A. EFL Environment: Students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) may consider the fact that they live in a non-English-speaking environment a serious disadvantage, but physical location is increasingly irrelevant in the Internet age.II. Method: A virtual community was created through the use of a simple interface found at http://www.egroups.com and students were informed about it in the course syllabus and during the first class session. The postings to the web site were saved by the teacher to reflect on after the end of the semester.1. Drawbacks: EFL students are restricted by limited English-language resources, large classes and infrequent class meetings. These obstacles, among others, can be successfully overcome by the use of an Internet-based virtual community.B. Plan for this project: This paper will describe the rationale behind using a virtual community of writers, how it can be created and how it fits within a constructivist approach to self-regulated learning.
2. EFL students' needs: EFL writers need to have a variety of models of good writing products, a supportive environment in which to work, and consistent and clear instruction in rhetorical styles and organizational coherence.
C. Action Research: This project will be approached as an instance of action research, in which the teacher makes an instructional change and observes the results of that change to determine its efficacy
D. Hypotheses1. The use of a virtual community will contribute to more individualized interactions between learners and the instructorE. Definitions
2. Use of a virtual community will increase student involvement in the course and with each other, leading to greater self-regulation
3. Use of computerized submissions and announcements will aid in course management procedures for students and teacher
4. Use of a virtual community will result in changes to course assessment and essay marking procedures1. Virtual Community: An environment created through the use of computer networks which allows people to interact through the sharing of ideas, information, and products (Rheingold, 1998).
2. Self-regulated Learning: A situation in which learners have control over the learning process through knowledge and application of: appropriate strategies, understanding of the task, empowerment in curricular decision-making and motivation for learning (Chamot, Barnhardt, El-Dinary & Robbins 1999).
3. Constructivist Class: An environment in which learners are encouraged to create knowledge for themselves through social interaction, collaboration, cooperative learning, and experiential discovery (Brown, 2000).
This theory "defines knowledge as temporary, developmental, socially and culturally mediated, and thus, non-objective. Learning from this perspective is understood as a self-regulating process of resolving inner cognitive conflicts that often become apparent through concrete experience, collaborative discourse, and reflection" (Brooks and Brooks, 1993, p. vii).
A. Course Description: This information was given to students at the first class meeting.Weeks Writing Assignment
This course is for students in any field who want to improve their writing for academic and career purposes. The aim of the course is to learn how to describe processes or objects in clear and precise detail. Students will complete several major writing assignments along with shorter speaking, reading and writing assignments. The Internet will be used for communication within the class, research and sampling of technical writing styles. We will use process writing to produce our major assignments. Some class exchanges will be done on our website and by email. Join by sending an email to: email@example.com
Weekly assignments: Due Fridays by email: ALL ASSIGNMENTS MUST BE HANDED IN ELECTRONICALLY TO OUR WEBSITE (This will allow for peer review and cooperative learning)
What is process writing? In this class, you will not write something perfectly the first time. You will begin with thinking about topics with classmates, then write a rough first draft. After getting feedback on this draft from your classmates and the teacher, you will write a better, second draft. Again, more feedback will be given, and finally you will produce a nearly perfect final draft. (after all, nobody's perfect, right?)
B. Teacher's Goals: My goals for this course were to
D. Virtual Community
III. Results1. Resources
2. Considerations for using technology
4. Experiences and opinions of other teachers
5. Other options: MUDs, MOOs, Avatars - Not used for this project. Other means of networking in a writing class - using composition software such as Deadalus, or MUDs (Multi-User Domains) and MOOs, (Multi-User Oriented Objects) can be successfully integrated. The advantage of Internet-based chat rooms over MOOs is that the latter require a somewhat steep learning curve (Davies, 1999). Student response reflects frustration with the interface. Students are more familiar with the use of chat software, as it is popular outside of the educational environment.
A. Observations: Student comments and use of the community
B. Hypothesis 1: The use of a virtual community will contribute to more individualized interactions between learners and the instructor1. Communication at various times outside of the classroom and outside of school hours became possibleC. Hypothesis 2: Use of a virtual community will increase student involvement in the course and with each other, leading to greater self-regulation
2. Students were able to express confusion or question procedures in a less face-threatening environment (using private e-mail)
3. Quiet, reflective students had equal opportunity to contribute to class discussion1. Students stayed after class, sometimes for as long as 45 minutes, to work on the assignments
2. Students devoted extensive time outside of class to research topics and compare their work to that of their classmates
3. Students were made aware of their classmates' interests and talents through reading of their work
D. Hypothesis 3: Use of computerized submissions and announcements will aid in course management procedures for students and teacher1. Record keeping was easier with all work time and date-stamped, and in a location that could be accessed from home as well as office (no lost papers; late papers marked with completion date)E. Hypothesis 4: Use of a virtual community will result in changes to course assessment and essay marking procedures
2. Students could access assignments and announcements despite absences; no misplaced handouts
3. Student revision of essays was possible in or out of class despite different computer platforms and forgotten disks or papers
4. Instructions on new class activities linked to class website - saving paper and explanation in class.
IV. Discussion: Analysis of the results of using a virtual community supports the hypotheses and encourages me to continue using it in future classes.1. Assessment became easier because all drafts were available in one location
2. Bias created by differences in handwriting decreased (also attested to by Creed, 1996)
3. Editing was made easier by use of electronic aids to word processing (spell checking and grammar checking) by students before submission of work
4. Students' contributions to text chat (saved by teacher) could be evaluated to gauge level and quality of participation (an otherwise difficult aspect of the final evaluation)
5. Peer evaluation taken more seriously because it is done on a public forum
This presentation is available online at: http://www.jillrobbins.com/sfsupres.html
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