Introduction to Final Project:

Computers, Collaboration, and the ESL and LD Student

The question I brainstormed that led to my Midterm Project was: What is inside the student writers' heads? The e-survey I conducted for my midterm was part of a means to find out the answer to this question. What I determined is that to begin to discover what is inside the writers' heads, tutors must make writing center conferencing more student writer-based. The collaboration that should take place in the writing center should not necessarily be strictly balanced between the tutor and the student. Rather, the student writer should have more control or power in the writing center conference. One of the possible dangers of the Writing Center that I discussed in my Midterm Project was that tutors would impose their ideas on students' writing. I gave more evidence and reasoning why student writer-based collaboration should be employed in the writing center in my Midterm Project: On Conferencing and Collaboration. For more information why collaboration is an important theory for the writing center to apply and implement, see Nancy Annett's Final Project.

Collaboration that is more student writer-based is becoming prominent through the use of computer technology in the writing classroom. Computer technology allows students to collaborate more with their peers, as opposed to the traditional classroom where the teacher is seen as the ultimate source of knowledge or truth. In the computer writing classroom, peers become viewed as knowledgeable as teachers are. In part due to the collaborative nature of recent computer technology, students learn that their own ideas have merit, because they teach others what they have learned. This leads to further exploration of ideas, theories and themes by the students, either to compete with the amount of knowledge their peers have, or to educate themselves better to continue to be a source of knowledge in the classroom for their peers. For more ideas why computers aid collaboration in the classroom, see Christian Hofer's Final Project.

A perfect example of how new computer technology leads to peer and student-teacher collaboration that is more student-based, is how computers are used in writing classes with English as a Second Language (ESL) or Learning Disabled (LD) students. Programs that are used by ESL or LD students are student-geared because with the help of the computer, students can learn without complete dependency on the teacher. Techniques such as publishing student works, synchronous conferencing and special help programs for paper planning and revision have helped increase the facility of writing and lowered writing anxiety of ESL and LD students, and, consequently, have improved their writing. Using computers on a collaborative level makes writing more like a process that is in a constantly changing state, and less like a step-by-step, mechanical activity. This aspect is the main reason why computers lead to the increased facility, lowered level of apprehension, and improvement in the quality of writing of ESL and LD student writers.

Click here to find out Why Computers Aid Collaboration.

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