Collaborative and Interactive Writing for Increasing Communication Skills

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Collaborative and Interactive Writing for Increasing Communication SkillsAuthor(s): Karen L. SmithSource: Hispania, Vol. 73, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 77-87Published by: American Association of Teachers of Spanish and PortugueseStable URL: .Accessed: 27/04/2013 08:47Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact .American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserveand extend access to Hispania. This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsKaren L. Smith, University of Arizona Collaborative and Interactive Writing for Increasing Communication Skills 0.0 Introduction F eign language instruction has long bene- fited from access to audio-video devices aimed at facilitating and promoting listening skill de- velopment in the target language. During the last decade, computers have provided addi- tional opportunities to practice structures and vocabulary in a written extension of the exer- cises once only found in audio labs or textbook drills and exercises.' Now, computers have the capacity to offer highly creative and in- teractive environments for learning, thus opening the way for an educational revolution that promotes individuality, creativity, and originality. This study shows that computer- based lessons can promote reading and writ- ing proficiency through on line activities that encourage critical thinking, decision making, and imaginative expression of personal ideas. The Zork series, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Uni- verse, and The Mist are just a few examples of the type of computer games that promote reading, writing, and decision making skills. These interactive literature programs capti- vate users by requiring them to role play, solve puzzles, and write clear directions in order to stay alive, progress through a maze, or collect treasure. In addition, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and its U.S.A. and Europe versions teach geography, currency, travel skills, and more, while students focus on pur- suing the elusive Carmen and her gang of thieves. Games such as these can be used in ESL classes in their commercial form to pro- vide computer-based, interactive work that promotes thoughtful use of the target lan- guage. Unfortunately, foreign language-specific, versions of these interactive materials are not yet on the market. However, teachers can encourage programmers working in foreign language CAI to learn from the success of interactive materials and turn their efforts to- ward programs that accept a variety of solu- tions and accordingly guide students to use the language for communication and problem solving purposes. Still, until such imaginative and interactive foreign language packages be- come widely available, it is possible for teach- ers to fill the creative void by utilizing commer- cial computer conferences, bulletin boards, and writing packages such as Word Perfect to generate interactive and collaborative skill de- velopment environments. This paper exam- ines potential applications of computer-based communication tools, i.e., commercial com- puter conferences, bulletin boards, word pro- cessors, outline processors, and electronic dictionaries, to proficiency development in second language students. 1.0 The Experiment In order to determine the degree to which computer-based writing tools effect skill de- velopment, 118 fourth semester Spanish stu- dents at the University of Arizona, a Research I Institution in the Southwest were given op- portunities to write using computer con- ferencing or word processing facilities. All stu- dents in classes using computers met face-to- face for three fifty-minute periods per week. Students in traditional classes met for four fifty-minute periods per week. This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions78 HISPANIA 73 MARCH 1990 1.1 Computer Conferencing A group of 44 students engaged in conver- sational writing activities that stressed com- munication. Students conversed with the aid of a CoSy, a computer conferencing system developed by the University of Guelph and housed on the institution's VAX 11/780. Com- puter conferencing expands the potential of traditional face-to-face group communication by combining computing and telecommunica- tions applications to create a powerful com- munication environment, free of time and dis- tance constraints. Participants can join discus- sions at any time from any computer. The un-hurried, non-pressured environment can lower or even eliminate affective filters thus encouraging learning as well as acquisition of communication strategies. Once a participant adds a new message to the discussion, it automatically becomes avail- able for consideration and comment by all other conference members. Messages are au- tomatically labeled by date, time, author and order received, thus permitting users to pro- cess the information in an organized manner, according to their own needs. When computer conferencing is used as a basis of instruction, student initiated cooperative learning ven- tures, such as peer teaching and tutoring ac- tivities to supplement and enhance the efforts of the teacher, are almost certain to arise spontaneously as classmates become friends and seek to share their personal insights into the functions of the L2. Despite occasional errors, communication prepared by students using CoSy was fully comprehensible and tailored to their peer audience. Prior preparation included read- ing other students' contributions, planning messages, watching videos, and consulting peers, texts, or dictionaries. Production tended toward creative self-expression and lively debates that paralleled and supple- mented in-class conversations. Users became so engrossed in these on-line conversations that they spent an average of 3 hours per week using the computer for conversational writing purposes. As a result, each student produced approximately 1,500 words during the semester. All conferencing work was done in addition to that prepared as part of regular assignments. Students made no attempt to translate previously written messages. In- stead, they paused while composing to seek dictionary aid; thus they avoided incorporating English words and phrases into their texts. 