world,” Pennel said.

If English teachers adapt their special perspective on language to new developments in technology, they can provide valuable insights to writing, Pennel said. “We understand the problematical nature of language and we bring that to the teaching of writing,” he said.

Additional costs for the lab will be shared by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Student Housing Office and the Provost’s Office. Additional costs include computer hardware and software expenses, furniture and remodeling.