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navigation index Introduction:  Composition at the Crossroads of Convergence:  What Happens When Technologies Intersect in Pedagogical Spaces?

In the “Introduction,” Penrod defines “convergence” and its historical impact on the field of Composition and, more specifically, writing assessment.  To highlight principle arguments from Penrod’s “Introduction,” I have presented them in a Question and Answer (Q&A) format below--a succinct, common rhetorical strategy for emphasizing key points in an online format. 

Q: What is technological “convergence”?

A: Penrod defines “convergence” as the blending of several technologies into a single source (p. xvii). The “computer” is the means or “vehicle” driving convergence in the field of composition (p. xvii). She argues that “convergence” involves the conflict between two technologies—“computers and assessment” (p. xix).

Q: How does computer-based writing instruction generally affect and/or challenge traditional notions of writing assessment?

A: Penrod explains that new computer technologies challenge traditional psychometric principles of writing assessment; however, some compositionists may resist teaching “computer-based composition” because there is not yet an agreed upon “recognized language” for assessing electronic texts such as blogs or hypertextual documents (p. xx).  Overall, computers in composition redefine the “text” and “fundamental writing assessment methods” (p. xix).

Q: Where (and when) does the notion of “convergence” situate the field of Computers and Composition historically?

A: Penrod explains that composition has been at the “point of convergence” since 1997 with the recent “fusing of writing assessment and computer technologies” (pp. xxvii-xxix). Penrod argues that “convergence” is one facet of Kathleen Blake Yancey’s “fourth wave” of writing assessment (pp. xxix-xxx).

More generally, she elaborates on Paul Saffo’s “30-year rule” for technology use.  During the first decade, people are fervent yet befuddled by a new technology. However, because the technology is assimilated into mainstream society during the second decade, the technology becomes fully assimilated into society by the third decade.  Computers and Composition is currently in the “second phase” (or decade) of this 30-year continuum (p. xxvii).  During this decade, whether the “essay-grading software will overtake the portfolio” is a concern for Penrod (p. xxviii).

Q: By writing her book, what does Penrod hope to accomplish?

A: Penrod explains she hopes to create a “new framework” for understanding assessment by scrutinizing the impact of “convergence” on Composition (p. xxxiv).  More specifically, she hopes to help composition teachers determine the pedagogical usefulness of “networked writing and assessment” technological hybrids in the composition classroom (p. xxxii). Writing program administrators and teachers must address their “assessment and networked writing needs” (p. xxxii).