1.2 Word Processing A second group of 24 students employed Word Perfect 4.2 as a composition tool. Be- cause of the ease with which they could write and correct, this group chose to dedicate their computer time to composing and rewriting in order to produce correct language samples. By their own admission they focused more on accuracy than on creative expression of ideas. Accordingly they limited their structural choices to those with which they felt most secure and devoted a significant portion of their time on line to searching for and correct- ing grammar and vocabulary errors. Learners in this group logged an average of 90 minutes per week on the computer. They produced approximately 600 words per person over the course of the semester. Some worked in pairs, brainstorming and editing each other's drafts. All cited texts, dictionaries, and peers as re- source materials. Only one attempted to write compositions in English and translate them. Their computer work was completed in addi- tion to all standard fourth semester assign- ments. 1.3 Traditional The third group received no special treat- ment. These 50 students wrote compositions at home using pen and paper techniques. None spent more than the required time in contact with Spanish. None wrote more than the re- quired number of compositions and one-third did not fulfill minimum requirements as to number and length of compositions. One- fourth of the compositions submitted during the semester were flagged as translation at- tempts. Compositions prepared by traditional students were shorter, more stilted, but as accurate as those prepared by the Word Per- fect group. In-class practice stressed conver- sation and grammar study. Reading practice was regularly assigned as homework and used as the basis of some in-class conversations. Learners admitted they spent no extra time on the course and frequently failed to prepare reading assignments. 1.4 Results Figure 1 summarizes the results of matched Ttests performed on the CoSy, Word Perfect, and Traditional groups to determine This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsWRITING FOR INCREASING COMMUNICATION SKILLS 79 the degree of progress between midterm and final exams for Reading, Conversation, and Listening skills. Writing progress has been divided into two variables: Ideas and Accu- racy. The Progress variable represents the average degrees of overall progress for each student. Listening is the only variable for which all groups experienced a decline be- tween midterm and final exams. It is impor- tant to note that the final listening exam de- manded more attention to detail than did the midterm. A minimum significance level of S= .05 was specified as acceptable for this study. overall mean increase between midterm and final exams for the Word Perfect group was 5.95% (a = .0008). 1.4.2 CoSy Group Despite reductions in time devoted to face- to-face contact for oral skill development dur- ing CoSy supplemental classes (a maximum of 150 minutes per week instead of 200), com- puter conferencing-based communication practice influenced students' ability to inter- act successfully with texts as well as with other students in oral exchanges. The CoSy group showed significant progress in reading Figure 1 Matched Ttests Difference of Means within Group READING GROUP N Obs Mean Std Error T Prob> T WPER 24 10.00 1.75 5.72 0.0001 COSY 44 8.14 1.83 4.45 0.0001 TRAD 50 3.50 2.06 1.70 0.0952 LISTENING GROUP N Obs Mean Std Error T Prob> IT WPER 24 -14.17 4.74 -2.99 0.0065 COSY 44 - 5.05 3.68 -1.37 0.1777 TRAD 50 -14.00 3.34 -4.19 0.0001 CONVERSATION GROUP N Obs Mean Std Error T Prob> Tj WPER 24 2.37 1.30 1.82 0.0814 COSY 44 2.23 0.98 2.27 0.0285 TRAD 50 2.44 1.08 2.26 0.0282 WRITTEN IDEAS GROUP N Obs Mean Std Error T Prob> T WPER 24 10.42 3.11 3.35 0.0028 COSY 44 8.48 2.16 3.93 0.0003 TRAD 50 2.96 2.92 1.01 0.3154 WRITTEN ACCURACY GROUP N Obs Mean Std Error T Prob> Tj WPER 24 4.58 2.20 2.08 0.0484 COSY 44 2.86 1.58 1.82 0.0762 TRAD 50 6.34 1.21 5.22 0.0001 PROGRESS GROUP N Obs Mean Std Error T Prob> T WPER 24 5.95 1.54 3.85 0.0008 COSY 44 2.99 1.21 2.47 0.0175 TRAD 50 0.20 1.08 0.18 0.8549 1.4.1 Word Perfect Group The Word Perfect group showed progress significant at the a = .0001 level for reading and at a = .0484 for grammatical and lexical accuracy. Progress in expression of written ideas were also significant (a = .0028). The conversation variable suggests a tendency to- ward significance, but only at a = .0814, not acceptable according to the specified a = .05 standard of this study. Listening showed a significant loss of 14.17% (a = .0065). The (a = .0001) and in oral and written expression of ideas (a = .0285 and .0003). Since the com- puter conferencing format did not lend itself to editing and revision, students tended to concentrate on posting ideas rather than on accuracy. Thus, the accuracy variable was sig- nificant only at t = .0762. Although the group experienced a 5.05% loss for listening, the decline was not significant (a = .1777). 