Computers can boost literacy

Computers do not spell the demise of literacy — in fact, they may help to create one of the most literate and engaged generations the world has seen.

Carl Whithaus, associate professor of writing at UC Davis, will make that argument during a 2-3:15 p.m. session on Saturday, June 20, in room 106 of Wellman Hall at UC Davis, part of a four-day Computers & Writing 2009 conference sponsored by the University Writing Program at UC Davis.

Whithaus will report preliminary results from a California Department of Education-funded project under way in fourth-grade classrooms at elementary schools in the Elk Grove School District in Elk Grove, Calif. The project uses technology to increase academic achievement.

During the first year of the two-year study, student achievement increased 27.5 percent, according to Whithaus, who is principal investigator of a study to evaluate the project’s effectiveness.

“We’re finding that traditional print-based literacy is important. At the same time, we’re seeing that the new technologies are not just eye candy,” says Carl Whithaus, an associate professor of writing at UC Davis and principal investigator of the evaluation arm of the study.

“Traditional print-based reading and writing is only part of a much larger set of skills that students need in the 21st century.”

Whithaus is also the organizer of Computers & Writing 2009. The conference is the culmination of a yearlong series of conferences hosted by the University of California on technology and writing.

A complete schedule of presentations at Computers & Writing 2009 is available at

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