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Writing and Literature

Teresa Burns
Professor of English at UW-Platteville

by Laura Hansen, Editor of TTT, Spring 1997


For the past several semesters, Dr. Teresa Burns has used learning technologies in both her writing and literature courses. The uses have been perhaps the most obvious in Technical Writing, which she teaches 2-3 sections of each semester. In that course, students must become familiar with on-line databases, newsgroups and career placement resources; create a cluster of web pages using public domain knowledge from an approved topic in their discipline; and may create a hypertext manual. They also give a final oral presentation of their semester projects using PowerPoint.

In both this course and her other writing course (Writing for Publication), students do much of their work in the English Computer Classroom. Also, they must post rough drafts of all assignments on-line using First Class conferencing software, which they may access in their lab, in any general access lab on campus, or on their home computer if they have a SLIP connection and download the software. Students must then read and critique other students' work , and post their critiques on-line. In the lab classroom, Dr. Burns can then call up copies of rough drafts on the overhead, comment upon what makes the best rough drafts stand out, and also note what critiques seem helpful and which don't show much thought. In these courses, having students constantly see each others' work greatly improves the overall quality of writing. Combining First Class postings with in-class workshops also means they get the immediate feedback which composition theorists repeatedly say is the single best way to get student writers to improve.

Dr. Burns has also used First Class in her Minority Women Writers literature course, and in Introduction to Women's Studies. In these courses, she has had students post papers as described above (and, in the latter, post interviews which were part of their field projects.) She has also used First Class as a way to get students to speak in class. However, if they are required to post a response to the week's reading by Wednesday, and to have read every other students response by Friday, then she can be assured of plenty of participation in Friday's class. In her literature course this semester, she is simply asking them to turn in their journals on-line where other students can read them, rather than having them turn them in. This too has improved the quality of class discussion, and in turn their depth of thought about a given work.

In all of Dr. Burn's courses, she also posts her syllabi, office hours, and some course materials on-line as links off of a web page rather than passing out paper copies. She was able to investigate how to use many of the learning technologies mentioned above by being included in the Valhalla Project last summer (at that time, she learned how to use First Class, spent more time on web page design and learned to digitize video, and learned more about Power Point.)

Dr. Burns' home page is located at

If you have any comments or questions for Dr. Teresa Burns, you can reach her at