4.1.3 Traditional Group The fifty students in the Traditional group This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions80 HISPANIA 73 MARCH 1990 that received no computer treatment made sig- nificant progress in conversation (a = .0282) and accuracy (a = .0001), the two areas stressed during in-class practice. This group's progress in reading (a = .0952) did not attain a minimum level of significance, yet indicated that progress had been made. No significant progress was made in the expression of writ- ten ideas as shown by a mean increase of only 2.96 (a = .3154). Despite receiving more lis- tening opportunities than did members of the two computer supplemented groups, students in Traditional classes experienced a significant decline of 14% in this area (a = .0001). Figure 2 presents Ttests illustrating per- formance differences between the Word Per- fect and Traditional groups. Significant differ- ences exist for reading (Unequal, a =.0187 and Equal, a = .0468), and for overall progress (Unequal, a =.0037 and Equal, a=.0032). The Ideas variable displayed only a tendency toward significance (Unequal, a = .0855 and Equal, a =.1199). Figure 3 reveals that no significant differ- ences exist between the Word Perfect and CoSy groups. Both computer supplemented groups benefitted from interactive, communi- cation-oriented practice. Statistics presented above suggest that, no matter the type of practice available on the computer, students tended to become in- volved in computerized activities and thus de- voted more time to learning activities than did their counterparts using traditional for- mats. Consequently, computer users im- proved significantly in their ability to read and Figure 2 Ttest Procedure Difference of Means Between Traditional and Word Perfect Groups GROUP N Mean StdD StdE Min Max Variances T DF Prob> JTI READ WPER 24 10.00 8.56 1.75 - 5 44 Unequal -2.41 68.8 0.0187 TRAD 50 3.50 14.55 2.06 -31 23 Equal -2.02 72.0 0.0468 LIST WPER 24 -14.17 23.20 4.45 -40 40 Unequal 0.03 46.3 0.9772 TRAD 50 -14.00 23.65 3.34 -60 40 Equal 0.03 72.0 0.9772 SPEAK WPER 24 2.38 6.38 1.30 -10 17 Unequal 0.03 53.5 0.9695 TRAD 50 2.44 7.63 1.08 -18 20 Equal 0.04 72.0 0.9713 IDEAS WPER 24 10.42 15.23 3.11 -40 40 Unequal -1.75 59.6 0.0855 TRAD 50 2.96 20.64 2.92 -40 60 Equal -1.57 72.0 0.1199 GRAM WPER 24 4.58 10.77 2.20 -16 28 Unequal 0.70 37.5 0.4885 TRAD 50 6.34 8.58 1.21 -18 24 Equal 0.76 72.0 0.4511 PROG WPER 24 5.95 7.57 1.54 -14 22 Unequal -3.06 45.7 0.0037 TRAD 50 0.20 7.61 1.08 -14 19 Equal -3.05 72.0 0.0032 Figure 3 Ttest Procedure Difference of Means Between CoSy and Word Perfect Groups GROUP N Mean StdD StdE Min Max Variances T DF Prob> ITI READ WPER 24 10.00 8.56 1.75 - 5 23 Unequal -0.74 61.5 0.4638 COSY 44 8.14 12.11 1.83 -28 37 Equal -0.67 66.0 0.5070 LIST WPER 24 -14.17 23.20 4.74 -40 40 Unequal 1.52 49.5 0.1348 COSY 44 - 5.05 24.42 3.68 -40 60 Equal 1.50 66.0 0.1391 SPEAK WPER 24 2.38 6.38 1.30 -10 17 Unequal -0.09 48.2 0.9283 COSY 44 2.23 6.52 0.98 -10 17 Equal -0.09 66.0 0.9286 IDEAS WPER 24 10.42 15.23 3.11 -40 40 Unequal -0.51 44.9 0.6107 COSY 44 8.48 14.30 2.16 -40 40 Equal -0.52 66.0 0.6031 GRAM WPER 24 4.58 10.77 2.20 -16 28 Unequal -0.64 46.2 0.5281 COSY 44 2.86 10.45 1.58 -16 32 Equal -0.64 66.0 0.5235 PROG WPER 24 5.95 7.57 1.54 -14 22 Unequal -1.51 49.8 0.1370 COSY 44 2.99 8.02 1.21 -14 22 Equal -1.49 66.0 0.1422 This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsWRITING FOR INCREASING COMMUNICATION SKILLS 81 express oral and written ideas. In traditional classes where teachers dictated the type, time and direction of practice, students showed little or no initiative and limited their practice to those activities made available through their classes. The text-based ac- tivities encouraged students to improve in their ability to write stilted but accurate mes- sages and to carry on conversations. Researchers had anticipated a decline in oral skills for computer supplemented groups due to re-distribution of class time to accom- modate computer use. Instead, computer use actually encouraged oral communication prac- tice: Word Perfect students reported brain- storming in Spanish and composing aloud dur- ing writing sessions. CoSy students related that they read messages aloud then vocalized as they planned and wrote messages to their groups. The effects of this self-designed prac- tice is seen in significance levels for the Con- versation variable of at = .0814 and at = .0285 for Word Perfect and CoSy. Therefore, it is possible to hypothesize that written communi- cation practice with a computer will not only help students improve their written skills, but also their ability to carry on conversations. Student production patterns suggest that a combination of activities stressing the conver- sational writing of the computer conference and the accuracy focus of the word processor are necessary to promote development in both form and function. Computer-based creative expression has implications for teaching skills in unfavorable conditions such as via distance education classes, since those students in the CoSy and Word Perfect groups did not differ significantly in the development of oral skills, despite less conversation practice opportuni- ties. In summary, from the study it is possible to propose four hypotheses regarding com- puter-based collaborative and interactive learning environments: 1) computer-based in- teraction encourages increased time on task; 2) computer-based writing promotes creativ- ity as well as accuracy; 3) excessive emphasis on accuracy can detract from development of interactive communication skills; and 4) de- velopment of advanced organizer and sub- vocalization techniques affect students' ability to communicate ideas orally as well as in writ- ing. Consequently, it is possible to supplement foreign language classes effectively by con- structing computer-based communication en- vironments that promote creativity, decision making, collaboration and interaction. Interac- tive tools, whether word processing pack- ages, computer conferences, or a combination of both, enable students to break their isola- tion, share ideas, and benefit from increased contact with teachers and peers.2 2.0 Purposes of Computer-based Writing ESL research shows that those students who become good writers interact with the text and revise in order to produce coherent written communication.3 Two immediate ben- efits can be expected from using computer- based writing tools. First, writers experience greater flexibility in planning, production, and revision due to the ease with which computer conferences organize information and word processors add, delete, or move material within texts. Second, computer-based writing processes involve far less time than does plan- ning in isolation and repeatedly revising by hand. As shown in the experiment cited above, students who use computers write more and revise more, hence more extensive, creative, and accurate production is possible. The following sections discuss potential advan- tages of using computers for personal or group activities that promote outlining, brainstorming, and revision as enhancements to the writing process. 