| Pencil, papyrus and notepad have served authors and students very well for a very long time. So, why write online? Because writing online offers the teacher and student a different and often more intense medium for learning and writing. There are many advantages to this medium.
When two (or more) students login to a writing space – something as simple as a chat area – two minds meet without an intermediary. A teacher monitoring the chat has no need to write notes on a blackboard while a student is ‘talking' to his or her classmates in the chat room because every comment written by a student is preserved in a log file. The same can be said for small discussion groups online. All comments are accurately recorded in a log file for students and teachers to read later.
A chat room is a very democratic teaching zone because no student can shout down another's response. The computer determines which words were typed first (a nanosecond earlier) and prints those words on the screen first.
Students can learn about writing in many ways while in the chat room. The teacher can work on writing structure with one student while others watch him/her instructing that student. Roles can then reverse as the teacher pulls the observing students into the interaction by inviting them to write about and contribute to the piece the first student is working on.
Far too often in the traditional classroom, teachers must teach the writing process verbally, through discussion, instead of by actually writing with their students. But when everyone is online, the teacher not only watches the writing and thinking process unfold; he/she takes part in the writing process directly– watching, instructing and writing to individual students or groups of students as they engage in the act of writing.
Writing online facilitates collaborative work. In a traditional classroom of 25 students and five collaborative groups, how often can you, the teacher, truly monitor the progress of your five groups directly? Even if you had the luxury of four teacher aides, you would be dependent upon them to execute your lesson plan and would not be giving students one-on-one instruction. And how often do you actually ask students and teachers to give you a detailed report of what transpired during a collaborative session?
If you conduct collaborative sessions in a lab on an Intranet in your school – with computers linked together as a local area network by a server inside your school – each collaborative session can be logged. You can then review everything that was said by you, your students and any other teachers or aides taking part in the process. That way you will always have accurate material at the ready from which you can continue mentoring your students.
You can use transcripts from the logging sessions to monitor the success of the day's teaching plan.
You can draw upon the transcript to work more closely with the aides in your room.
Together with colleagues, you can review teaching strategies and styles more accurately and more clearly assess how well you achieved the day's learning goals and how you might want to modify teaching strategies for particular children.
With support, you will learn these steps and master the art of teaching inside an electronic writing space.
Excerpted from Ost,
John and Barbara
Online, Learning in an Electronic Writing Space,
Beaumont Publishing Ltd., 1999, pg. 14.