Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Sandra Shattuck
Sandra, a Tapped In member since January 2003, teaches in the Department of English, Foreign Languages & Telecommunication at Alabama A&M. She has about fifteen years experience teaching undergraduate/graduate courses in English, Women's Studies, and Humanities programs. Her areas of interest include feminist literary criticism and theory, multicultural U.S. literatures, postcolonial literatures (primarily African/Caribbean), and gender and technology. Sandra is currently researching blogging, writing, pedagogy and activism, is a Tapped In Helpdesk Volunteer and leads the monthly Tapped In WriteTalk group.
Some time in the early 60s, I completed a science project in middle school that entailed building a computer from a kit I ordered. The whole thing measured about the size of a coffee-table book and weighed as much as a loaf of Wonder bread. I connected the bright red and white plastic strips with lots of small metal rods and delighted at the ease with which all the pieces moved. I remember learning that computers worked in binary, communicating and computing solely through 0s and 1s. I wasn't quite sure what that meant, and I didn't really understand how my fun plastic model related to the huge machines my dad worked with at IBM. I thought some magic might be involved somewhere.
Over thirty years later in a computer science class, I commented to my teacher that while I knew I was writing a program for rolling dice, I still thought maybe magic was involved. I thought my teacher would scoff, but she replied, "Of course computers are magical!" I was comforted that someone who understood how bits and bytes fit into silicon and hexadecimal still ooh-ed and aahh-ed at what computers could accomplish.
Between that plastic model of a computer and my computer science class, I had journeyed from technophobe to something of an early adopter - all because I wondered how the world wide web might provide ways for me to teach more effectively and creatively. For me, technology has always been about pedagogy, information, and communication. Will my students learn more if they work in groups to construct web pages about the different U.S. cultures we study? Will my students learn that they build knowledge collectively through putting research projects on a class email list? Will my students' writing improve if they put their words on a blog?
I had been working on OldPuebloMOO at the University of Arizona and found out about Tapped In when I moved to Maryland to work at the Center for Women and Information Technology. (My history reads as if I were a computer geek, but my degree is in comparative literature...I do believe that programming is something like writing poetry...) I taught adjunct in the School of Education at UMBC and brought the M.A. students onto Tapped In for classes and held office hours there. I was comfortable with Tapped In's MOO environment and wasn't at all sure I wanted to migrate to the new interface. But I'm a convert by now. I've helped several groups connect through Tapped In: Alabama A&M University Writing Project, Rhetoricians for Peace, 1984 + 20 Project, and WriteTalk. I'm still hooked on wondering about and experimenting with different technologies to address various pedagogical challenges. I still believe magic is involved - usually in the form of a programmer or help desk volunteer or teacher daring to share her writing with others.