2.1 Outlining Under traditional writing conditions, stu- dents rarely prepare an outline prior to writing a composition. The time required to build a linear outline by hand, lack of interest in writ- ing tasks, and limited practice with outlining as a planning tool are cited by students as reasons for bypassing this stage. Now, com- plex outlines can be prepared easily with the aid of a number of commercial outline proces- sors such as Grand View, ThinkTank, Ready! MaxThink, and the outline generators in- cluded in word processing packages such as Word Perfect and Microsoft Word. These pack- ages encourage individualized or group brain- storming as students' ideas can be recorded randomly then organized and expanded with the aid of menu-based commands. Novice or professional writers benefit from the outline processor's ability to relate details to main issues. Accordingly, they examine and com- pare their written throughts in varying levels of detail. Figure 4 offers a ThinkTank outline This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions82 HISPANIA 73 MARCH 1990 collapsed so that major themes can be evalu- ated. Figure 5 expands the same outline to display increased detail. Figure 4 Single Level ThinkTank Outline + Collaborative and Interactive Writing for Increasing Communication Skills + Introduction + The Experiment + Purposes + Research on Computer-based Writing Instruction Figure 5 Multiple Level ThinkTank Outline + Collaborative and Interactive Writing for Increasing Communication Skills + Introduction + Commercial Interactive Environments + Zork -commands -vocabulary -multiple solutions -Hitchhiker's Guide to the University + Creating Interactive Environments with -Computer Conferences -Word Perfect + The Experiment + Computer Conferencing + Word Processing + Traditional + Results + Purposes + Outlining + Brainstorming + Computer-based Practice, Revision, and Editing + Toward Accuracy + Electronic Dictionaries + Research on Computer-based Writing Instruction Grand View, ThinkTank and MaxThink present writing as an organizational proce- dure. Writers can expand and collapse sec- tions, incorporate entire documents into the outline as headline enhancements, block and move text, duplicate points, and highlight re- petitive key words. Grand View supports up to nine simultaneously open outlines. This streamline transfers of information between sections of a long and complex outline, or distinct plans, thus allowing students to com- pare their work with model or peer outlines. The features associated with outline proces- sors are valuable instructional supplements as they encourage students to start with a vague frame, increase details, then manipu- late all aspects of the outline until a coherent flow from the statement of the problem to the conclusion has been accomplished. In ad- dition, rather than functioning as separate en- tities that guide the writing process, outlines can become frames upon which compositions are built. Once transferred to a word proces- sor, students can use the frame to aid thinking and planning in the target language. They can literally write over outlines and absorb them into drafts. A second type of idea processor, Ready!, is RAM resident; consequenty, it can be used independently or in conjunction with writing packages. Ready! is instantly accessed by means of a CTRL 5 toggle.4 In this case, Ready! outlines can be used interchangeably in RAM with compositions, thus enabling stu- dents to refer to guidelines during all stages of the writing process. Ready! also permits transfer of outlines directly into word proces- sing packages for use as composition frames. Word Perfect and Word are two word pro- cessing packages that offer outline generators for use in a second window so they can be accessed while writers are composing. How- ever, these outline generators do not allow for automatic expansion or reduction of levels. Still, if separate outline processors are not available, using a linear outline in a window offers guides that can promote a more or- ganized and coherent first draft that fosters thinking in the target language and aids au- thors in limiting structural choices. 2.2 Brainstorming This section looks first at individual plan- ning then at group activities. Group participa- tion in the writing activity is most effective when a computer conference or bulletin board is available. Writers can post ideas, compose, edit peer production, and extract information. Bulletin boards offer a flexible format through which teachers assign specific exercises, guide self-expression efforts, and track prog- ress. Through the computer environment, students expand their personal communica- tion beyond the limits of the classroom as they exchange personal messages, receive feed- back from teachers and peers, and cooperate on writing ventures. Bulletin boards are usu- ally housed on mainframe computers and ac- cessible through modems and direct access terminals. Computer conferences such as VAX Notes, CoSy, and EIES are sophisticated bulletin boards that permit access from any location at any time, provide constant updates, and offer an organized means of information storage and retrieval." However, in situations where a mainframe This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsWRITING FOR INCREASING COMMUNICATION SKILLS 83 or microcomputer functioning as a file server is not available, less powerful bulletin boards can be created using a word processing pro- gram on a hard disk. This type of bulletin board is extremely limited for it does not au- tomatically organize comments, and files con- taining messages are accessible to only one member of the writers' group at a time. If a commercial electronic bulletin board or com- puter conference is available, collaborative learning ventures can be