3.692 computers in class; software (106)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 3 Nov 89 20:54:18 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 692. Friday, 3 Nov 1989.

(1) Date: 1 November 1989 (56 lines)
From: Jeutonne P. Brewer <BREWERJ@UNCG.BITNET> 1-NOV-1989
Subject: use of computers in class; software

(2) Date: Wed, 1 Nov 89 (31 lines)
From: Jeutonne P. Brewer <BREWERJ@UNCG.BITNET>
Subject: wordprocessors

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 1 November 1989
From: Jeutonne P. Brewer <BREWERJ@UNCG.BITNET> 1-NOV-1989

I require my students to use computers in my classes. They write
extensively about language, and their writing improves during the
semester as they go about the task of completing assignments and
writing papers. They also learn how to use e-mail. The students
learn word processing in an IBM-compatible lab without the
extensive DOS-angst expressed in recent messages.

Early in this decade I wrote a paper in which I claimed
that students in the humanities should learn to use word
processing (my focus) as part of their regular courses rather
than in separate "computer literacy" courses, which were usually
taught by computer specialists rather than by humanists. I still
hold this view. A few years ago the university had added enough
labs and computers to make it possible for students in the
humanities to have easy access to the equipment. The students'
success in the lab and their improved writing reinforce my view
that students should be introduced to word processing as part of
their courses in the humanities.

My students use Norton Textra Writer 2.0 as their word processing
program. It has all the typical features of word processing
programs as well as windows, hidden comments, and an extended
character set for foreign language and math. It includes a
spelling checker. Even more interesting and important are the
films (online tutorials), online help, and the online handbook.
Part of the online handbook is the "Works cited" feature. In
addition to advice about what to cite and how to cite it in a
paper, the program allows the students to have an example of
the appropriate citation form on the screen when they type
their citations. The program formats the information with the
proper indentation for MLA or APA style and alphabetizes the
citations. The manual consists of 142 pages of information
written for the student.

Norton Textra Writer 2.0 is published by W. W. Norton. The cost is
$24. According to the blurb on the back of the manual, "No better
software value exists." In this case, I think the company's claim
is correct.

Word Perfect 5.0 is available on the network in the lab for
students who prefer to use it. Most students choose to work with
Norton Textra Writer when they realize that it is a flexible,
portable, and sophisticated program. It is the program I usually
take with me when I travel with my portable computer.

Boyd Davis at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte first
introduced me to the program.

Jeutonne Brewer
Department of English

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 89
From: Jeutonne P. Brewer <BREWERJ@UNCG.BITNET>

I enjoyed Don Spaeth's comments about documentation and Nota
Bene. I don't read documentation unless I need the
answer to a specific, detailed question. One of the best tests of
good software is how easy it is to use without reading the
documentation. I read the instructions about how to
install the software. Usually there is an introductory section
about how to start the program and how to exit from it. I read
that quickly. Then I begin to use the program. When I need to
know about a particular command for a particular purpose, I read
that part of the documentation. I began using this technique
about 10 years ago with word processing on a TRS-80 Model I. It
works just as well with an IBM compatible. If you want to
understand the nature of the program, you learn by using the
program rather than reading what the programmer or the technical
writer has written about the program. Documentation is already
taking up too much of my shelf space.

Nota Bene is a program that I have always wanted to work with.
(Documentation of 800 pages makes me doubt, however.) There are
two reasons why I haven't bought it. I object to MLA's work as a
software company. The program costs too much. I have never paid
that much for any program, except a desktop publishing program.
Word Perfect will continue to serve well.

Jeutonne Brewer
Department of English