widespread and en- compass a variety of related and unrelated topics. As part of the brainstorming/preparation stage it is possible to post skill development exercises on computer bulletin boards or in word processor files. Such exercises limit writing focus and stress understanding of formal aspects of writing processes as they encourage writers to concentrate on key ele- ments of the composition (i.e., topic sen- tences, transition words, concluding state- ment).6 In the isolation of a writing workbook or grammar text, such activities do not en- courage creative thought and communication. However, the same exercises on the computer conference become guidelines for composi- tion development or reference elements that can be transferred to personal communication efforts in order to enhance and expand them. A major advantage of electronic bulletin board procedures is that students have the benefit of providing and receiving peer and teacher feedback. Accordingly, they learn from critical evaluation of their own work or of their peers' work. These idea exchanges can relieve writ- er's block and speed creative processes. Computer conferences make all stages of the composition process available for collab- oration. For example, outlining becomes a group-oriented brainstorming procedure. Topic sentence are proposed, debated, and agreed upon collectively. Next, details are added. Editing and rewriting procedures in- volve the entire group since conferences housed on mainframe computers can be ac- cessed from any distance, at any time, and participation need not be limited to the time in the classroom. Students begin to partici- pate in discussions whenever they have some- thing to say. Nothing is lost or forgotten.7 Students begin the writing procedure by preparing introductory sentences. First, they post ideas in a computer conference or in a word processor file, then compare ideas and add comments. Students edit, correct, elimi- nate, and add topic sentences until they reach a consensus as to which will form the founda- tion for the collaborative composition. Sen- tences not chosen for the group writing pro- ject need not be discarded since they can be edited and recycled in more personalized, individual compositions that parallel group ef- forts. Next, supporting information that ex- pands, strengthens, and explains topic sen- tence can be added and edited until only details that are pertinent for topic expansion remain. Finally, students manipulate the information to organize details in order to lead effectively from the statement of the problem through its expansion and, finally, to a conclusion. As isolated ideas coalesce into a full- fledged composition, teachers have the option of intervening to add sophistication, clarity and smoothness to the product by suggesting link and transition words that smooth relation- ships between ideas and paragraphs. Lists of common transition words stored in a separate file for independent study, in a RAM resident file (for example, as part of a Ready! outline such as the one in Figure 6), or in a second window so that they might serve as reminders as to the variety of items available for their selections. A RAM swapping utility such as the Software Carousel permits students to use word processors or outline files even while they are logged onto a mainframe-based com- puter conference. Figure 6 A Sample Ready! Outline of Link/Transition Words (The +'s indicate that a heading can be expanded to reveal details.) Level 1: The Collapsed Outline + Sample List of Link/Transition Words + Conjunctions + Adverbs Level 2: The Expanded Outline + Sample List of Link/Transition Words + Conjunctions -a menos que -desde que -despues que -de manera que -de suerte que -excepto que -en consecuencia -no obstante -por eso + Adverbs -asi -al contrario -al rev~s -en fin -en tal caso, etc. This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions84 HISPANIA 73 MARCH 1990 Finally, the entire composition is summed up in a concluding sentence or paragraph cre- ated and edited by the group at large via the same computer conferencing procedure. Once the complete composition is available, students can download the product to a word processor in order to engage in a final editing process and assure coherence. As a variation, groups of two or three students can work together revising copies of the original effort then exchange and compare their products during a final editing phase. Comparison, eval- uation and revision of various collaborative efforts lead to a single, clear, coherent work. 2.3 Computer-based Practice, Revision, and Editing Once initial collaborative practice on the computer conference has introduced students to techniques of organized writing, they can move to more creative, personalized exer- cises that continue to promote peer interac- tion and feedback. At this stage, students write singly, in pairs, or in small groups using a word processor. By exchanging drafts or sub- mitting them to a teacher, all writing remains a collaborative effort. Teacher supplied guide- lines inspire students to generate imaginative yet controlled messages. Figure 7 offers one possible set of guidelines as reminders of the organization characteristic of well-written es- Figure 7 A Sample Developmental Writing Exercise Step 1: Choose a topic sentence from the following list: 1. Cumplir un requisito de 16 cr&ditos de lenguas extranjeras es una violaci6n de nuestros dere- chos estudiantiles. 2. Es dificil vivir en casa despues de cumplir 18 afios. 3. La oficina del presidente de los EE.UU. es una posici6n sin verdadero poder. 4. etc. Step: 2: Change the topic sentence you chose in Step 1 so it reflects your own point of view. Step: 3: Use the following questions to help you expand your topic sentence into a composition. 1. Who are the people involved? 2. Who does the position affect? 3. Is the topic of public or personal concern? Why? 4. What are three facts which support or that others could use to refute the position you took in your topic sentence? 5. etc. Step 4: Re-read the details you supplied in Step 3 to support your topic sentence. Step 5: Summarize the details in a concluding state- ment. Step 6: Add two convincing arguments to reinforce your concluding statement. says. The result of the proposed guidelines is a somewhat stilted, skeletal composition. However, the skeleton serves as the basis for subsequent editing, revision and polishing exercises that guide learners to produce an original written communication of personal ideas. Once individual efforts are prepared, the process moves again to a collaborative level as students exchange papers for editing and feedback.8 All work is done with the ex- pressed goal of sharing information with peers. As a variation, students can expand their organizing techniques and begin to manipulate form by reading, then imitating the structure of a sample reading passage. Word processors permit learners literally to write over the orig- inal to create their own version. Or passages can be copies from an original text to serve as quotes and supporting material. Such imita- tion practice focuses students' attention on selected forms while offering the potential for creativity through expression of personal knowledge, opinions, and investigation re- sults. Since a correct model is constantly ac- cessed it is more likely that students will be able to copy needed structures and reduce performance errors such as agreement mis- takes. Taken a step further, extraction exer- cises teach students to do research and incor- porate findings without plagiarizing. 2.4 Toward Accuracy Students in 200 hour basic language pro- grams cannot expect to acquire native or even near-native control of the target language in that period of time. Inevitably they will make errors that they cannot correct. Therefore, learners enjoy success if they direct more effort toward eliminating those mistakes that are indeed within their control. Building com- puter- or text-based grammar and vocabulary study assignments that are linked to teacher and peer corrections promotes learning. In addition, such activities help students acquire a repertoire of forms built on successful use as well as on analysis and correction of previ- ous mistakes. Drafts, individually stored and dated, record the evolution of each composi- tion. Thoughtful review of corrections made on previous drafts and incorporation of suc- cessful segments help students avoid future syntactic or lexical errors and repertoires of past efforts function as a power base and ref- erence tools. Writing must cease to be a one This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsWRITING FOR INCREASING COMMUNICATION SKILLS 85 directional process, for once writing becomes an audience-directed communication act, stu- dents may be more willing to take chances in order to express personal ideas and opinions, knowing that they are capable of finding and correcting their own mistakes. The goal of conveying ideas successfully encompasses clear expression of ideas as well as syntactic and lexical accuracy. Hence, stu- dents should be encouraged to strive for opti- mal communication by improving on the qual- ity of each communication attempt in sub- sequent productions. If compositions become bases for continued editing, correction, and expansion procedures, students have the op- portunity to fine-tune their efforts and learn from their mistakes. A continuing revision pro- cess yields positive results by stressing suc- cess. Accordingly, teachers' comments and signals, rather than simply indicating failure, help to pinpoint trouble spots in organization and editing processes. In each successive draft students are instructed to rewrite so as to include increasingly complex forms of com- munication. By expanding on previously written work students develop confidence in their ability to manipulate the language. They begin to strive for augmented lexical and syntactic control in order to convey increasingly complicated mes- sages. Focus on communication furthers ac- quisition, while fostering greater accuracy. Hence, grammar study within a communica- tion context prompts practice that is personal, meaningful, and expresses unique information to a reader. 2.5 Electronic Dictionaries Although research has shown that agree- ment is late acquired in second language learn- ers, errors of that type still cause teachers a great deal of anguish.9 However, running a spelling checker prior to submitting final drafts offers students opportunities to isolate and correct some of these problems. Thus, it is within their capacity to present teachers or peer editors with products that are rela- tively free from distractors and can be evalu- ated as communication efforts. Such review leads to more positive and constructive feed- back. Electronic dictionaries simplify editing and delay the need to turn to more time consum- ing, conventional dictionaries. Student cor- rect spelling errors by selecting options from menus listing similarly spelled words. This practice, rather than acting simply as a crutch, encourages useful word recognition skills such as the ability to use roots or cognates to attach meaning to unfamiliar words. Two spelling checkers currently exist for Spanish, Escribidn by Ibersoft and the Word Perfect Spanish spelling checker. No electronic dictio- nary is complete, hence Escribidn and Word Perfect offer users the ability to create auxiliary dictionaries easily that accommodate those items not in the main dictionary. Teachers can create auxiliary dictionaries that encompass specialized vocabulary associated with a par- ticular course or students can begin to add to the dictionary themselves as they check their own papers. Writers also benefit from use of a RAM resident speller such as that offered the Language Assistant Series of Borland's Turbo Lightning.10 Although Lightning is cur- rently available only in English, it is possible to use the program's auxiliary dictionary facil- ity to build a RAM resident Spanish spelling checker. This procedure involves tedious ad- dition of long lists of words, but the end result is of great advantage to students who are interested in correcting as they write." 3.0 Research on Computer-based Writing In- struction The potential use of the computer as a tool for promoting acquisition of the second lan- guage writing skill has only begun to be studied. Currently it is only clear that com- puters encourage students to write more and be more creative then their traditional coun- terparts. However, a number of questions re- main unanswered and offer extensive opportu- nities for research in the area of guided writing practice as an acquisition aid. Suggestions for possible research ques- tions that have arisen from preliminary studies are listed here. 1. Do collaborative writing efforts such as brainstorming lead to increased time in planning? 2. Is the development of lexical variety signif- icantly influenced by the use of spelling checkers? 3. To what degree does the ease of editing, organizing, and rewriting influence the number of drafts completed, the length of the composition, and sentence complexity? 4. How are accuracy levels and communi- cation of messages affected by computer- This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions86 HISPANIA 73 MARCH 1990 aided writing versus traditional approaches to writing? 5. Do teacher feedback ratios (the quantity and quality of feedback on a composition) increase when the teachers are able to read computer generated compositions as op- posed to handwritten ones and when they are able to write comments in the student's computer file as opposed to directly on a handwritten composition? 6. What time factors are involved in writing when the computer is used? 7. Does any relationship exist between foreign language writing skill development and the refinement of the students' native language skill? urther study is required to determine to what extent writing is actually effected by the use of the computer. Any measurable increase in interest in the study of the foreign language justifies using PCs to teach foreign language writing skills. Once machines be- come more widely available, further research must be conducted to demonstrate the actual degree and types of benefits that can be ob- tained from the use of the computer as a writ- ing tool. * NOTES 'See Chapelle and Jamieson for information on the PLATO system and Holmes for information regarding CAL courseware. 2Dawson's unpublished study of third semester Spanish students who used word processing tools cor- roborates the findings of this research done with fourth semester students. 3For further information regarding the effects of revi- sion on the development of coherent texts, see Johns, Sommers, Zammel. 4"RAM resident" refers to those programs that take advantage of random access memory and coexist in mem- ory with other programs that must access the hard or floppy disks in order to operate. "Toggles" are key com- binations that switch between the main program and any RAM resident programs that may be loaded. "See Smith, Hoffman, and Cummins for more informa- tion on the use of computer conferences for distance writing projects. 6Suggestions for developmental writing exercises can be found in Arena, Bracy, Clarke, Cooper, Paulston, Schumann. 7Logs of students' time spent writing on the Univer- sity of Arizona's conferencing system, CoSy, show partici- pation at all times of the day and night. As mentioned above, students averaged three hours per week on line, almost doubling their exposure to the language. 8See Witbeck for peer correction procedures used in a classroom situation. 9See Krashen for discussions of natural order of mor- pheme acquisition. I'A description of the Language Assistant Series' dic- tionaries and pop-up reference material can be found in Smith (in press). "Scanners such as those produced by Apple and Kerzweil simplify text input procedures and expand pos- sibilities for auxiliary dictionaries without increasing teacher workloads. 0 WORKS CITED Arena, A. L. '"A Method for Improving the Writing Skills of Foreign Language Students in University-Level Ex- pository English Composition Courses." New Direc- tions in Second Language Learning, Teaching and Bilingual Education. Ed. M. K. Burt & H. C. Dulay, Washington, D.C.: TESOL, 1975, 281-91. Bracy, M. "Controlled Writing vs. Free Composition." TESOL Quarterly 5 (1971): 239-52. Chapelle, Carol and Joan Jamieson. "Language Lessons on the Plato IV System." Computer-Assisted Language Instruction. Ed. David H. Wyatt. Oxford: Pergamon Institute of English, 1984, 13-20. Chastain, K. "Native Speaker Evaluation of Student Com- position Errors." Modern Language Journal 65 (1981): 288-94. Clarke, M. A. "On the Nature of Techniques: What Do We Owe the Gurus?" TESOL Quarterly 18 (1984): 577-94. Cooper, T. "Sentence Combining: An Experiment in Teaching Writing." Modern Language Journal 65 (1981): 158-61. 'A Strategy for Teaching Writing." Modern Language Journal 61 (1977): 251-56. 'A Study of Sentence Combining: Techniques for Developing Written and Oral Fluency in French." French Review 53 (1980): 411-23. CoSy. Computer Software. The University of Guelph. 1985. Cummins, Jim. "Cultures in Contact: Using Classroom Microcomputers for Cultural Interchange and Rein- forcement." TESL Canada Journal 3 (1986): 13-31. Dawson, Yvette. "The Impact of the Use of Word Proces- sors on Third Semester Spanish Students at the Uni- versity of Arizona." Thesis. University of Arizona, 1988. EIES. Computer Software. New Jersey Institute of Tech- nology. 1983. Escribien. Computer Software. Ibersoft Corp. 1986. Grand View. Computer Software. Symantec, 1988. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe. Computer Software, Infocom, 1984. Holmes, Glyn. "Creating CAL Courseware: Some Pos- sibilities." Computer-Assisted Language Instruction. Ed. David H. Wyatt. Oxford: Pergamon Institute of English, 1984, 21-32. Jones, A. M. "Cohesion in Written Business Discourse: Some Contrasts." The ESPJournal 1 (1980): 35-44. Krashen, Stephen D. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Institute of English, 1982. MaxThink. Computer Software. Maxthink, Inc., 1984. Microsoft Word. Computer Software. Microsoft Corp., 1983. Paulston, C. B. "Teaching Writing in the ESOL Class- room: Techniques of Controlled Composition.:' TESOL Quarterly 6 (1972): 33-59. This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsWRITING FOR INCREASING COMMUNICATION SKILLS 87 Ready! Computer Software. Living Videotext, Inc., 1985. Schumann, F. M. "Collective Story Writing: Teaching Creative Writing to ESL Children." New Directions in Second Language Learning, Teaching and Bilingual Education. Ed. M. K. Burt and H. C. Dulay. Washington, D.C.: TESOL, 1975, 300-04. The Software Carousel. Computer Software. Soft Logic Solutions, Inc. 1986. Smith, Karen L. and Barbara Maginnis Hoffman. "VAX Notes: A Review." Computers in the Humanities (in press). "Computer Conferencing: History and Applications." The Encyclopedia of Computer Sci- ence and Technology (in press). Smith, Karen L. "The Language Assistant Series: A Review." Computers in the Humanities (in press). Sommers, N. "Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers." College Composition and Communication 31 (1980): 378-88. "Responding to Student Writing." College Composition and Communication 33 (1982): 148-56. ThinkTank. Computer Software. Living Videotext, Inc., 1984. Turbo Lightning. Computer Software. Borland Interna- tional Inc., 1985. VAX Notes. Computer Software. Digital Equipment Cor- poration. 1985. Witbeck, M. C. "Peer Correction Procedures for Inter- mediate and Advanced ESL Composition Lessons." TESOL Quarterly 10 (1976): 321-26. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Computer Software. Bronderbund Software, Inc., 1986. Word Perfect. Computer Software. Satellite Software, 1986. Zamel, V. "Writing: The Process of Discovering Mean- ing." TESOL Quarterly 16 (1982): 195-209. . "The Composing Processes of Ad- vanced ESL Students: Six Case Studies. TESOL Quarterly 17 (1983): 165-87. "Responding to Student Writing." TESOL Quarterly 19 (1985): 79-102. Zork I. Computer Software. Infocom, 1984. This content downloaded from on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 08:47:38 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsArticle Contentsp. [77]p. 78p. 79p. 80p. 81p. 82p. 83p. 84p. 85p. 86p. 87Issue Table of ContentsHispania, Vol. 73, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 8-323+i-lxivFront Matter [pp. 88-161]La idea del tiempo en La Galatea de Cervantes: Una expresin del pensamiento renacentista [pp. 8-15]Perfilando la locura quijotesca: las aventuras de la primera salida [pp. 16-21]La zarzuela, gnero olvidado o malentendido [pp. 22-31]Juan Carlos Onetti: Los adioses y la crtica [pp. 32-39]Responses to the Politics of Oppression by Poets in Argentina and Chile [pp. 40-49]Music as Narrative in Ea de Queirs's O Primo Baslio [pp. 50-65]Angstia e Zero: depoimentos da represso [pp. 66-71]Samuel Usque's Consolao s Tribulaes de Israel as Pastoral Literature Engage [pp. 72-76]Collaborative and Interactive Writing for Increasing Communication Skills [pp. 77-87]ReviewsPeninsular LiteratureReview: untitled [p. 89]Review: untitled [pp. 89-90]Review: untitled [pp. 90-91]Review: untitled [pp. 91-92]Review: untitled [p. 92]Review: untitled [pp. 92-93]Review: untitled [pp. 93-94]Review: untitled [pp. 94-95]Review: untitled [pp. 95-96]Review: untitled [p. 96]Review: untitled [pp. 96-97]Review: untitled [pp. 97-98]Review: untitled [pp. 98-99]Review: untitled [pp. 99-100]Review: untitled [p. 100]Review: untitled [pp. 100-101]Latin American LiteratureReview: untitled [pp. 101-102]Review: untitled [p. 102]Review: untitled [pp. 102-104]Review: untitled [p. 104]Review: untitled [pp. 104-105]Review: untitled [pp. 105-106]Review: untitled [pp. 106-107]Review: untitled [pp. 107-108]Review: untitled [p. 108]Review: untitled [pp. 108-109]Linguistics, Pedagogy, TextsReview: untitled [pp. 109-110]Review: untitled [p. 110]Review: untitled [pp. 110-111]Review: untitled [p. 112]TranslationsReview: untitled [p. 113]Review: untitled [pp. 113-114]Review: untitled [pp. 114-115]Review: untitled [pp. 115-116]Review: untitled [pp. 116-117]Books Received [pp. 117-118]EditorialTheodore Alan Sackett [p. 120]Letters to the EditorTo Retire: To Shout with Joy [pp. 120-121]The President's Corner [pp. 121-122]Professional News [pp. 123-132]The Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian World [pp. 132-153]Chapter News [pp. 153-157]Official Announcements [pp. 157-159]Theoretical LinguisticsContemporary Trends in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Linguistics: Part 2Current Issues in Studies of Language Contact [pp. 162-176]Spanish Historical Linguistics: Advances in the 1980s [pp. 177-200]Trends in the Teaching of Grammar in Spanish Language Textbooks [pp. 201-211]Neg-Transportation, Neg-Trace, and the Choice of Mood in Spanish [pp. 212-222]Variable Uses of the Direct-Object Marker A [pp. 223-231]Applied LinguisticsLa variacin de /s/ en Valdivia: sexo y edad [pp. 232-237]From Learning to Acquisition? Monitoring in the Classroom and Abroad [pp. 238-247]Adapting the Foreign Language Text [pp. 248-254]Pedagogy: Elementary SchoolsA Look Back... A Look Ahead [pp. 255-258]Authentic Materials for the FLES Class [pp. 259-261]Pedagogy: Secondary SchoolsPre-Reading and Pre-Writing Activities to Prepare and Motivate Foreign Language Students to Read Short Stories [pp. 262-266]Teaching Grammar in the Target Language [pp. 267-269]Look Ma-I'm a Star! [pp. 270-271]Ideas: "Picture Perfect" Activities [pp. 272-273]Pedagogy: Colleges and UniversitiesInterpreting in Miami's Federal Courts: Code-Switching and Spanglish [pp. 274-278]Consideraciones en torno al anlisis textual [pp. 279-283]Teaching Spanish to an Electronic Student [pp. 284-290]Hispania NotesVioletas e Caracis e a Interpretao da Loucura [pp. 291-293]Technologically-Assisted Language LearningThe Scope of This Column [p. 294]Reports and Notes [pp. 295-296]Our Progress in Integrating Modern Methods and Computer-Controlled Learning for Successful Language Study [pp. 297-311]Computers for Professional Applications[Introduction] [pp. 312-314]Electronic Text Scanning [pp. 315-318]Reports and Notes [pp. 319-323]Back Matter [pp. i-lxiv]